In Review: Ash vs Evil Dead, Episode 1 “El Jefe”

Hail to the King, baby. Hail to the King.

Ash vs Evil Dead, Episode 1 “El Jefe” Broadcast on October 31, 2015

Written by Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi, and Tom Spezialy

Directed by Sam Raimi

PREMIERE EPISODE

It’s Ash’s night to get lucky. Putting on his truss, putting on some cologne, and grabbing some condoms, he jumps in his car and goes to a local bar. The places closes in minutes, but he doesn’t care. He sees a woman and tells her about his hand: rosewood, made by Italian artisans, and the result of saving a boy trapped on some train tracks. That’s enough to perk her interest, and soon the two are going at in the men’s room. During their loud interplay she turns to look at him and she has the face of a Deadite. He falls back as the creature screams, “We’re coming for you!” Ash quickly looks away, but looking back at the girl she’s back to normal and asking why he’s stopped. He resumes his action, though not with the same fervor as before. Driving back to his house he’s trying to think of why he’s seen a Deadite for the first time in 30 years. He flashes back to the recent past as he was getting high with a woman in his trailer. She was turned on by poetry and asked if he had any around. He pulled out the Book of Dead from his foot locker and together they read aloud from it. Back in the present, Ash realizes what he’s done, punctuating his actions with a drawn out F-word. Cue opening title.

This was exactly what fans of the Evil Dead want. Bruce Campbell as Ash Williams, still the ultimate idiot who thinks he’s the suavest thing in the world. He’s overweight, not any smarter, and re-released the Deadite apocalypse on the world. Though this Ash is done with the Evil Dead; he doesn’t want to get involved, even if he let them loose. He’s looking to get out of town while the gettin’ is good. It will have to take something major to get him back fighting evil, and it partially comes from the urging of co-worker Pablo Simon Bolivar, played by Ray Santiago. With hair that hasn’t been seen so high and curly since Seinfeld met Kramer, Pablo believes from the outset that Ash is destined for greatness. He looks to be the sidekick that Ash needs — one with a brain. Also at work is Kelly Maxwell, played by Dana DeLorenzo. She’s new on the job and is already the apple of Pablo’s eye. Her mother has died in the last six months, which leads to a situation at home with her father. She’s not some pushover, either; when the need calls for it she’ll fight with the best of them.

The one bit of seriousness of the night was Jill Marie Jones‘ character, Amanda Fisher. Officer Fisher and her partner are called to a disturbance where something has gone horribly wrong. Nothing in her first sequence is played for laughs — these are old school terrors played to the hilt under Director Raimi’s perfect vision: the spinning flashlight was an outstanding way to create an instant atmosphere of tension. There are several signature Raimi shots: the Evil’s point of view as it speeds along the ground, the sped up Deadites, unseen evil striking the walls of where the heroes are located, and objects being thrown at hyper speed. Lucy Lawless as Ruby makes a less than two minute appearance before Amanda, though what she’s doing in town or what her motivations are remain completely unknown. Fans will have to turn in next week to see more of her.

The good: The scares, the special effects (the best of any incarnation of the franchise — and plenty of over-the-top gore), the soundtrack, the jokes (light bulbs), the wonderfully corny and undeniably quotable Ash one-liners, Vivian’s joyfully clicking fingers, the sequence with the miniature antagonist, the song by The Amboy Dukes, Ray Santiago, Dana DeLorenzo, and the return of Bruce Campbell as Ash.

Fun lines: NOTE: This episode, and I’m assuming this series, has several sensational lines, so rather than spoil them all, I’m going to pick ones that require the visual and the actors’ tone for them to be completely understood and appreciated. “We know who you are!”, “Really get in there!”, “We are near. Your time comes again,” “Sweet-musical-Jesus!”, “That must be difficult,” “You gonna be okay?”, “You got the wrong jefe, chief,” “You can’t outrun evil, Ash,” “I need this,” “Yo, granny…”, and the final word that ends the episode.

The bad: The lack of humor with Amanda Fisher. Jones is playing her straight, but some humor would make her character feel more at home in the Evil Dead Universe. No mention of going to the past, probably because the rights are tied up with De Laurentiis productions. Not enough Lucy Lawless; you can never have enough Lucy Lawless in your show.

The final line: This exceeded my expectations and has got me subscribing to STARZ. I’m in this for the long haul. Hail to the King, baby. Hail to the King. Overall grade: A- 

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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