Ash vs Evil Dead, Season 1, Episode 10, “The Dark One”
Written by Craig Digregorio
Directed by Rick Jacobson
Airs Saturdays at 9pm (ET) on Starz
The first season of Ash vs Evil Dead comes to a close with an episode bordering on greatness before offering an ineffectual shrug of an ending. “The Dark One” has a lot going for it: Ash (Bruce Campbell) and recently revealed “big bad” Ruby (Lucy Lawless) finally go head to head, the stakes the show have set up feel serious enough to cause tension, and episode director Rick Jacobson ratchets up the visual insanity. Jacobson’s direction here is the closest the show has come yet to accurately capturing original franchise director Sam Raimi’s gonzo style: quick, violent cuts that come in bursts, titled angles, horror that comes as a result of overwhelming lunacy. There’s even a nice Three Stooges moment, where Ash attempts to poke the eyes of a demon with two fingers.
Ruby has retreated into the fruit cellar of the cabin with Pablo (Ray Santiago), who has the misfortune of having the cover from the Necronomicon stretched over his face like a mask. Ash goes after them, first having a vision where Ruby offers him a truce if he’ll just get out of her way. Upstairs, Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) and hiker Heather (Samara Weaving) must contend with the hell the cabin is unleashing upon them. Kelly gets kicked around, eventually landing outside, while the audience waits for Heather’s inevitable demise. The moments with Kelly and Heather undergoing the torments of the cabin don’t quite recall the events of the original Evil Dead so much as they do Fede Alvarez’s 2013 remake. Alvarez’s remake was a bloody, brutal attempt to return Evil Dead to its horrific roots and get away from the self-parody the franchise had blossomed into. On the intensity front, the film was successful, but lacked a certain punch because the characters that inhabited the remake were dreadfully dull. The attempt at intense terror works much better here simply because viewers care about Kelly. Unfortunately, for her part, Dana DeLorenzo seems to struggle with the material. While she’s been a strong presence for the bulk of the season, DeLorenzo seems uncomfortable having to cry out in desperation and fear, and as a result her performance comes across as less than convincing.
“The Dark One” excels at gross-out moments, featuring a scene with neat, disgusting practical effects where the unfortunate Pablo births a child-like demon out of his mouth in a kind of gooey, balloon-like pod. The actual nature of this demon kid is a bit unclear, however. He doesn’t seem to have any special significance or power, and why Ruby was so anxious to bring him into the world is a mystery. These events all build to a big final confrontation in the cellar, with the possessed Pablo first battling Ash, then Kelly. Ash is able to get the upper hand on Ruby by turning her own dagger on her. Just when it appears that a conclusion is at hand, writer Craig Digregorio remembers that Ash vs Evil Dead has been renewed for a second season, and instead just gives up and delivers a flat, eye-rolling ending. Ruby has made Ash an offer to make all his dreams come true and enable him to head to his beloved Jacksonville, Florida. Ash decides at the last moment to take Ruby up on her offer, letting her become the “Godfather” for all the demons while he, Pablo, and Kelly hit the road.
Pablo and Kelly seem to be representing the audience as they sit in the back seat of Ash’s car with confused, disappointed looks on their faces. “I can’t believe you took that deal.” Pablo says, and he’s likely not the only one. Ash vs Evil Dead has done a good job making Ash a more well-rounded character than he’s been in a long time, but to have him just give up and let Ruby get her evil way is borderline stupid. Sure, Ash has wanted a fresh start for a while now, but to have him accept an unclear truce with Ruby makes no sense at all, and robs the entire first season of any real impact. Perhaps announcing that Ash vs Evil Dead was getting a second season so early was a mistake. If the showrunners were convinced this might be a one-and-done series, they may have worked just a little harder to think of a worthy conclusion. Overall, Ash vs Evil Dead offered some exciting moments and a few nostalgic callbacks for fans to enjoy. But anyone claiming to be satisfied with how this season ended might be deluding themselves.