Ash vs Evil Dead Episode 1 recap: “El Jefe”

Jeff Pfeiffer

Happy Halloween, and welcome to our first Ash vs Evil Dead recap.

Ash is back, baby! Director Sam Raimi kicked off the series Ash vs Evil Dead in fine form, with his legendary manic camerawork, some references to the Evil Dead films, and plenty of the humor (particularly from Bruce Campbell’s performance) and gore that we’ve come to know and love from the cult classic films.

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When I talked with Campbell earlier this summer on the set of Ash vs Evil Dead, he told me that the decision to make the series a half-hour one was “in order to keep the pace lively, and to stick with the humor. If we did an hour show, this wouldn’t work. It’d be a completely different show. Not that it wouldn’t work, but it wouldn’t be like the show that we’re doing. We have a fast-paced, humor-laced show.”

He was dead-on about that. The series premiere is actually about 40 minutes, while the others fall in at about 30, and it is definitely a nice, crisp pace. And the premiere managed to squeeze a whole lot in despite the fact that it really kept moving. It certainly feels different from, say, a Walking Dead or American Horror Story certainly in terms of its pacing, but also in its sheer craziness and attitude, which will come as no surprise to fans of the films.

We meet Ash (Campbell) right away in his trailer, where he looks like he is gearing up for battle, and still with his wooden hand. But instead of putting on armor, the now 50-something Ash is actually strapping on a girdle. And he’s not heading out to hunt Deadites yet, but down to the local bar to hunt a date for the night.

And he finds one, but the one-time ladykiller now has to work a bit harder, concocting a story of how he once saved a little boy to impress a woman, whom he eventually takes into the ladies room to have sex with. There wasn’t much, if any, sex in the original films, so this scene might have come as more of a shock than the gore that ensues later in the episode.

Unfortunately, in the middle of the act, Ash suddenly sees the woman’s face transform briefly into that of a Deadite. Horrified, he is about to leave, but when the woman tells him she was so close to finishing, Ash does the gentlemanly thing, I suppose, and sticks around the close the deal.

But the sight of the Deadite — whom he thought he had gotten rid of —  has shaken him, so back at his trailer, he pulls out the dreaded Necronomicon (Book of the Dead) from a trunk, perhaps wondering how he could have seen a Deadite when the book is the only way of summoning them. In the book, he finds a bag of weed, and suddenly has a flashback — we see hazy remembrances of Ash getting high with a young woman. When the woman asks Ash to read her some French poetry, since it turns her on, a desperate Ash comes up with the next best thing (at least, in his buzzed mind). He starts reading to her out of the Necronomicon. Clearly, Ash — true to character — has learned nothing over 30 years, and has set the Deadites loose again.

“Fuuuuuuuuuck!” exclaims Ash as the memory of what he has done dawns on him, and we cut to one of Raimi’s trademark dolly zoom representing the evil of the Deadites, and we see the series title.

Next , we are introduced to Amanda Fisher (Jill Marie Jones), a Michigan State Trooper. She and her partner Carson are investigating a spooky old house, and it is here that some truly creepy elements are presented by Raimi. We first see a dead girl, then the troopers come upon a human figure underneath a sheet, which slowly rises (this kind of recalled, for me, the scene in John Carpenter’s Halloween where Michael Myers hid under a sheet). As Amanda slowly moves the sheet off of the figure, the suspense builds, until we see it is a young woman, back to the troopers, who is crying. We also notice she has writing on her wrists, and it is the woman Ash remembered in his flashback.

Suddenly, she turns into a Deadite — our first extended glimpse of one in the series. And they are as scary as you remember from the films, with their dead-white eyes, horrifying mouths, and brutal intelligence and wit. They think nothing of fucking with you before they kill you.

“We know who you are,” hisses the Deadite, before throwing Carson into the air and impaling him on deer antlers. After killing the girl, Amanda notices Carson’s body is gone. The house suddenly shutters up and gets dark, and Amanda sees Carson, now in Deadite mode crawling around on the walls before leaping down to face her. Amanda aims a gun at him, but he suddenly reverts to normal form, trying to get Amanda to pity him and let him live (an old Deadite trick). Amanda isn’t buying, though, and shoots Carson in the head.

When we later in the episode see Amanda eating alone in a diner. it’s clear no one believes her story. Other officers enter the place and point at her and mutter. Apparently, there’s an Internal Affairs review of the night of Carson’s death, and she has been ordered to undergo a psych eval.

A woman at the diner asks if Amanda is all right. While we don’t know it yet as viewers, this is Ruby (Lucy Lawless), the mysterious character who will figure throughout the series. Ruby tells Amanda, “Sometimes, what you think you saw is exactly what you saw.” Ruby sounds like she knows what Amanda’s been through, and like she has Deadite experience herself. This is all we see of her in the first episode, straying true to what Lawless told me about wanting to keep her character a mystery for a while.

Even later on, Amanda goes back to the crime scene. There, she sees a trace of Carson’s clothing still stuck on the antler.

“It did happen,” she says, with a sort of relief, echoing what Ruby had said.

Meanwhile, Ash has decided to get the hell out of Dodge. No longer the Deadite-fighting hero, he’s looking out for No. 1 (not that Ash has never not done that to some degree, though). Packing up to leave his trailer park, he suddenly sees his elderly neighbor Vivian briefly turn into a Deadite, who tells Ash, “We are here; your time comes again” before Vivian is herself again.

Needing cash for his escape, Ash goes to his workplace (Value Stop; he’s no longer at S Mart, but he’s still a stock boy) to ask for his paycheck ahead of time. His boss, Mr. Roper, is not buying Ash’s excuse about his pet lizard, Eli, being ill, and has no intention of letting Ash get paid before doing a day’s work.

So Ash gets to work, promptly spilling a box of light bulbs. While sweeping, his coworker Pablo (Ray Santiago) stops by to tell Ash he got his friend Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) hired at Value Stop. Ash looks over and is stunned by the beautiful — but about 30 years younger — woman.

Not letting his age and her obvious disdain stop him, Ash attempt to pick Kelly up, telling her he’s leaving, and that this is her last chance to kiss him goodbye. He tells her it would have only been a matter of time before she wanted him anyway.

“Touch me again,” Kelly warns Ash, “and you’re going to need another wooden hand.”

Later, Ash is in the stockroom, when the lights go out. He hears evil laughing in the background. Suddenly, amid a shelf full of dolls, one of them springs to life and attacks Ash. This funny/creepy scene recalls some of the Three Stooges-esque antics seen in the films, like Ash’s battle with his own hand in Evil Dead II, and his fight with several miniatures of himself in Army of Darkness. The doll clasps itself to Ash’s face, and he shatters several flower pots against the doll (and, therefore, his face) to get it off. The doll manages to find a knife on the floor, and begins running with it toward Ash when Pablo arrives and squashes the doll with a shovel.

Ash finally tells Pablo what is going on, and where it started. We get flashbacks to the first Evil Dead movie as Ash talks to Pablo about the nature of the evil they are facing. Pablo also has a story of his own, from his earlier life in Honduras. His relatives used to talk about a certain type of man, “El Jefe,” who would eventually rise to fight such evil. Hearing this, and Pablos’ implication that perhaps Ash is El Jefe, Ash simply says he wants to get away. “You can’t outrun evil, Ash,” Pablo responds.

Back out in the store, Kelly is Facetiming her father, who is suddenly terrified. “She’s at the door,” he says, and as his phone is turned toward is door, we see the silhouette of a woman in the doorway before his call is ended. Kelly says that woman was her mother, which is troublesome since, as we learned earlier in Kelly’s first interaction with Ash, her mother died six months ago.

Kelly is desperate to get home to her father and tires to use Pablo’s motorcyle. Ominous clouds are gathering around the store, and as Mr. Roper runs out to get his employees to come back, the evil zooms right in to his horrified face. (We’ll see more of him next episode, along with Kelly’s parents.)

Pablo brings Kelly over to Ash’s trailer on his bike, telling her Ash can help. “This idiot?” Kelly says skeptically.

Once they are inside, the evil zooms all around the trailer, and something starts pounding on the vehicle to get in.

“No more running,” Pablo tells Ash. “Are you going to own up to who you are?”

Suddenly, an arm breaks through the window and grabs Kelly.She begs Ash to save her, and he grabs an axe, tosses it across the room, and it severs the Deadite’s arm. Ash runs up, pulls Kelly belt off of her and beats back the Deadite before blowing its head off with his “boomstick.” Kelly looks suitably impressed, and momentarily attracted. “I told you it would cross your mind,” Ash says.

Ash finally accepts his fate as a Deadite killer. He wants to find a spell that will put the creatures back once and for all, so his plan is to go to a store called Books From Beyond and see if they can help (after some cardio first, he admits, after getting winded from the fight just now).

“What we’re up against only understands one thing,” Ash tells his young compatriots. He looks toward an area covered by a thin curtain, behind which we see the silhouette of Ash’s famed chainsaw.

He opens the curtain, only to find Deadite Vivian.

“We found you, Ash,” she says, evilly. And then we get into a vintage Sam Raimi Deadite fight scene, complete with wild choreography, intense camera angles and blood flying everywhere.

Vivian throws Ash’s chainsaw away, knocks out Ash and stabs Pablo in the hand before attacking Kelly.

Ash finally awakens, removes his wooden hand. Pablo is able to kick the chainsaw over to Ash in the air and it, of course, lands right in to attach to Ash’s arm.

“Hope you took your Geritol,” Ash quips to Deadite-Vivian. She soars in the air toward him (recalling Ash’s final battle with a Deadite in Army of Darkness) but Ash decapitates her before she can land.

“You were right,” Ash tells his blood-soaked friends when the fighting is done. “No more running.”

“Good to see you, Jefe,” Pablo says.

“Good to be back,” Ash agrees.

“How does it feel?’

A pause, and then the line any fan knew was coming:

“Groovy.”

We then cut right to some cool closing credits, with “Journey to the Center of the Mind” by the Amboy Dukes appropriately playing over them, especially the phrase “Come along if you can.”

What did you think? Are you going to come along with Ash vs Evil Dead? If you’re an Evil Dead fan, were you satisfied so far?

Next week: “Bait.” Ash and Pablo tack down Kelly at her parents’ house (Mimi Rogers guest-stars as her mother) but something about the mother is not sitting right with Ash.

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© 2015 Starz Entertainment, LLC

4 Comments

  1. I really enjoyed this episode and I am glad it is already green lit for another season. The only minor complaint that I have is the lack of Ash’s metal hand. I guess this series says that Ash didn’t go back in time after defeating The Evil made flesh, or that the events of the past happened diferently.
    Why change/leave out such a memorable item as the metal hand Ash himself designed and created in the 1300’s? Doesn’t making a prostectic hand, using dark age technology, that rivals the most advanced of today’s creations, show a side of Ash that could be usefull in the series? It shows that he is very inventive and creative in some aspects, as opposed to his clueless nature. It makes a more well developed character. It could also be used later as proof of Ash being “The Choosen One.” I can see the argument that a metal hand would attract too much attention, so he simply chooses not to use it, but they should have at least mentioned it.

  2. Classic Ash. Anything with Bruce Campbell is far better than the overpaid actors demanding millions for crappy acting/shows that have no substance to them.

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