Ash: "Which is everything that I do!"
Though not without a few stumbles, Ash vs Evil Dead's second season was a definite improvement over its freshman year run. Not that Season 1 wasn't fun and ferocious gooey gory goodness, but it didn't quite have a handle on Ash, as a character, like Season 2 did.
Last year, Ash seemed to bounce back and forth between total doofus and a more earnest sort of hero who was in the midst of a transformative arc. What was needed -- and yes, it's tricky -- was a blend of the two. Ash needed to become less of a reluctant savior while still being fundamentally, you know, Ash.
This is where Season 2 really nailed it. Sure, we got some truly awesome action set pieces involving rampaging killer cars, diabolical devil trees, and all sorts of evil minions of hell -- sequences that awesomely pushed us to our hardcore gore, and good taste, limits -- but what resonated the most about this second year was how well Ash came off as a character.
Ash was allowed to be smart, but in his own goofball way. For example, he'd have ideas to track down books and demons that involved raging alcohol-infused parties and his iguana's pet tracker. Plans that sounded totally asinine but fell into that "so dumb they actually worked" category. Even Ruby, Ash's biggest critic, constantly had to admit that Ash, for better or worse, could get things done.
Bringing Ash back home and revealing that he'd been ostracized by his town and family after the blood-soaked events of the Evil Dead films was a crucial part of this blending. Ash was given, of all things, an off-screen backstory and through this he could be afforded spare moments of vulnerability. Ash could bicker with his bigoted, bitter father (infused with wonderful crotchetiness by Lee Majors) while we, the viewers, could know that he secretly longed for his love and approval.
Pablo's story this year, as a wannabe warrior-turned-living version of the Necronomicon, helped give the season a nice flow. Season 1 was a road trip, and a bit of a bumpy one. Not every stop along the journey hit the mark. This time, even with the time travel, Ash sorta stayed put in Elk Grove and it was Pablo's connection to the book, and the rise of Baal, that moved us groovily through the story. Pablo's death also really added a cool exclamation point that the final two episodes needed. Sure, Ash's little burrito would come back to life by the end, but Ash's grief over losing his friend is what led to the final defeat of Baal.
Another thing that Season 2 brought to the table was a better take on Lucy Lawless' Ruby. Essentially the straight-laced reactive character in the group (though everyone side-eyes Ash), Ruby joined the Ghostbeaters this year as a half-demon who'd made a horrible mistake. Season 1 never gave us her origins or (well explained) motivations, so it was fitting to see her change completely and get rebooted for the good guys. Unfortunately, this Ruby died in the finale and was replaced with 80s evil Ruby, taking us back to square one.
My issue with that has nothing to do with Ruby, really. It's more how it adversely affected Kelly's arc, which seemed to be headed toward something really big and definitive. Granted, something big could still happen with Kelly next year, and this season could have just been plating the seeds for it, but it was a momentum killer. Kelly should be the next Ash. His successor. Should, you know, the show ever be so bold as to kill off Ash.
Ruby was in Kelly's ear all season, talking destiny and taking matters into her own hands. Then Kelly even had her own "Ash Fight" when Ash was supposedly under the control of Baal and she got to throw down with the demented therapy puppet (which was amazing). There were a done of signs pointing us in a certain direction and then things just sort of fizzled out. Now, I'm not fully advocating for an official "passing of the torch," but it did seem like Kelly was going to venture off on her own and make her own demon-fighting way in the world.
I'd be remiss if I closed this review without mentioning Ash being dragged up into a possessed corpse's butt. This season definitely went above and beyond when it came to, um, orifices and fluids (of all kinds), but this moment, back in the second episode, was really one of the most gag-worthy and "out there" moments the show has ever done, finally taking full advantage of being on an anything goes network like Starz. It was magnificent and, though the show may try, it'll probably never be topped.
Ash vs Evil Dead: Season 2 gave us a fully realized Ash, who was both hilarious and valiant, while also fleshing out his character more with a great "town boogeyman" backstory. It would have been nice to see Kelly's arc land somewhere more significant, but overall this was a raunchy, gloppy good time filled with grit and guts.