After 37 years of playing the character on-and-off, Bruce Campbell is finally hanging up the chainsaw and retiring Ash Williams. In what came as a surprise to fans, the Starz network abruptly announced that the third season finale of ‘Ash vs. Evil Dead’ will also be the series finale. Campbell quickly followed with confirmation that this is also Ash’s final hurrah.
Leading into the finale, the Dark Ones killed Ruby (Lucy Lawless), stole the ‘Necronomicon’ book, and unleashed a gigantic demon monster named Kandar the Destroyer, setting in motion an apocalyptic chain of events on a global scale. While Kandar stomps around Elk Grove, news reports describe similar events all over the world. Kandar’s purpose is allegedly to test the mettle of man, which in turn equates to being a final test for Ash Williams, the prophesized savior of humanity.
Ash doesn’t take this well. In fact, he chickens out and retreats to his house. He just wants to get the hell out of town, until his daughter Brandy gives him a stern lecture about sacking up and getting the job done. Ash eventually comes around and agrees to try… but he needs to get high first. He’s sure as hell not going to fight a giant monster sober.
Fighter jets fly over town and tanks roll in as the military makes a desperate effort to drive back the demon, to no avail. It stomps and smashes and breathes fire on anything in its path. The attacks only make it stronger.
For their first order of business, Ash, Pablo and Brandy need to rescue Kelly’s soul, which is trapped in the dark realm. (Kelly was killed by Ruby a couple episodes earlier.) To do that, they have to get her dead body back to the basement of Ash’s hardware store, which is the nexus between the two worlds. Pablo, who’s now a Brujo Especial, can walk the streets safely because the Deadites see him as evil. He puts Kelly’s body on a dolly cart while Ash and Brandy make their way to the store through the sewer system. Naturally, they’re attacked by Deadites there, which provides an excuse for lots of slapstick gore.
The team reunite in the store basement. Pablo goes through the rift and returns a moment later. After a brief fake-out where it looks like Kelly didn’t come back with him, she revives and Pablo kisses her.
At this point, the military has ordered a retreat and are going to call in a nuke strike in a last-ditch attempt to stop Kandar. Ash piles everyone else into a transport vehicle for evacuation and delivers a goodbye speech. He’s going to stay behind to fight the demon himself.
Ash commandeers a tank and, after a learning curve that results in him smashing Pablo’s taco cart and another car on the street, figures out how to drive the thing. He heads straight for Kandar. When he gets close enough, he duct-tapes the Kandarian dagger to a cannon shell. The demon picks the whole tank up off the ground, and Ash blasts the round right down its throat.
Kandar drops the tank, stumbles around, and falls to the ground dead – right on top of Ash. In a confusing scene filled with darkness and smoke, a shadowy figure wearing a Knights of Sumeria ring pulls Ash out of the tank.
Some undisclosed time later, Ash wakes up inside a high-tech pod chamber. His hair has grayed and his robo-hand has been replaced with a more realistic-looking model. A sexy cyborg babe bows and calls him the Savior. Opening a door to reveal a post-apocalyptic hellscape outside, she says that the Dark Ones are on the move again. Ash laments that everything he knows is gone… Well, not everything. His old Delta is still kicking, now retro-fitted into a badass tank, ‘Mad Max’-style. Ash suits up and gets behind the wheel.
The cyborg asks how he feels.
His response, of course: “Groovy.”
I started this season questioning whether the series actually had enough juice left to sustain another ten episodes or if it would just wind up repeating more of the same gags we’d seen before. Although I didn’t recap the following episodes, I was very pleasantly surprised to find the show delivering perhaps its strongest season yet. In what proved to be a wise decision, the show-runners subtly shifted from being a comedy with some gore to being a horror story with some jokes. The third season had a much stronger and more cohesive narrative arc than the two before it, and yet also kept up a steady stream of gross-out splatter and Ash’s patented goofball behavior.
The finale episode is both satisfying and unsatisfying. The scale of it is pretty damned epic, especially for this typically humble show. It wraps up most of the storylines and gives all of the characters (save Ruby, who sadly doesn’t appear) the grace notes they deserve. At the same time, the plot twist epilogue robs us of learning what becomes of Pablo, Kelly or Brandy for what amounts to a gimmick joke ending.
Then again, that’s kind of in keeping with the end of ‘Evil Dead II’ as well. And the image of Ash driving off toward the Thunderdome is funny.
Fans who expected at least one more season of fun are bemoaning that the show was cut short too soon. I prefer to think of it as going out while it’s still strong. I’d rather leave off here, imagining Ash’s adventures on the Fury Road, than to get a fourth season that might not live up to that potential.