Are we having fun yet? Good grief. After last week’s humbling homecoming from the village idiots of Elk Grove, Michigan, Ash and the Ghost Beaters (feat. Ruby “Bigfoot” Knowby) get back to business in the franchise’s foulest chapter to date. Screenwriter Cameron Welsh makes his series debut behind the typewriter and doesn’t waste an ominous title like “The Morgue,” sowing some filthy, despicable, and unprecedented carnage into the Evil Dead lore. Case in point: Have you ever seen someone pulled through a corpse’s rotten anus and smothered in cold feces? Didn’t think so.
Needless to say, things could be better for Ash. Recently, he was living like a god in Jacksonville, Florida, chugging never-ending beers to Icona Pop. Now, he’s eating shit literally and figuratively, whether it’s from the aforementioned corpse or from his functioning asshole father Brock Williams (Lee Majors)—alas he keeps on truckin’. “I know that I’m not the son you wanted,” he tells his pops, “and I know that Elk Grove would rather have a hero who doesn’t live in a trailer, doesn’t have a boatload of cold sores, but too bad, I am your son and I’m the only hero Elk Grove has.”
Part of the joy this season early on has been watching Ash return to the roots we’ve only (loosely) designed in our own minds. When we first meet the guy in Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead, he’s this quiet Midwestern boy who’s in love with his girlfriend and more than kosher at playing second fiddle to his hard-headed pal Scotty. It’s not until, well, everyone’s turned into applesauce that he starts itching his own jerk bone. Though, as we learn from “The Morgue,” perhaps he’s always been the booze- and sex-obsessed goofball, at least if we’re to take his childhood room into consideration.
And how could you not? When the gang bypasses Brock and heads upstairs to Ash’s bedroom—ahem, eerily down the hall from his late sister Cheryl’s—we’re quickly given a tour of his rock ‘n’ roll salad days with some sleazy decor that can be best described as hormonal. Posters of Ted Nugent, Alice Cooper, and MC5 share real estate with dozens of vintage beer advertisements, porn spreads, and sports memorabilia (shocker: he’s a fan of the Detroit Tigers). Pablo thinks it’s all pretty sweet, Ruby rolls her eyes half-expecting this, and Kelly learns that she should never sit on any of Ash’s beds.
It’s from here that the episode wisely splits into three devious sections: Ash and Kelly head out to retrieve the Necronomicon at the town morgue; Pablo stays behind with Ruby to pry more information out of her with a Kandarian dagger; while downstairs, Brock gets “up to [his] elbows in cheesecake” with Ash’s former sexcapade and gym teacher, the former Olympian Lillian Pendergrass. On paper, that all may seem like too much to juggle, but returning director Tony Tilse deftly strings each arc together with sturdy levels of tension that spark icky feelings of nausea, glee, and pity.
Naturally, the centerpiece of the episode is its own namesake, and as always Bruce Campbell stuns once more with his physical comedy as he tussles with the demonic intestines. But really, this sequence wouldn’t work as well as it does if it weren’t for the brilliant setup: When Ash leaves Kelly to keep watch outside, he also checks his brain at the door, as he stubbornly cuts through half a dozen corpses before he reaches the last one that clearly has a book sticking out of it. “Look first, cut later,” he scolds himself. It’s a cheap, old-school gag, but it works so well in this ridiculous, asinine world.
Speaking of asinine, how about that cock piercing? Yes, there’s a cock piercing on the corpse, because it wasn’t weird enough that H.R. Giger-esque intestines are not only strangling the show’s lead but pulling him up through a man’s dead asshole. Sorry, I know that’s already been said, but c’mon, the attention to detail on this outstanding physical gag only speaks to the deranged imaginations that fuel this show. I’ve watched the scene at least six times now, if only to take in every little atrocity they weld to the screen, from Campbell’s frenzied reactions to the godawful, stupid fart noises. It’s … mesmerizing?
Something like that.
Remarkably, the rest of the episode holds its own in spite of the fecal frenzy. Kelly spars accordingly with Stephen Lovatt’s dopey sheriff next to a testy vending machine, while Ruby continues to dominate Pablo with ease and leave us all hanging (him too). As Ash says early on, “I would trust a blind proctologist more than her.” Thanks to the mid-episode twist involving Pendergrass’ bill of health, we even get another deadite, whose upstairs battle with Ruby breaks the one rule Ash gave to Pablo: “Don’t let her touch any of my stuff, except to tidy up.” Sorry buddy, but those beer cans had to go.
Every once and awhile this show is going to have to turn the dial on its trademark gore and subvert the audience’s mile-high expectations. (Simply look at how AMC’s The Walking Dead has slowly elevated its sense of dread and brand of violence over its six-year span. It’s commendable.) Welsh kicked things up a notch or five with “The Morgue,” affording Ash Vs. Evil Dead some time to settle down, relax, and maybe take in the town of Elk Grove with a nice autumnal walk and a balmy cup of pumpkin spice latte. Sh’yeah, right, and Ashley Williams might fly out of my butt.
- Ask and ye shall receive: We’re back with week-to-week reviews and this guy feels groovier than ever. Someone pass me a Shemps!
- Let’s talk some more about Cheryl. With Ellen Sandweiss confirmed to return this season, it’s only a matter of time before Ash steps into Cheryl’s bedroom down the hall and confronts that depressing part of his past. What do we think he’ll find, though? Can mutilated deadites come back? Or will it just be a flashback? Maybe a ghost?
- Ash “couldn’t be prouder” of Pablo’s spiritual role as a vagina.
- That morgue technician picked a hell of a day to listen to ghoulish EDM.
- At this point, Dana DeLorenzo could probably carry her own episode if the opportunity presents itself. She injects so much wit and sarcasm into Kelly that she’s quickly becoming a second option to Campbell. But when you get the two together? The show couldn’t be better.
- Sheriff Thomas Emery could really use some help from Billy Madison.
- Things we thought we’d never hear Ash scream: “I’m in the butt! I’m in the butt!” and “Get your dick off my face!”
- Brock Being Brock: “You smell like Lysol wipes.”
- This week’s Top Deadite obviously goes to the Lillian Pendergrass, whose lost battle with pneumonia was our big gain.
- So many questions to consider: What the hell is going on with Pablo? Or Ruby for that matter? Will Brock one-up his son behind the boomstick? How will Ash get the Delta back from those damn kids? And finally, will he take a shower before the next adventure? Find out next week when Ash Vs. Evil Dead returns with its third second season episode, “Last Call.”