Image: Ash Vs. Evil Dead (Starz)

“Some people just don’t treat family with enough respect,” Ruby (Lucy Lawless) says as she resurrects our favorite chlamydia-soured sperm donor, Brock Williams’ (Lee Majors). It’s one of a dozen hammy lines she’s given in the episode, but it carries a little more weight for “Apparently Dead,” a spirited half hour that finds the Williams “household” under plenty of duress. Of course, nobody’s going through the motions more than Brandy (Arielle Carver-O’Neill), who has the wonderful opportunity of seeing her father defile her mother’s casket and later chainsaw through her grandfather, who she only met maybe 20 minutes beforehand. Yeah, this is definitely Ash’s kid, alright.

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Until now, though, we’ve only really been given glimpses of Brandy. We know she’s got an edge to her, from calling Cougie a “fuckboy” to hanging out with a “punk friend” like Rachel, but we don’t exactly know if she’s willing to embrace it. In other words, she’s basically like her father was 25 minutes into the first Evil Dead, back when he was a softie with a heart filled with less Shemp’s and more potpourri. Remember the cute necklace he wanted to give Linda? That same guy went on to have sex with Brandy’s mother in a bathroom stall to the sounds of Bow Wow Wow. Needless to say, Brandy’s due for a similar evolution, and we see bits and pieces of it in “Apparently Dead”—quite literally, in fact.

Image: Ash Vs. Evil Dead (Starz)

When the kid’s doused with the blood of her grandfather, it’s essentially an overt rite of passage. Brandy stands there in paralyzing horror as her seemingly psychotic father savagely drills his chainsaw hand into her would-be grandpa. Yet if you look past the humor of it all, which is admittedly tough given Bruce Campbell’s hilarious closing lines, it’s quite apparent how warped Brandy’s mind must be at this point. Think about it: Her best friend? Filleted by a harp. Her mother? Decapitated by a cymbal. Toss in the shenanigans at the funeral earlier in the day with this brutal family outing and her constitution is at least on par with her father’s by the time he first reached for the axe.

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Brandy’s not quite there, but she’s close, enough that she’s willing to take matters into her own hands by telling off her father (“I wish you were the one who was dead”), getting out of the Williams house (hey, saves her $50 bucks), and heading over to Ruby’s—err, rather Mrs. Prevett’s—where she can stay until she graduates (nobody else thinks this is too generous?). Obviously, that’s hardly great news for Ash, but the guy’s so overwhelmed with everything going on that he can only chalk it up to, “Kids.” It’s an epic moment between the father and daughter that winds up feeling like a visual thesis for the season as a whole. This is going to be his biggest struggle.

Image: Ash Vs. Evil Dead (Starz)

Ivan Raimi returned behind the typewriter for “Apparently Dead” and his fingerprints are all over the action. It’s wild, even downright audacious at times, but it’s largely economical. What’s more, for the first time all season, you get the sense that things are moving forward in completely new directions. This is par for the course, though, seeing how Raimi helped co-write the explosive pilot (“El Jefe”) and penned one of last season’s most ambitious episodes (“DUI”), which featured a set piece straight outta Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. This time around, however, Raimi reins in his ideas for a far more structured and cohesive narrative that never feels too rushed or winded.

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After all, the Williams aren’t the only ones having spooky fun. The Ghost Beaters, which now includes Sumerian hunk Dalton (Lindsay Farris), are also kept on their toes. Together, Pablo (Ray Santiago), Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo), and Dalton leave Elk Grove for an impromptu road trip to find the Kandarian dagger after Pablo experiences another vision. Naturally, this means a return to the world’s worst cabin rental, only it’s no longer there. It’s a creepy ground zero surrounded by looming trees and littered with familiar accoutrements—the deer head, the clock, the reel to reel—that’s further elevated by the way directors Diego & Andres Meza-Valdes lean heavily on everyone’s respective flashlights.

Image: Ash Vs. Evil Dead (Starz)

Because it wouldn’t be a trip to the cabin without a mild possession, our boy Dalton goes down. It’s a shame, too, because this knight’s got some moves, but not even his sweet slide under the car can save him. Oh well. To his credit, his Deadite equivalent admirably tries to convince Kelly that Pablo did all this, but the demon clearly has no idea who he’s messing with, and she doesn’t buy it. Good riddance: The guy’s quickly taken down by Pablo, who comes charging by from behind the wheel, and it’s a pretty bold hero move. But, as we all know, it takes a lot to kill a Deadite, and when we follow Kelly into the woods, only to discover the truck is empty with both Dalton and Pablo nowhere to be seen, we can only assume our MVP Ghost Beater is still at high risk.

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This is a good place to be so early in the season. Ash Vs. Evil Dead thrives on chaos and “Apparently Dead” delivers the madness by the truckload and with plenty to spare. By now, showrunner Mark Verheiden has successfully cast off any of the demons left behind after last season’s shakeup, forging ahead (hey, like Kelly) with a tone that’s considerate of everything Craig DiGregorio masterfully pieced together while also adding some much-needed severity. Again, it’s all about family this season, and the coarse relationship between Ash and Brandy is at the meaty center, revealing truths about our prophesied hero that we’ve never thought to ask but always wanted to know.

Image: Ash Vs. Evil Dead (Starz)

Think back to “Brujo” from the first season, when Ash experienced that woozy ayahuasca trip with Pablo’s uncle, and we learned about a life he always wanted. He never asked to be a time-traveling knight. No, he looked forward to a cozy future with Linda down in the sunny confines of Jacksonville, Florida. Okay, so he could have aimed a little higher, but wasn’t that revelation refreshing? Didn’t that mean more than the gore? That’s the benefit of having a series over another movie. We get time to dig deep into our favorite characters, and it looks like we’re going six feet under this season. Who knows, by the end, we might discover that having a daughter is a life Ash never knew he wanted ... and a narrative we never even considered. Wouldn’t that be nice?

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Stray Observations

-It’s funny to think that, despite all of the deaths that Ash has experienced (and also incurred), that Candy’s funeral may be the first traditional service we’ve actually seen with him. Granted, “traditional” goes out the window the second he’s pulled into the casket and anally fingered by his Deadite ex-wife.

-“We all grieve in our own way.” Can we take a moment and appreciate how Ash simply takes a seat at the service after stumbling out of the casket with Candy’s head clearly in his lap? No wonder Brandy bolts.

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-Gotta love how Ash gets all defensive over Brandy: “You be careful, Ruby. Never get between a Papa Bear and his cub.” So much sincerity.

-Kelly, reading the room: “Fuck me. Looks like a snuff film in here.” Also, we can The Kinks to her never-ending supply of killer band shirts. To quote Wayne Campbell: “God, I love this woman.”

-Kudos to Pablo for at least trying to pick up the Brujo’s “naked lady” disciple: “Hey, uh, by the way, you got a name? Maybe we could grab a coffee some time ... or meet up ... at like a clothing store.” Smooth.

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-Cheryl’s mixtapes are a total marvel. Last season, we discovered she’s a fan of the Romeo Void with their sexy single, “Never Say Never,” and this time we get a little Joan Jett with her sultry cover of “Crimson and Clover.”

-It’s great how the Williams home has become as familiar as the cabin from the original films, where we know every room and every hallway. That walkway leading to Cheryl’s room has certainly had its share of iconic moments.

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-Brock on his son’s commercial: “What a piece of shit.”

-Who’s going to eat the corndog?

-Ridiculous fight between Brock and Ash, only further exacerbated by the over-the-top dialogue. Brock: “I like my kids cooked medium rare.” Ash: “And I love the smell of an old man in the morning.” Just great.

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-This week’s Top Deadite is Candy (Katrina Hobbs). Between tickling Ash’s anus to losing her tongue in the framed portrait—not to mention, the claustrophobic horror in the coffin—she really did give the best ... um, performance.

-Pretty sure that’s Bruce Campbell and Lucy Lawless singing Paul Lynde’s “Kids” at the end from Bye Bye, Birdie? Sigh. It’s the little things.

-See you on the flip-flop with “Unfinished Business.”

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