It’s almost October and I’m eagerly anticipating the second season of Ash vs Evil Dead, the continuing adventures of one-handed chainsaw-wielding Ash Williams as he takes on demonic supernatural forces. At least, he does when they force him to do so by trying to kill him. Otherwise, he’d probably leave them alone, provided he gets to vacation in Jacksonville, Florida.
(This post is going to have some spoilers for Ash vs Evil Dead, so fair warning.)
This year, my wife and I also watched AMC’s excellent show Preacher, an adaptation of the DC/Vertigo comic of the same name. It featured the adventures of hard-drinking, not-always-well-meaning preacher Jesse Custer, as he dealt with a variety of supernatural forces and entities. (And some non-supernatural-but-odd situations in his Texas hometown.)
(Guess what? I’ll have spoilers for Preacher in this post too. Now’s your chance to bail…)
I was struck by similarities in the shows, and since I had been wanting to write about Preacher and am always eager to talk about Ash vs Evil Dead, it seemed like a topic to explore.
On a Road Trip. A Road Trip to Hell! (Or Jacksonville…)
For me, the idea of comparing Preacher to Ash vs Evil Dead sprung to grisly, shambling life at the very end of the Preacher finale. After some apocalyptic events in the finale, Jesse convinces his companions, Tulip and Cassidy, to go off on a road trip in search of the absent God.
Unknown to Team Jesse, a dangerous killer has been let loose from Hell to track the preacher down.
As things go, I don’t require that much more of a setup for me to get excited about a second season. Our protagonists have something to do and there’s something coming for them should they slow down and try to relax.
This just struck me as a kind of an echo from the finale of Ash vs Evil Dead.
In that finale, Ash had convinced his companions, Kelly and Pablo, to go off on a road trip to his idea of Heaven. You know, Jacksonville, Florida. Obviously.
Meanwhile, a kind of deadite apocalyptic event had been kicked off by Lucy Lawless’ inhuman character Ruby, who’d gained control of the Necronomicon (thanks to Ash.)
There might not have been an explicitly identified threat thirsting for Ash’s soul by the end of the finale, but deadite activity at some point is going to gravitate towards Ash Williams, forcing him to lend a hand. (No other pun context will be supplied.) So I don’t need much more of a setup to get me excited for a second season. Team Ash is off to Jacksonville, but things aren’t going to work out smoothly.
Now, you might be unconvinced of the similarities between the two shows based on the above presentation. I’m being super vague and picking cherries and all, and I’m sure that if I tried I could pretend that the finale of M*A*S*H to be similar thematically. (You know, Hawkeye had to conquer some personal demons in the finale, everyone’s taking a big trip from Korea back to the States, and the rest of the hellish 1950s are still ahead…)
So let me try to make my case in a bit more thorough and straight-forward way.
- Ash and Jesse
If I look at the bare bones of each show, it’s primarily the story of one flawed main character:
It’s Ash vs Evil Dead, not Pablo vs Evil Dead.
It’s Preacher, not Vampire or Badass.
Both Ash and Jesse, not really by their choosing, have been seemingly selected by destiny to be in the middle of a supernatural/spiritual storm.
Neither are totally without some say in their destiny. Jesse could have let the enigmatic and hapless angels Fiore and DeBlanc remove the Genesis entity from him, but he opted to keep it. Ash kept the Necronomicon with him for years and years. It’s like he chose to be its guardian.
Neither are really trustworthy with their stewardship. Jesse accidentally used the Word to send Arseface Eugene to Hell, in a fit of anger. Ash allowed the Deadites to once again return in force when he read from the Necronomicon with a young lady he was entertaining, in a somewhat altered-state fit of lust.
So both shows have an archetypal main character who isn’t 100% relatable or likable. Sometimes causing trouble. Sometimes having trouble find them. And they’re not alone.
- Kelly and Tulip
Journeying along with their respective “heroes” are the archetypal badass companions. Kelly and Tulip have more in common than just their gender and their natural ability to mess people up. (In Kelly’s case, to mess deadites up.)
Both have a tendency towards seeking revenge which is a reflection of another shared character trait, their amorality. I’m not saying either are bad people, but neither seems particularly interested in considering consequences.
They’re there enabling the main protagonist. And not necessarily always in a good way.
- Pablo and Cassidy
Rounding out the archetypal trios are the characters who represent the humanity, the conscience in the group.
Both Pablo and Cassidy are inexplicably supportive and fond of the main character, and are there to be the angel on the shoulder when the amoral badass archetype is either being the shoulder-devil or just quasi-passively enabling the protagonist towards bad behavior. (And each has a somewhat unrequited romantic attachment to their respective female teammate.)
For being the humanity archetype, that fact that neither destined-to-be-a-brujo Pablo nor vampire Cassidy are quite human adds a touch of irony (or whatever, sorry if I’m using irony wrong, English Majors.)
Taken all together, each respective trio has created a similar system: with the protagonist driving the action, the badass enabling their decisions (although probably with sarcastic observations), and the conscience wanting to consider the options while still being supportive.
Now, I’m not saying that Preacher is a carbon copy or a ripoff of Ash vs Evil Dead. (Particularly because it existed in graphic novel form before the Starz TV series, even though Ash vs Evil Dead is a natural byproduct of the older movies.) I’m not going to accuse either show of copying the other, because I don’t believe that’s the case. I just think that we sometimes get the same sort of framework supporting stories like these. (Feel free to quote Campbell or whatever. I guess.)
I could even try to pull in Kirk, Spock, and McCoy as examples of main character, amoral character, and conscience. Spock and McCoy aren’t really neatly cut from the same cloth as Kelly/Tulip and Pablo/Cassidy, I’d have to swap a few attributes to make it as clean, but it kind of works. And no one would imagine that these shows are ripping off Star Trek.
Ash vs Evil Dead and Preacher are shows with distinct differences. In tone, both are not afraid of going to violent places, but AvED really goes there, to a ridiculous degree. (Although some might argue that the battle between Jesse, Fiore, DeBlanc, and Cassidy against the relentless blonde Seraph in the motel almost hit that level of Oh My God ridiculousness.)
The Starz show certainly has more of a campy feel to it, and although there is humor in the AMC show, Preacher is far more dramatic in tone.
It’s fair to say that I wouldn’t be surprised that fans of one show would be fans of the other, but I’d also respect the opinion of viewers who gravitated towards one and were not at all interested in the other. The shows are similar enough and different enough to justify that Venn diagram.
Anyway, feel free to share your thoughts with me about either show.
In all of my past Ash vs Evil Dead posts, I’ve enjoyed examining a different television or movie property and imagine that it’s actually part of the Evil Dead universe.
Could the events of Annville, Texas being happening in the same universe where dark forces are rising up in the woods of Michigan? Maybe. But Preacher has a very specific and different cosmology at work.
- There’s God. He’s just missing and Heaven doesn’t know where he is.
- There are angels, and presumably devils (maybe we even see one during the season.)
- The powerful entity called Genesis was created because of a forbidden rendezvous between a soldier of Heaven and a soldier of Hell (I think I have that right, based on what DeBlanc and Fiore told Jesse.)
- Hell certainly exists. (Just to reiterate the above.)
Preacher specifically has a very Judeo-Christian setup, which is largely (but not entirely) absent from the Evil Dead universe.
- No one seems to pray in Ash’s stories.
- Even when Ash was transported to the Middle Ages, there didn’t seem to be an organized religion.
- The most overt symbols of religion are the makeshift crosses that Ash makes when he buries people. And the acknowledgement that Kelly is jewish.
- The deadites talk about hell, but that just might be a poetic allusion to their nightmarish place of origin, and not the Christian concept of Hell.
All in all, the Evil Dead universe seems much more Lovecraftian in nature. The deadites don’t seem to be fallen angels, so much as a mind-blowing horror of the Other. It’s not sin that brings the deadites in, it’s usually human error or forbidden knowledge. (You know what I mean: if you know too much about the evil, the evil seems to know about you… feel free to debate me on this.)
It’s not as easy to map the Necronomicon onto an element in Preacher (like I did with the One Ring in Lord of the Rings) but there certainly seems to be gateways to Hell on the show. (Involving a bus?)
I’m not necessarily ruling things out. If we ever see demonic possession in the Preacher universe (or maybe crazy aggressive zombie-things) or there’s evidence of angelic anti-deadite forces at work in Ash vs Evil Dead, I can probably return and make a stronger case.
The fact that vampires exist in the Preacher universe gives me hope for more weirdness on that front, at the very least.
I assume that if Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy happen to wander into a dangerous deadite-infested situation, they’ll be able to handle themselves.
Okay, raise a glass (or the whole bottle if you’re from Texas.) Here’s to second seasons of supernatural action/comedy/drama shows. Hope the renewals continue. I’m fairly certain they’ll all be groovy.
Images from Starz network’s Ash vs Evil Dead and AMC’s Preacher. Obviously.
I make no claims to the artwork, but some claims to the text.
If you liked this article, thank you! If you check out the “Evil Dead” category on the site, you can read all of my thoughts on Ash vs Evil dead and the movies that form the backstory. I cannot confirm nor deny that reading the posts will summon deadites. That’s on you.
© Patrick Sponaugle 2016 Some Rights Reserved