While not quite as much of a non-stop joke machine as past seasons, it’s more than made up for by the genuine warmth that develops between the four roommates (and Gizmo).
Things are bad, folks. They’re relentlessly bad, with no sign that it’s going to let up any time soon. All we can do to stop ourselves from spiraling into the abyss is cling to the little things in life, like an ice cream cone, petting a dog, or taking a long bath. Add to that list is What We Do in the Shadows, now in its fourth season, and still just as fresh and funny as ever, with dirty jokes that belie its gentle, loving core.
Season 3 ended with Nandor (Kayvan Novak) and Nadja (Natasia Demetriou) leaving Staten Island to try to find their fortunes elsewhere (along with Guillermo, who is forced to goes along for the ride, nailed into a wooden crate with only a package of Oreo cookies to eat). Left behind was Laszlo (Matt Berry), who discovered that the extremely dead Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch) spawned a grotesque baby version of himself.
Now it’s one year later, and Nandor, Nadja and Guillermo (Harvey Guillén) have returned to a house that has fallen into disarray (well, more disarray than it’s usually in), now that Colin Robinson has died and is no longer around to pay the bills. While Nadja works to open a nightclub bearing her name, Laszlo tries to raise baby Colin Robinson (who has a head of Harpo Marx-like golden curls), calling him “Boy” and determined to turn him into “the most interesting adult in the world,” i.e. the anti-Colin Robinson. Laszlo’s parenting skills are suspect, however, as he forces baby Colin Robinson to eat Count Chocula out of a bowl on the floor, and, when he shows signs of turning into, well, Colin Robinson, punishes him by forcing him to get into a dumpster and kill six rats.
Naturally, as it always is, it’s up to Guillermo to handle both repairing the house, and looking after baby Colin Robinson, though Laszlo grudgingly grows fond of the lad. Spending a year nailed in a crate has apparently given Guillermo a lot of time to think about things, and he returns a new man, assertive and proving himself to be an even more agile fighter than he was in season 2. He also seems to have gotten over Nandor, and involved in a romance with an as yet unidentified character whose voice we only hear briefly on the phone.
Nandor, however, is still lonely, but thanks to his personal djinn (Anoop Desai), who has the appearance and dry manner of an accountant, he’s able to call forth his original 37 wives (some of which are husbands) and narrow them down to find his perfect spouse, in a riotous take on The Bachelor. Though Nandor eventually settles on the lovely Marwa (Parisa Fakhri) as his bride, he still turns to Guillermo for advice and companionship. “Sometimes I just want to hang with the boys,” Nandor says, broadly hinting where his friendship with Guillermo might go (or maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part).
For a show in which a significant amount of one episode is dedicated to Nandor working out with his djinn the logistics of wishing for the world’s largest penis (“It should be attached to me, and not in a jar, or in a briefcase”), this season of What We Do in the Shadows is especially warm and lovable. Though still occasionally sniping at each other, the roommates feel more like a family, even treating Guillermo as one of them, despite his being a human (everybody seems to be ignoring the fact that he’s also a descendant of Abraham Van Helsing). Rather than mocking each other, they’re now supportive of each other’s endeavors, whether it’s Nadja’s desire to open a nightclub, or Nandor’s search for a life partner. They’re especially delighted when baby Colin Robinson, who quickly grows into child Colin Robinson, plays an unexpected and pivotal role in the success of Nadja’s nightclub.
Though it’s not quite as rapid-fire with the jokes and sight gags as previous seasons, this season plays into the affection the audience has for these characters. We like them and want good things for them, even if they literally murder people and drink their blood. Like the original cast of the film on which the show is based, they’re charming in their naivete, despite being hundreds of years old, and it’s hard to believe that anyone would find them scary.
While Kayvan Novak as Nandor was a standout last season, this season feels more like an ensemble, with more episodes focused on the roommates rather than the various individuals, whether human or monster, they encounter in their everyday lives. At least in the four episodes made available for review, the guest stars are kept to a minimum, with Affion Crockett as vampire rapper Richie Suck (who rhymes “bloodsuckers” with “Fuddruckers”), and Fred Armisen as his manipulative familiar. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention recurring guest star Kristen Schaal as the eternally put-upon Guide, who reveals that she has a crush on a most unlikely member of the household.
Have no fear, despite its affectionate turn, there’s still plenty of dick jokes, gags about how horny Nadja and Laszlo are for each other, and a hilarious gross-out moment involving a subway busker who clears out an entire car, save for the roommates. It’s the same What We Do in the Shadows you’ve always loved, but now it’s starting to wear its undead heart on its sleeve, and is even better for it.
Season 4 of What We Do in the Shadows premieres July 12th on FX and Hulu.