The good-natured, cheeky comedy about vampire roommates concludes a hilarious, surprisingly touching at times second season.
Warning: don’t read if you haven’t watched the entire season of What We Do in the Shadows yet!
Creeping in silently, like a fog on the English moors, What We Do in the Shadows came up behind you and sunk its teeth right into your heart. Falling squarely in the middle between feel-good sitcoms like The Good Place and feel-bad “everybody’s an asshole” shows like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, it’s both warm-hearted and delightfully raunchy, and exists in its own universe, while still making pointed observations about the real world. Oh, and it’s kind of turning into a love story, too.
Initially an ensemble comedy about the surprisingly boring lives of vampires trying to exist in the mortal world, the second season of What We Do in the Shadows spent a handful of episodes focusing largely on one character at a time, to the show’s benefit. The standout episode was, of course, “On the Run,” when Laszlo (Matt Berry), attempting to flee a century-old debt owed to Jim the Vampire (Mark Hamill), leaves town, disguising himself as a “regular human bartender” named Jackie Daytona. The fact that Laszlo’s “disguise” consisted of a single toothpick in his mouth and a pair of jeans made it the funniest episode of TV this year, but the episode also turning into a warm, gentle parody of smalltown working class values was a wonderful surprise.
“Fish out of water” comedy often goes for easy mean-spiritedness, but here, Laszlo, despite being absolutely unconvincing as a normal human being from “Tucson, Arizonia,” is immediately accepted (and almost as immediately beloved) in the tiny Pennsylvania town he chose as a hideout. Jim the Vampire choosing to stay behind and coach the local girls’ volleyball team once he and Laszlo resolve their differences is an unexpectedly touching ending – one that’s hilariously mitigated by his sorrow over his Big Mouth Billy Bass breaking.
The other standout episode of the season was “Colin’s Promotion,” in which energy vampire Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch), despite not knowing what the company he works for does (he thinks they manufacture either playground equipment or landmines), or anyone else knowing what exactly he does there, is moved up to a managerial position. Now equipped with victims who have no choice but to listen to his trite “working hard or hardly working” office banter, Colin Robinson goes mad with power, growing a full head of luxurious hair, gaining the ability to fly, and even to multiply himself (though of course his clones all end up boring each other into submission).
Oh, and it’s kind of turning into a love story, too.
Despite all of us knowing a Colin Robinson in real life (and if you don’t then you’re a Colin Robinson), What We Do in the Shadows is amusingly sparse in how much information it provides about him. Two seasons in and we still know nothing about Colin Robinson’s background, where he’s from, or how and when he became a vampire. We don’t even know how he managed to acquire such an enormous, antiques-filled house on an office worker’s salary. Colin himself seems puzzled by his own existence, admitting in one episode “I don’t really know my deal either.”
What we do know about Colin Robinson is that behind that bland persona is intentional malevolence, as exhibited when he encourages Laszlo and Nadja (Natasia Demetriou) to perform live music before an audience he knows will hate them, just so he can feed off their negative energy. We also learn that Colin Robinson is an online troll, finding the outrage of strangers on the internet a particularly delicious snack. He’s a clever, literal depiction of the banality of evil.
But, of course, the true standout of What We Do in the Shadows this season was Guillermo (Harvey Guillén), whose best moments were often when he said nothing at all, such as his frequent glances of dismay at the camera, or when flipping double birds while falling out of a window after destroying a nest of vampires. Guillermo has spent much of the season struggling with the knowledge that he’s a descendant of Abraham Van Helsing – a natural born vampire killer – against his loyalty to and love for Nandor (Kayan Novak) and the others. But, mostly, it’s his love for Nandor, as their weird, yet not entirely implausible relationship was given more dimension. It’s a little parent-child, a little master-servant, and a whole lot codependent, as we learn that Nandor can barely get through a day without Guillermo, even needing him to sit by his coffin as he falls asleep.
Like a lot of dysfunctional relationships, Guillermo doesn’t realize how dire his circumstances are until he steps away for a little while, such as when he gets duped into thinking that fellow familiar Celeste (Greta Lee) has been made into a vampire, and will do the same for him. As for Nandor, he doesn’t realize how much he needs Guillermo until Guillermo moves back to the Bronx for a little while, and no one in the Staten Island house even knows how to do their own laundry (or open a door, or get rid of dead bodies). It’s unclear how Nandor managed to survive for the 750 years he lived before taking on Guillermo as a familiar, but he certainly can’t function without him now.
When Guillermo rescues Nandor and the others from execution by the Vampiric Council, he has no choice but to reveal who he really is to them (and to let them know that his name is not “Guillermo Buillermo,” as Nadja believes). Thick-headed, stubborn (but not so stubborn that he refuses to admit that he misses Guillermo) Nandor seems less concerned with that, and more upset that he had to take care of his own laundry while Guillermo was gone, setting up the next season of What We Do in the Shadows for Nandor coming to terms (albeit infuriatingly slowly) with how much he needs him. Despite his remarkable skill at killing vampires, Guillermo still very much wants to be one, not just because he’s owed it for all his hard work, but perhaps because it would mean that he’d finally be an equal in Nandor’s eyes. It would take becoming a monster for Nandor to see him as a real person.
What We Do in the Shadows season 2 is now streaming on Hulu.
- “Painting With John” is an unlikely balm to the soul - January 20, 2021
- 10 films we can’t wait to see at Sundance 2021 - January 19, 2021
- “Servant” spins its wheels in a messy season 2 - January 13, 2021