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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Guillermo serves a new master on a trendsetting What We Do In The Shadows

Illustration for article titled Guillermo serves a new master on a trendsettingi What We Do In The Shadows/i
Photo: FX Networks
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This week’s episode felt like a throwback to the first season of What We Do In The Shadows, both in its world-building—the familiar meetup reminded me quite a bit of the familiars’ lounge in season-one highlight “The Trial,” but with more spacious digs—and in its character work. A lot has changed for Guillermo since the season one finale, but his motivation to quit serving Nandor and move in with the flighty Celeste (Greta Lee) in “Collaboration” was more like the Guillermo we met in the series premiere. In other words, given that Guillermo’s character arc is now focused primarily on his destiny as a vampire hunter, the plot this week hinged on his desire to become a vampire, without any nods to these conflicting impulses. That made it feel a bit like an out-of-order track from an album being played on shuffle, a disorienting detail in an otherwise very sharp and silly episode.

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In season two, What We Do In The Shadows has made a point of depicting its core trio of vampires as doddering old fools, like that great “mailer-daemon” joke in“The Curse.” And while we did get that in this episode as well with Nadja and Laszlo’s musical act (more on that in a minute), bringing Celeste, her minions, and her eternally 12-year-old vampire mentor into the show’s mythological fold created an opportunity to change things up and make fun of hipsters for a while. In terms of jokes, the targets—Shake Shack, charcuterie, interpretive dance, vaping, orgies—were pretty spot on in terms of attention-seeking trust fund kid nonsense, as was guest star Greta Lee as she oscillated between exaggerated friendliness and bratty tantrums.

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Next to Celeste, Nandor seemed like a dorky dad visiting his kid at a trendy “co-living space,” but even he looked hip next to the demanding Benji. Nandor’s old familiar from the ‘70s is back and convinced that it’s his time to be made a vampire, although I personally feel as though, once you reach a certain age, it might not be worth it anymore. I’m in my late 30s, and it may be too late for me; do I really want to wake up every night for eternity with my neck all out of wack from sleeping on it weird in my coffin? Anyway, the character served his narrative purpose in this episode, but perhaps the most entertaining thing about Benji’s return was Nandor’s contempt for him and willingness to toss him aside.

In this instance, that contempt underlines the connection between Nandor and Guillermo—Nandor’s not willing to throw out this new familiar so easily—which is something I talk about enough in these recaps I won’t go into detail here, except to say their reunion was genuinely sweet. But it also serves a larger purpose. The vampires on What We Do In The Shadows come in many varieties, from grotesque to deceptively cute, but they all have a monstrous, murderous edge. (It’s something that Kayvan Novak has said he wanted to maintain for the character of Nandor in particular.) That contrast creates tension, and tension creates comedy.

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Or you can just go for silly wordplay about poop, as “Collaboration” did when it finally fulfilled my wish to see! Matt Berry! Siiing! The idea of Laszlo and Nadja as the secret architects of Western musical culture is very funny, and if they penned “Come On Eileen” (a.k.a. “Chum On Irene”), “He’s A Jolly Good Fellow” (a.k.a. “I’m A Jolly Good Fellow”), “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” (a.k.a. “Stroke, Stroke, Stroke Your Cock”), who knows what else they were responsible for? Laszlo’s career as a pornographic ac-tor has already been revealed; did they also fake the moon landing? Inspire The Exorcist with some blasphemous public lovemaking? Make fun of Davey Jones’ name so many times that he changed it to David Bowie? The possibilities, as they say, are endless.


Stray Observations

  • Let’s all say it together: “SWEET BIRTHDAY BAY-BEEEEEEE!”
  • ICYMI: The song titles on Nadja & Laszlo Sing Songs Of Love & Terror, Side A, include: “Hoop Skirt, Poop Skirt;” “(Witches Are) Snitches;” “Horsedrawn Carriage (Full Of Arse);” “Telegraph Fever;” and “Kokomo, Seafarer’s Song.”
  • “I can play anything, I don’t give a monkey’s. Whether it’s the three-way pluck box, Antoine Sax’s metallic clarinet, or the sheep grinder’s wind piano!”
  • “From Panera Bread you came, and to Panera Bread you shall return!”
  • “Houston and her clique are down in Florida hunting pervs.” I would totally watch this movie.
  • It’s tough literally herding cats for the screen, but Sam the cat familiar was such a good kitty. Wasn’t he? Yes, he was.
  • “You haven’t had an original idea since 1925, when you decided to go down on me for the first time in 200 years!”
  • Matt Berry Line Reading of the Week goes to,“I was doing the bloody disco 100 years before any other fucker.” The way he let the air out of the word “fucker” was genius.
  • Encouraging Laszlo and Nadja to do new material? Colin Robinson’s been pretty evil lately, particularly in this episode as he manipulated his housemates into unwittingly offering up sweet, sweet embarrassment for him to suckle upon. But if everyone had a good time in the end, perhaps that’s more of a chaotic neutral.
  • Guillermo wearing his turtleneck under his bathrobe just before the aborted orgy was a fun character detail. I also loved him cheesing for the camera when he and Nandor were about to take flight.
  • What’s your favorite Human Music Group song? I’m partial to “We’re feeling horny for blood! We’re feeling horny for love!,” myself.
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