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Nick Kroll is...Simon the Devious on an accident-prone What We Do In The Shadows

Photo: FX Networks
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The rest of the episode was perfectly fine, but this week What We Do In The Shadows featured a guest star whose first appearance on screen prompted a row of exclamation points and some enthusiastic underlining in my notes. Nick Kroll is always hilarious, and his one-episode arc as Manhattan vampire king Simon the Devious—unless he emerges from those bandages with a thirst for vengeance, which is entirely possible—so dominated “Manhattan Night Club” that the rest of the cast seemed to be holding back so he could have all the best line readings. The show’s casting for its guest stars has been on point, making it hard to pick a favorite, but Kroll might be it for me so far.

A little less than halfway through What We Do In The Shadows’ first season, the vampires’ plan for world domination has stalled out, and this seems like this will be the status quo for the remainder of the season. I didn’t expect Nandor and the gang to drench New York City in blood by the third episode or anything, but the formula of “vampires make plan/plan backfires/reset” is, well—it’s very sitcom-esque. And this is a sitcom, so I can’t get too upset about that. That being said, how the show’s writers will bring all these characters back together at the end of the season—or how the arc will wrap up in a satisfying way, and not just with a bigger “womp-womp” than usual—is unclear at this point.

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The show is also taking its time re-integrating Jenna into the storyline: After being turned into a vampire by Nadja in the second episode, she was completely absent for the third, and only appears in the cold open for this week’s fourth episode. I enjoyed how her character was fleshed out just a little bit more in this episode, though, and look forward to seeing her more fully integrated into the gang. As for our core trio, the dynamics were very similar to last episode, with Laszlo acting a fool with his cursed witch skin hat—him being dragged along the street after his cape got caught in the taxi door got a big laugh from me, just like his topiary tour and raccoon hunt in previous episodes—Nadja getting annoyed with him, and Nandor just kind of hanging out off to the side. Colin Robinson also didn’t have a whole lot to do in this episode, but that’s okay, because last week’s primary subplot was all about him.

Instead, this week’s MVP was Guillermo, whose relationship with Nandor is like that of a platonic spouse. Like an exasperated, under-appreciated wife or husband whose partner takes them for granted, Guillermo rightly sees that there are other vampires out there who could fulfill his needs when he accompanies Nandor, Nadja, Laszlo, and Colin to the vampire nightclub owned by Simon the Devious. Also like a long-suffering spouse, he’s been a familiar so long that he doesn’t seem to realize that those vampires are equally likely to use him and dump him as soon as they get what they want—like, really dump him, throwing his bloodless body in a river or something. The marriage parallels were also there when Nandor apologizes to an infuriated Guillermo after he storms out of the club—then drops him from high above New York, thus restoring that status quo.

Speaking of familiars, the nuances of familiar-dom were the most effective expansion of the What We Do In The Shadows mythology in this episode. To continue the relationship metaphor the janitors’ closet where all the familiars hang out a sort of supernatural version of the gaggle of bored-looking partners who are always sitting at the bar waiting for a band/improv troupe/sketch group to finish up so they can go home. And I loved the silly names of Simon’s crew, but knowing that familiars can also be cats, or can pose as the parent of 400-year-old moppets dressed like they’re going out as Huey P. Newton for Halloween, tickled my imagination far more. Hell, I’d even watch an entire episode devoted to that weird family, preferably in the style of Let The Right One In. That’ll have to wait until next season, though—this show has enough going on.

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Stray Observations

  • That fly crawling on the eye of what I assume to be a dummy of Beanie Feldstein kind of freaked me out. Well played, effects team!
  • “He died tripping over his cape at a wooden stake sale at the garden center” is a joke that it’s best not to think too hard about. There are a lot of variables at play.
  • Fun fact: The word “vamp” to mean a sexy, dangerous woman was coined in 1915, after Theda Bara’s character of “The Vampire” in the film A Fool There Was. Nadja would have fit right in.
  • “Yes, it is cool. Free hat!”
  • Another fun fact: there are two different words in Japanese for body sushi, depending on whether the fish is served on a naked female or naked male body. #vampirebottleservicethoughts
  • What do you think Simon and the other vampires did for the Bicentennial? I bet Laszlo wore jorts.
  • Here’s the Leatherskins’ full roster: Big Vlad, Abbadon, Apusa, the Freak Sisters (no relation), Little Vlad, Mister Fifties, S for Sara, Evil Steve, Freakfest Tony, Blaglad the Exsanguinator, the Silent One, Asian Mike, Chunt, Jane the Soulless, Elgrad the Fifth, Hovark the Pitmaster, Gunfrappel and his brother Kirlsak, Wesley Sikes, Desdemona the Shrieker, Len the Accountant, and Count Rapula. I’d be interested to find out if there was any improv in this sequence; a couple of the vamps had looks/lines/sound effects to match their names, but others could have been made up on the spot.
  • “You have a funny way of showing it.” “Thank you.”
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