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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Superb Owl is not what it seems on a mixed-up What We Do In The Shadows

Illustration for article titled The Superb Owl is not what it seems on a mixed-up iWhat We Do In The Shadows/i
Photo: FX Networks
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Before we begin, I have to confess something: Normally, I loathe Superb Owl jokes. They’re the type of faux-quirky cliché that people repeat with a palpable sense of satisfaction in their own cleverness, although all involved know damn well they’ve heard it many times before. It’s the anti-sport equivalent of acting like you’re the first person to mishear “hold me closer, tiny dancer” as “hold me closer, Tony Danza.” I am also aware that I am the asshole in this situation, which is why I am pleased to report that I didn’t hate it when this week’s episode of What We Do In The Shadows opened with a Superb Owl bit.

They elaborated on the premise with the show’s signature bombastic goofiness, which helped. And they didn’t linger on it throughout the episode, which was probably the most helpful tactic of all. Overall, “Brain Scramblies” was a nicely balanced episode that made time for both overarching plot and random silliness, digging further into a thematic element I really enjoyed when they explored it in season one: The nuances of the vampires’ relationship with humans.


Of the core vampire trio, Nadja seems to like humans the best, or at least pity them the most. She shows affection for the little girl, now a senile old woman, she used to play with back in the jazz age—at least, for a little while—and genuinely felt sorry for the “strong, beautiful, vicious, vibrant women” at next-door neighbor Sean’s house who are married to such “boiled potatoes” of men. (As always, Nadja’s brand of feminism is on point.) Laszlo just thinks of them as inconveniently messy blood bags—I have a feeling his reluctance to slaughter Sean’s friends and family was more about the hassle than the loss of life—while Nandor splits the difference by treating humans like cute little puppies whose heads he will absolutely crush (with the proper gloves on, of course) if they bite him.

Of course, they’re all extremely out of touch with human culture, as was reflected in two of my favorite lines of this episode: “great joke, assholes!” and “sorry about how demented you are!” Both of those were dependent on their delivery, which is no problem for this ensemble (see also: Nandor’s recurring “we are taking a shit together!” bit). But what made the Superb Owl storyline of this week’s episode really work for me was the loud din of the Long Island screaming between the humans on this episode, and the vampires’ disgusted reaction to it. Once Nadja took off in search of her mother’s necklace, the middle section of the episode got a little chaotic, but it came back around when the vampires took off with Sean. Plus, Nadja’s comment at the end—“I’ll just get it when they die”—called back the human/vampire relations theme nicely.

But while that plot was freestanding, Guillermo has his own, ongoing storyline to attend to. This week, that led to a B-story that I found amusing, but not as laugh-out-loud funny as the vampires’ adventures. Strangely, Craig Robinson was rather underutilized in his role as the lead vampire hunter Claude, which is odd given that the show’s guest stars are usually given more of a chance to shine with comic monologues and such. There was also a fair amount of setup to get through in re-introducing Jenna’s roommate Shanice to the show, more than we’ve seen with one-off groups like Simon the Devious’ crew last season.

Bringing back Shanice also introduces a relatively heavy moral dilemma to the show as Guillermo is confronted with the human toll of his virgin-wrangling for the first time, delivering on the promise of a more substantial role for Harvey Guillén this season. Hell, it’s the most substantial emotional beat anyone has had on What We Do In The Shadows so far. And so I’d bet a tray of battery-acid nachos that Guillermo’s new crew will be back—which is great, because I can’t wait to see these nerds charge into battle. They were so excited to get to slam that big heavy metal door.


Stray Observations

  • A subdued, but good week for Mark Prosch, and the glimmer in his eye when he realized just how much delicious, delicious bickering he’d be privy to that evening.
  • Speaking of, anyone else feel a little called out by that motion smoothing bit? I mean, we literally sell a T-shirt with an anti-motion smoothing logo on the A.V. Club store.
  • It was a distinctly New York kind of yelling featured on this episode, but I have been to a couple Thanksgivings in Chicago that weren’t too far off, for the record.
  • I bet there’s a Planet Hollywood out there that would take issue with Sean’s assertion that he has the world’s largest collection of Ocean’s 12 merch.
  • Nandor bumping his head on the basement ceiling floating in midair is the type of supernatural-meets-mundane comedy this show is made for.
  • “If it’s not too serious, it’s what’s called Weak Brain. If it’s slightly worrying, it’s called Thoughtless Sallies, and if it’s a fucking nightmare and you can forget about him, it’s called Brain Scramblies.”
  • “He’s my best friend. He’s my pal, my homeboy, my rotten soldier. He’s my sweet cheese, my good time boy.”
  • And to complete the Quotable Quotes with Matt Berry segment for this week, a new pronunciation to roll around in your mouth like a fine vintage: “Plie-ah-shur.”
  • Maybe it’s cheesy, but I love when this show does love. I thought it was honestly very cute to see Sean and his wife making out at the end of the episode.

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