What We Do in the Shadows Recap: I’d Rather be Reading Bukowski

What We Do in the Shadows

Hybrid Creatures
Season 5 Episode 7
Editor’s Rating 4 stars

What We Do in the Shadows

Hybrid Creatures
Season 5 Episode 7
Editor’s Rating 4 stars
Photo: FX

She might not have the temperament for teaching — kudos to her for realizing this before she murdered one of her students, honestly — but Nadja’s lesson plans for her night school classes weren’t terrible. If these Antipoxan-Americans want to assimilate into Staten Island society, they’ll need to learn about the two most important aspects of modern American life: The shameless pursuit of cash and hostile interactions with strangers. She’s preparing them quite well for both of those!

Setting this week’s episode at a night school gives “Hybrid Creatures” the opportunity to indulge in one of What We Do in the Shadows’ most fruitful visual gags — putting vampires in pale makeup and detailed period costumes under fluorescent lighting. Instant hilarity! It’s also a new location for the gang, who participated in discussions about education when Colin Robinson was in his larval state last season but haven’t stepped over the threshold of a school until this week’s episode. (Did they have to ask permission? Maybe that vampire rule is only for private residences.)

One might ask: They just let some random woman with fangs and a bad attitude take over the “How to Live in America” course at a Staten Island continuing education center? And yes! They absolutely did! The world of a community night school is a strange and anarchic one, a place where people like Helen “Magic” Johnson can thrive. Helen, played by Reno 911 and The State alum Kerri Kenney-Silver, blends in by donning the traditional art teacher’s costume of scarves and a curly bob. But by the end of the episode, it’s still not clear what she’s doing at the school. Is she a member of the faculty? A supernatural creature like the vampires? (Nadja does call her a “crispy old wizened crone.”) Or simply a sweet human freak nonconsensually imposing her donut fetish on unsuspecting citizens?

If it’s the last one, Nadja doesn’t seem to mind. She’s seen weirder; she’s married to Laszlo. And by helping Helen out, she’s doing a good deed — for Helen, not for the employees of the Dunkin’ Donuts at Forest and South — which should put her a little closer to breaking her hex. We learn more about the hex on Nadja this week through The Guide, who once again pops in for a cameo appearance before disappearing again. It turns out that Nadja is still paying for a crime she committed centuries ago when she went all Carrie and burned down the school in her hometown after they rejected her for being too loud. To fix her karma, she now has to do her part to make the world a little smarter — at least, that’s the current working theory.

To be clear, Nadja would never help anyone unless she saw some benefit for herself in it, as she proves when she leaves her students at the mercy of Colin and Nandor. We don’t get to see these two blowhards face off against one another very often. And while Colin definitely dominated with his backward-chair, free-condom, slam-poetry approach to teaching — the whole thing was so cringe-inducing, I felt like I was being drained through the TV screen — Nandor also got his points in. We don’t see how the Antipoxian students feel about learning history through an El Qolnidarian lens, but I assume they didn’t like it, as the show has gestured towards the two countries being at war in the past.*

Perhaps someone with a formal education in education can confirm if each of them actually represented a school of pedagogy in their respective approaches, as I wondered while watching their storyline play out. Regardless, “Hybrid Creatures” made its point about history rather cleverly, first introducing the idea that history is subjective sarcastically (Colin says the line, so, of course, it’s sarcastic), then demonstrating it organically, then bringing it up again in a casual throwaway line as if to say, “yeah, we made a point. Deal with it!” as it put on little pixelated sunglasses. (Using “How would a vampire feel at a history museum?” as a joke prompt also felt very fresh.)

When Nadja’s curse was first introduced in “A Night Out with the Guys” a few weeks back, I wrote that the storyline felt incomplete. Part of that was admittedly impatience on my part, but part of it was in the writing, as that episode didn’t put a button on its segment of a larger joke as skillfully as “Hybrid Creatures” did. The other reason I liked this week’s episode is that both plot lines were connected to larger arcs — Nadja’s curse and Guillermo’s state of being “not a human, not yet a vampire” — in a way that made sense, but didn’t put too much pressure on either to keep the story moving. Within that space, the characters were given room to goof off and say silly things in silly ways without those antics feeling disconnected from the rest of the season.

Ironically, the characters that gave this week’s episode its name — Guillermo and his clan of unholy mutant children — got the least screen time. Laszlo’s ongoing interest in mad scientism has been another ongoing thread this season. But like the gentleman of leisure that he is, he returns to other leisurely pursuits (i.e., whacking off in the whack shed) as soon as he gets bored with his experiments, leaving Guillermo to clean up the mess.

Guillermo probably wouldn’t have been able to kill this episode’s Island of Dr. Moreau-esque half-sheep, half-dog, half-rat, and half-pig Guillermo hybrids even if they weren’t able to talk. He’s a softie like that. But the fact that they can talk and call him “daddy” presumably didn’t help. I found his solution to that particular problem to be rather elegant as well — amid an ongoing labor shortage at nursing homes, they’re not in a position to turn down help, either. Even if that help’s DNA is a mess.

Craven Mirth

• *In the season two episode “Colin’s Promotion,” we learn that it was Nandor who led the campaign to ravage Nadja’s village all those centuries ago.

• I feel like I should disclose at this point that I worked in the same office as Jeremy Levick and Rajat Suresh, who wrote this week’s episode, back when we were all employed by Onion, Inc. They’ve since blown up and have gotten a good bit of coverage on this very website. My favorite of their videos is “Conservative Lecturer DESTROYS!!! SJW College Student,” and you can absolutely see their sense of humor coming through in this episode. Good job, Rajat and Jeremy!

• Guillermo isn’t a fan of drinking urine. But there are enough “wellness experts” out there who preach the benefits of urophagia that a shocking number of online outlets have run fact-checking pieces clarifying that while chugging pee won’t kill you, it’s not good for you, either.

• And speaking of steaming potions: What is in those brightly colored beakers that Laszlo is always brewing? Share the recipe, Laszlo!

• “Films. Newspapers. Beef. Write it down.” Again, she’s not wrong!

• The references to Dunkin’ are how you know this episode was written by people from the “Newspapers” region of America.

• “Burgers and fries, Mickey Mouse, Mt. Rushmore, yeehaw!”

• The ingredients for Helen’s spell (minus one I couldn’t make out because of the sound mix) are: A gray egg from a red turkey, a petal of wolfsbane, a spring of lamb’s breath, a snake’s nose, an eye of newt, a black cat’s whisker, and a chocolate glazed from the Dunkin’ on Forest Avenue. Nadja also picks up a monkey’s paw and the tears on a woman’s love letter, just because.

• Cool teachers love rappin’ on the quad.

• I literally shook my head and said, “No,” out loud to no one when Colin brought up the movie Garden State

• This week’s line reading honors go to Kayvan Novak for, “How did these fuckers get my stuff?!”

• The thought of Laszlo getting all dressed up in his antique beekeeper’s frock to go out back to his whack shack makes me giggle. Laszlo’s worn some great silly outfits this season.

• The realest moment in this week’s episode is when Nadja storms into Dunkin’ Donuts and declares, “A dozen powdered Munchkins, and make it quick! A hex is killing my friend!” and the cashier barely looks up. I worked a cash register for many years, and we were never paid enough to engage with these types of weirdos, who are plentiful.

• “A close second goes to Helen’s preference for specific donuts at specific Dunkin’ locations. That’s real as hell.”You’re not just a cool teacher. You’re a cool friend.”

What We Do in the Shadows Recap