Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A quartet of vampires are encased in silver cages in the basement of an upstate New York (actually Ontario) manor home I swear I’ve seen in a movie. (I’m thinking maybe John Cena’s bad-guy mansion in F9? Or in the Kristen Stewart Charlie’s Angels?) One of them has a mustache, which he keeps twirling while making Agatha Christie (Rian Johnson, whatever) references. A game is most definitely afoot, setting the stage for a dramatic reveal that will end in Guillermo fleeing for his life.
That isn’t a hypothetical. “A Weekend at Morrigan Manor” combines elements of the What We Do in the Shadows season-two finale — in which Guillermo confesses his Van Helsing lineage while the vampires are bound and unable to attack him, that time with ropes — and the season-three opener, in which the vampires imprison Guillermo in a cage in their basement. Back then, Nandor didn’t really want to kill his familiar. This time, he’s sure of it.
At first, I didn’t necessarily clock the vampires’ weekend at Perdita Morrigan’s place as a trap. We were due for another big guest star, and penultimate episodes away from the mansion are definitely a thing on this show. (Last year, we briefly went to London in “Freddie.”) But once they arrived and were greeted with a note, my inner Admiral Ackbar kicked in. A weekend at a remote, well-appointed manse with no host, only an antique tape recorder containing a mysterious message telling the six of them (the host somehow knew there would be six) to get comfortable and enjoy themselves in her absence? This is so obviously a trap. Or maybe an escape room? Nope, definitely a trap.
Last week, we talked about the Guide’s peripheral role this season despite Kristen Schaal’s promotion to series regular with her own painting in the opening credits and everything. This week, the wallflower becomes the puppetmaster, as a clip show — a real late-period sitcom touch that was a bit too meta for my tastes — reveals that all season long, she has been hovering in the background, waiting for someone in the vampire household to just be nice to her already. It’s a little sad, actually — vampires can have hurt feelings too, and they must have a lot of them given that being kind of a self-centered prick is endemic to their species.
Maybe that’s why no one thinks anything is weird when the Guide’s plan is set into motion. Laszlo, being manor-born, takes to life at Morrigan Manor quite readily, retiring to the fencing gymnasium for some aristocratic sport (the kind where you just barely perspire) and fencing humor. Nandor’s test involves hunting, Nadja’s trying to figure out where the hell Laszlo ran off to, and Colin’s being an insufferable know-it-all — almost as if these trials were designed specifically for each of them by someone who knows them all very well. Well enough to paint oil portraits of each of them from memory. Whoever could that be?
It’s not Guillermo, who has drifted in and out of the vampires’ household over the seasons but is always pulled back in by one thing: his love for Nandor. But now he has broken the trust between them in a way he cannot deny, even though he does have a point when he says, “I asked you repeatedly. For 13 years!” Nandor is complicit in this too, simply for being indifferent to Guillermo’s needs. (I smell a theme …) The way this whole scene plays out is very much like a confession of adultery — a parallel that has been in the background this whole time but that really came to the fore once the two of them started actually talking about it. And we haven’t seen Nandor look this monstrous in a while, which is how you know he’s really hurt.
Will this be the end of the will they, won’t they tension that has propelled the entire series over five seasons? It’s hard to take the threat too seriously given that we’ve been here before. Will What We Do in the Shadows once again go for a sitcom reset, or will the show’s love of an ongoing storyline (and Harvey Guillén’s rising fame) win out? It’s difficult to say at this point: Things are shifting toward establishing the Guide as the series’ hapless fool rather than Guillermo. But losing Guillermo would mean losing the (now half-vampire) heart of the series. We’ve got one more episode this season, which gives Nandor 24 more minutes, give or take, to finally realize what a, well, what a self-centered prick he’s been.
• The vampires’ habit of passing the decades by sitting at home reading is very charming. We have delved lightly into the contents of their library in the past — Laszlo owns a copy of I’m OK–You’re OK, for example — but I would be down for a full shelf-porn segment.
• The original painting of “Perdita Morrigan” — actually Eléonore Elisabeth Angélique de Beauterne, a.k.a the Madame de Saint-Morys — hangs, sans fangs, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
• And speaking of the Met, the image of Madame Morrigan’s Met Ball after-party, to which no one is invited, is an exceptionally amusing piece of collage.
• “I saw some art last year. I’m good.”
• Guillermo is a “lying on the couch under some pillows watching YouTube” kind of gay, not a “sniffing jockstraps in the woods and barking like a dog” kind of gay.
• I have to call bullshit on Nadja’s disbelief that the Guide would have devised this elaborate scheme rather than sitting down and having a simple conversation with her. It’s not like you would have listened, girl!
• This show gets away with a lot of hacky jokes by putting them into Colin Robinson’s mouth, where they come off more like verbal terrorism. Case in point: “I didn’t have that on my 2023 bingo card!”
• Totally called it on the Van Helsing blood. The hex, though? I didn’t see that one coming.
• The credits list only two “naked humans” out of the entire pack. I’m not sure if this means they somehow negotiated credits where the rest of the naked extras could not or if the rest were digitally generated somehow. Regardless, congratulations to “Naked Human No. 1” and “Naked Human No. 2.”