“It’s always darkest before the dawn” is bad advice to give to a vampire. You might think that you’re being encouraging, but all you’re really doing is reminding them that they’ll never see a sunrise again — and if they did, they’d burst into flames and turn into a pile of dust, which is probably worse than whatever else is going on in their immortal lives at the time. Although that’s debatable, as a few members of Staten Island’s most elite vampire household might prefer a second death to the guilt, loneliness, failure, and loss they’re feeling at the end of this week’s penultimate episode. How bad is it, you ask? So bad, Nandor’s taking responsibility for his actions. Yeah …
The episode starts on a hopeful note, as we finally find out who Guillermo was FaceTiming with earlier in the season. As expected, it’s a special someone, a British auction-house employee and art history enthusiast named Freddie. Guillermo and Freddie got pretty serious during that lost year in London, so much so that they’re still unabashedly referring to each other as “boyfriends” despite living on opposite sides of the Atlantic. (No fuckboy throat-clearing here, yet another of Freddie’s positive qualities.) That being said, despite the progress he’s been making in this area — coming out to his family was huge — Guillermo is still engaging in his worst habits when it comes to Freddie: namely, lying and deception.
Freddie is his first-ever real boyfriend, so I get it. The stakes are high. (No pun intended.) And telling your partner that “lol, guess what, I don’t actually work for the U.N., I’m a vampire’s familiar” is difficult — not least because they have to wrap their head around the existence of vampires (and your desire to become one) before they can even begin processing a year’s worth of subterfuge. But the lies were bound to backfire eventually, even if Freddie hadn’t shown up unannounced on the vampires’ doorstep, opening a Pandora’s box both with Freddie and Nandor, who had no idea that Guillermo had met someone. (I’m even less inclined to tsk-tsk Guillermo on this one, as not saying what they really mean is at the core of his and Nandor’s dynamic.)
Nandor’s actions in this episode are both the cruelest and the most mature things he’s done over the course of this entire series. Treating Marwa like an undead paper doll was bad enough, but at least she was zonked out on djinn hypnotism and didn’t really get what was going on. That’s a violation of consent, to be sure. But it’s a kindness compared to canoodling with the living (ish — are clones really alive?) sublimation of Nandor’s hurt feelings at Guillermo falling for someone else. It’s especially bad to keep doing so after the actual Freddie goes back to England, taunting Guillermo not only with his love’s absence, but also with Nandor’s power over him. It’s petty and manipulative and just plain mean, and I really felt for Guillermo when he was about to burst into tears on the front steps of the mansion toward the end of the episode.
So mean, in fact, that it forces Nandor to be honest with himself for once and let Freddie/Marwa go, even though they do look good together nestled naked under furs next to a roaring fire. What happens next is, in a way, a happy ending for Marwa, who gets to be with someone who actually likes her for once — although she has to literally become someone else to get that love, which is very sad if you think about it. It’s also deeply hurtful to poor Guillermo, of course, who is probably going to have a hard time forgiving both Nandor and Freddie for the way things went down. (I would.) It’s also also a pretty astute joke about gay guys dating someone who looks exactly like them, a phenomenon I’ve heard referred to as “boyfriend twins.” Whether they will eventually learn, as Nandor has, that “true love is more than wishing for someone who likes all the things you like” remains to be seen.
But while Guillermo and Nandor’s actions are rooted in long-standing tensions between the two of them, I had a harder time wrapping my head around Laszlo deliberately tanking Nadja’s by taking Baby Colin away from her and the club. True, he’s been a bit of a stage dad ever since Baby Colin’s talent for creepy child song-and-dance was revealed earlier in the season. But suddenly deciding to aggressively renegotiate the boy’s contract felt like more of a slight against Nadja — who’s a real mess throughout most of the episode, as she is every time she’s separated from her beloved — than advocating for Colin, who doesn’t really want to go on tour anyway. Or perhaps it’s about his ego. But if he wants to join Colin’s act as more than an accompanist, or feels that Nadja is paying too much attention to the club and not enough attention to him, he should just say so. Use your words, Lazslo!
The plan backfires, anyway, as Mark Prosch returns to the show in body as well as in face. Watching Colin go through puberty in fast-forward was one of the more amusing parts of this overall quite melancholy episode (well, that and The Clown Who Can Suck Himself Off, who I thought was going to be French, although his ultimate accent was arguably funnier). Ever willing to make himself look silly for the sake of comedy, Prosch put on those tiny clothes that made his stomach pooch out like a champ, sticking little bits of toilet paper on his face and slamming doors and screaming about Papa Roach and Evanescence.
Everyone seems to know that Colin’s growth spurt marks the end of an era, however, the seriousness of which isn’t really revealed until Laszlo and Adolescent Colin return to the club at the end of the episode. There’s shame on Colin’s face when he sees how shocked and upset Nadja is at his appearance — more than the usual amount of teenage shame. And while Laszlo makes a weak attempt at making it up to Nadja by telling her about this amazing clown with a talent for autofellatio he heard about on the road, it’s not enough to save the club. They’ve run out of options. Her dream is dead. And not even Laszlo seems happy about it.
As the poignant guitar solo from Derek and the Dominos’ “Layla” plays over the closing scenes, everyone in our core cast is at a personal low. I’ve been trying to think of another episode of the show as poignant and sad as this one, and the only thing I can come up with is the penultimate episode of last season, after Colin Robinson 1.0 died and before he was reborn as the precocious Baby Colin. What will be reborn amid the ashes of season four? We’ve got one more episode to find out.
• Bringing in Sofia Coppola; her real-life husband, Thomas Mars (singer of the French indie-pop band Phoenix, if you’re not familiar); and Jim Jarmusch for the “celebrity special” bit had a real “who’s in Toronto this week?” kind of energy, rather like the Sesame Street “Put Down the Duckie” video from the ’80s that’s been circulating on Twitter.
• Unlike Coppola, Jarmusch has made a vampire movie (2013’s Only Lovers Left Alive with Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston), so he gets to live. Even that joke ended on a sad note, though, as poor Jim will figure out that those weren’t exceptionally realistic practical effects soon enough.
• I also appreciated the literal “eat the rich” energy of them only ripping the heads off of celebrities who could afford a $5,000 menu item. Anyway, good gag!
• Since Nadja’s such a big fan of Fran Liebowitz, I wonder what other public intellectuals she stans. Is she a Slavoj Žižek-type? Salman Rushdie? Anything but Jordan Peterson, please.
• Some of the songs on Call Me Colin could only be considered “sing-songs and laff ‘em ups for the whole fam-damily” if you’re a vampire, given that the album contains such filthy Laszlo Cravensworth tunes as “Cum on Irene” and “Kokomo, the Seafarer’s Son.” (See the season two episode “Collaboration” for more Laszlo originals.)
• Shoutout to the polyfidelity crowd, who also never cheat on any of their 37 wives.
• A complete list of vampire musicians mentioned in this episode: Gloria Estefang, Bloody Holly, Bat Stevens, Batboy Slim, Hall and Throats, Tame Impaler, Undead Kennedys, Impaler Swift, Bruno Scars, Lindsey Suckingham, Wraith Hill, Bonnie Wraith, Billy Wraith Cyrus, Wraith Evans, Wraith No More. I do very much believe that Matt Berry could have gone on, and that the crew were standing just offscreen holding in their laughter the entire time.
• Free ice 24/7 probably is very impressive if you come from 18th-century England. Even 21st-century Brits aren’t too big on icing their beverages!
• I would love a spin-off travel web series exploring various regional vampire enclaves. Who knew Binghamton, a town of just over 44,000 humans, had enough vampires to sustain a venue?
• Although both Matt Berry and Kayvan Novak both had some commendable line readings, Natasia Demetriou easily walks away with this week’s performance award. Her blood-drunk Nadja was full of hilarious details: the blood smeared all over her mouth; the sleepy, half-closed eyes; the outbursts, the slumped posture, the pratfalls; calling herself “Mama.” But the best part, in my humble opinion, was her pronunciation of “Sofia Cappabala.”
• But hey, at least she looked great: The black jumpsuit with red and white spangles and the chiffon bustle was one of my all-time favorite Nadja looks. Loved the pink faux-fur coat and leopard sneakers, too.
• RIP the blood sprinklers. It was a nice dream.