What’s a year in the life of a vampire? When you’ve got oceans of time to cross at your leisure, 365 human days is the equivalent of lying down for a quick nap that turns into several hours because you forgot to press the “save” button on your phone alarm. Of course, a time jump is also a classic strategy for pulling a sitcom out of a particularly deep narrative pit. And thus, the status quo is restored for season four of What We Do in the Shadows, as our wonderfully filthy foursome of vampire roommates (and that other guy — what’s his name again?) are reunited in Staten Island after 12 months of world travel and/or home-renovation television.
A year off has changed everyone, most of all Colin Robinson (sorry, “the creature that crawled out of the chest cavity of Colin Robinson’s dead body after he died” ), who’s turned into a rambunctious bundle of mimicry in the year that Laszlo has been serving as his caretaker back at the mansion. It’s been a quiet year, filled with marathons of Go Flip Yourself with Bran and Teddy, nighttime feeding trips to the playground, and eating Count Chocula out of a dog bowl. Like all new parents, Laszlo is determined to break the cycle by raising nü-Colin to become the most interesting man who ever lived, a process that has turned him into a vampire Harry Harlow trying to shock the boring out of the boy.
This nesting period has done fuck-all for Laszlo’s housekeeping skills, however, leading to one of the most fruitful visual gags of the episode: the mansion, which has deteriorated faster than a Florida mom with a tanning habit. The floors are crumbling, creeping vines are choking the walls, there’s a gas leak that would be fatal if the house’s inhabitants weren’t already dead, and the basement is flooded with sewage. (RIP, Vampire Elvis, who presumably drowned in the deluge.) One of the things this show does well is applying visual effects and stunt work toward satisfyingly silly ends. The cumulative effect of different characters falling through the floor into the basement was funnier than the sum of each individual pratfall.
My personal favorite of these came from Laszlo and Nadja, reunited and bumping uglies in ten feet of stinky toilet backwash. (Laszlo’s pansexuality also comes into play when he lets Nandor know there’s “room at the back” for one more.) After departing for London at the end of season three, Nadja has abandoned her post on the Worldwide Supreme Vampiric Council and returned to her “wide lover” so she can “peel [him] like a potato and smash [his] insides.” (The job was also very boring, to be fair.)
Nadja continues to be ill-suited to bureaucratic work, which means she will probably continue to get promoted until she ends up as Supreme Leader. Also, as usual, she learned nothing from the experience, making an offhand comment about her post being where the Council sticks “Z-list and C-list vampires” without seeming to realize that that makes her a disposable annoyance as well. But whatever. Our girl loves to party, and she is going to let her freak flag fly! Drug blood and nonstop butt machines for everyone!!
If there’s any lingering animosity between Laszlo, Nadja, and the creepy doll possessed with the ghost of Nadja’s spirit from when she was still alive, it’s not apparent as the threesome cuddles up on the couch for some post-coital Go Flip Yourself. But Nadja is more volatile than ever, and Laszlo’s parenting duties may clash with her plan to open a vampire nightclub soon enough. For the moment, however, the only one holding a grudge is Guillermo — who, to be fair, can’t bounce back from two weeks in a wooden coffin with nothing but Pedialyte and Oreos as fast as the vampires can.
The last two seasons saw Guillermo clawing his way up the sheer rock face of self-esteem, hanging on with bloody fingertips as he tried, failed, and tried again to embrace his destiny as a vampire hunter and sever ties with Nandor. Now, at the beginning of season four, he’s tumbling back to where he started. Why being the best man in a wedding where the bride is still TBD is the thing that pulls him back into vampire service, I have no idea. But Guillermo’s excuses for not actually putting himself first are just that. Guillermo loves Nandor. Always has, always will. And Nandor has grown to love Guillermo as well, enough to act as an intermediary between him and their contemptuous housemates. (Their disdain for humans remains palpable.) And that may end up being close enough — assuming Nandor’s old-fashioned quest for a bride doesn’t end up being the thing that drives the two apart. Jealousy and perhaps a bit of sabotage seem almost certain.
Most of What We Do in the Shadows’ core cast is British, so setting at least part of season four in London wasn’t completely out of the question — if unlikely, given COVID shooting protocols and sitcom budgets. But considering that What We Do in the Shadows consistently excels in the more granular areas of joke writing and delivery, a quick and convenient reset of the larger story arc returning everyone to Staten Island isn’t a big deal. This is a workplace sitcom that’s also a relationship comedy that’s also a hangout show. Much of the pleasure in watching it comes from enjoying the characters’ company and the densely reference-packed writing. (And, of course, Matt Berry’s mellifluous line deliveries, which we’ll get to shortly.) That being said, the flashbacks in this episode felt more like a narrative necessity than truly inspired side adventures, save for the joke that saved it all: Nandor, pulling a Dracula in the Suez Canal and obliterating the global supply chain.
As What We Do in the Shadows settles back in for a new season, the challenge for the characters will be for each of them to take off their blinders and see how their personal obsessions are hurting the ones they love. They’ll probably realize this messily and far too late, but that’s part of the fun, right? As for the show itself, it’ll be interesting to see what happens when it revisits premises it’s explored before (shout-out to the Sassy Cat Club and Simon the Devious, whose fate is still unknown). Sticking with character development and goofy shit paid off handsomely in season three, so as long as the writing stays sharp, everything should be all right. Fixing the gas leak would also help — although Laszlo’s going to be disappointed when he’s no longer getting dinner delivered to his doorstep every night. Little conveniences make a big difference when you’re a single parent.
• Ever polite, Guillermo takes a glass of brown sewer water from Nandor and doesn’t let his master/best friend see him spitting it back out.
• The award for line reading of the week goes to Matt Berry and Laszlo’s description of Go Flip Yourself, particularly the pause in “from shabby … to chic.”
• … with Kristen Schaal’s blank expression toward the camera when she deadpans, “That’s something I really enjoy,” coming in a close second.
• Guillermo putting up a baby gate at the top of a crumbling, cobweb-covered flight of steep, winding stairs was a nice touch. Nice, but unnecessary, as nü-Colin’s pretty resilient.
• Raccoons: Cute, gross, or only cute if you’re dead and can’t get rabies? Discuss.
• “Cash. Coin. Moolah. Gold. Wonga. Rubles. Milk. Lettuce. Bread. Dough. Sweet green. Stripper tips.” Improvised(?) lists like this one are one of What We Do in the Shadows’ most distinctive and endearing comedic devices, and it’s great to see them as the show moves into a new season.
• I don’t recall Nadja ever using the Voice in previous episodes? Regardless, it’s a handy weapon to have in one’s arsenal against these stupid, stupid men.
• I fucking love the Blade vampire-club scene and was pleased to see it shouted out here.