What We Do In The Shadows, the TV show, has had rather large vampire boots to fill. Taking off from the 2014 Jemaine Clement-Taika Waititi movie, FX’s 2019 series was also a mockumentary documentary about the everyday lives of four vampire housemates. The setting was shifted from Wellington, New Zealand to Staten Island, America; the four vampires were different (Viago, Vlad, Deacon and Petyr were replaced with Nandor, Nadja, Laszlo and Colin Robinson); and there was an addition to the group in the form of Guillermo, Nandor’s familiar — but the series retained much of the madcap humour of the source material. As it should, since Clement and Waititi are executive producers on the show and have shouldered some of the writing and direction (in addition to guest appearances).
What We Do In The Shadows’ first season established Guillermo, Nandor, Nadja, Laszlo and Colin Robinson’s respective origin stories and also their equations with each other. We learnt that Guillermo (Harvey Guillen) — inspired by Antonio Banderas’ depiction of Armand in Interview With A Vampire — had been working as Nandor’s familiar for a decade, in the hopes of being made a vampire himself. An ancestry test, however, informed the long-suffering Guillermo that he was the descendant of Van Helsing, the legendary vampire slayer, creating quite the existential dilemma.
Nandor the Relentless (Kayvan Novak) had been a ferocious soldier in the Ottoman Empire, leaving a swath of looting and pillaging in his wake, only to have all 37 of his wives turn from him when he became a vampire. Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), a poor gypsy, was banished from her village when they discovered she was a vampire. She converted Laszlo (Matt Berry) when she came across him. They have an affectionate centuries-long marriage, peppered with brief reunions between Nadja with her human paramour Gregor (who is frequently decapitated and reincarnated). The household was rounded off by Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch), an energy vampire whom the trio ignored as much as possible, lest he drain them.
The larger story that unfolded over the first season was of the vampires preparing for a visit from an ancient and powerful royal, the Baron Afanas, who wanted Nandor, Nadja and Laszlo to “take over the New World” and is understandably peeved to see that they have barely managed to control two streets (or more accurately, five houses) on Staten Island. When the Baron is accidentally killed by Guillermo, it sets off a chain of events that could have serious consequences for Nandor and the others.
Season 2, which premiered in April and has just wound up its 10-episode run, infuses fresh blood into the proceedings. There’s Topher (Haley Joel Osment), a new familiar who spends more time striking deals for his side business in hard cider than in serving Laszlo and Nadja; Jim the Vampire (Mark Hamill), who has been on Laszlo’s trail for years, seeking repayment of a debt; and a whole coven of witches hoping to steal some vampire semen (an essential ingredient in their anti-ageing potions). There’s a reappearance of Simon the Devious (Nick Kroll), Nadja, Laszlo and Nandor’s frenemy from New York; the ghost of Gregor/Jeff/Jesk; and the Vampiric Council (still looking to punish the main trio for their crimes).
The overarching theme this season is Guillermo coming into his own. If season 1 saw him as the perfect familiar — always ready to do Nandor’s bidding while keeping quiet about his growing unease over where his career path was headed — then in season 2, he’s not afraid to stick up for his rights. Guillermo initially struggles with his double life: serving Nandor while coming to terms with his ancestry, killing the vampires who’ve been sent to assassinate the trio, infiltrating a group of vampire slayers only to find himself roped into a mission. But, over the course of the next few episodes, he leaves Nandor for a better opportunity, negotiates on his return for a weekly off and the promise that he will be made into a vampire at a later date, and in the finale, embraces his identity as a slayer with élan, to foil the Vampiric Council and save Nandor, Laszlo, Nadja and Colin Robinson.
Meanwhile, Nandor, Laszlo and Nadja are up to their usual misadventures, including derailing a Superb Owl (yes, it’s actually Super Bowl) party, passing on cursed email chains to unsuspecting recipients including Bob Geldof and “Count Fandango”, trying to get by without Guillermo’s services, and developing a newfound appreciation for their housemate Colin Robinson. Just like the smart episode he was the focus of in the first season, about an emotional vampire named Evie Russell (played by SNL actress Vanessa Bayer), this time round, he gets to be in a segment where he “feeds off” social media outrage only to be bested by another troll — who turns out to be a real troll.
Season 2 starts off not as hilarious as its predecessor, and for an episode or two you wonder if the show is going to rely far more on creating outlandish situations it can then garner laughs from, rather than its previous clever-twist-on-the-everyday bent. But by the time Jim the Vampire joins the proceedings, forcing Lazslo to flee to Pennsylvania (“because it rhymes with Transylvania”) and live under the assumed identity of “human bartender Jackie Daytona”, you’re laughing too much to care. And that’s even before Nadja and Laszlo perform some decidedly dirty ditties at an open mic night.
What We Do In The Shadows S2 is a worthy follow-up to the film and original season. Amid the pall of doom and gloom that currently envelops us, sinking your teeth into this comedy about vampires offers much-needed respite.
What We Do In The Shadows seasons 1 and 2 are currently streaming on Disney + Hotstar.
Updated Date: Jun 16, 2020 17:15:08 IST
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