This What We Do in the Shadows review contains spoilers.
What We Do in the Shadows Episode 6
What We Do in the Shadows, episode 6, “Baron’s Night Out,” is the episode I was waiting for. It breaks the taboo of killing a member of the film crew, allows real peril to enter the series and finally unleashes Baron Afanas (Doug Jones) in all his inglorious flesh.
Afanas is a great character who has been kept on ice. He represents the real old world vampire of Nosferatu in the modern world. His approach to everything is anti-stealth. He offers no quarter and no one is safe. He gets very loud and boisterous and vampiry, drinking public urinators, doing shots direct from the tap of a carotid artery, and being an all-around over-the-top bloodsucker.
Just because Afanas has decomposed doesn’t mean he can’t be composed, as far as Staten Island’s vampires Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), Laszlo (Matt Berry) and Nandor (Kayvan Novak) are concerned. The Baron becomes a “massive prick, ironic because he doesn’t have one,” once he hits the streets. But not to the viewers. We want him to enjoy the vast smorgasbord which is Staten Island by night. We applaud when he proclaims himself a vampire to the man who chides him with “devil’s suck.” The more Afanas embarrasses them, the happier it is for us. Not only because we get a glimpse of what this trio could be doing, because let’s face it, it would be a different show it opened with them doing shots. But also because the more uncomfortable they are, the funnier they are.
Nadja is openly impatient with the Baron, and has been for a few episodes. Nandor is beside himself, right next to a too-close Guillermo, over how to act and treat the lingering guest who is taking up so much storage space. They are all socially awkward around Baron Afanas, with the ironic exception of Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch), who is loving this. But then they up the ante on self-consciousness.
Even Afanas suffers the embarrassment of possible faux pas. Colin lends him some normal, people clothes to wander among the populace in. But being Colin, fashion comes at a price. He drains the old sucker with too many details about corduroy slacks and the Baron knows he’s going to push tweed or something on him. He wants to ditch the energy vacuum but doesn’t it to be made into a big thing. The human qualities the vampires retain are the worst they could have chosen. Nandor would have taken over the new world by now if he wasn’t afraid of offending the neighbors.
Two episodes ago, the vampires went to a Manhattan nightclub which was a habitué for the vampire who reigns over New York City. At least before he rained all over New York City. The setting of that evening was a vampire club. Tonight the vampires start at a dive bar, which makes for interesting contrast. Afanas is a joy to watch having a ball, especially when he also drops his pants to demonstrate how he’s actually missing them. We get to see him at his most vulnerable as well as his most guarded.
One of his best moments comes after Afanas shares how he is growing tired of killing, weary of his own anger, and at a loss for the meaning of it all. He admits things could have gone very different, even on this night. Hey, we’re all killers here, right? Nandor has a background of military conquest and a fetish for pillaging. The Baron was whatever he was, because we get a revelation about him which calls his very title into question. So when Nandor admits, vampire warrior to vampire warrior, that the group was actually also ready for a different kind of night, you would think it would cement the bond.
But no, that vampiric awkwardness comes out again and Nandor backpedals. This leads to a nod to Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas, Joe Pesci’s “you think I’m funny?” scene. It plays out wonderfully. It is the most good humored moment in the episode because it could have gone the other way.
Dracula said it best, I never drink … wine. We don’t know what happens to vampires when they eat human food but we do know we don’t want to see the suave and sophisticated Bela Lugosi with puke spittle on his lips while he cuts our meat. But I can see the attraction. There’s a ghost in Ghost who hangs out in the subways, right by the now-outlawed cigarette machine. He would give anything for just one puff. In the 1993 horror comedy Love Bites: The Reluctant Vampire, vampire Zachary Simms, played by musician Adam Ant, is also fascinated by how much the world has changed since he went underground. He loves all the new gadgetry, electric lights, talking cars. But what he wants most is pizza. He gets another vampire to redo his anatomy, giving up immortality for spaghetti and pizza. This isn’t explicitly stated, but Baron Afanas shows it to be true.
We saw last week how human food affects vampires. Nadja filled up a carnival trash bucket with vomit after eating one kernel of popcorn. Afanas get through two bites of what looks like a sausage and onion slice and gets about two seconds to savor it. Then the fun begins. His projectile vomiting is a thing of beauty. It is the envy of Regan from The Exorcist. Afanas is old. He’s decrepit. But Afanas can take a licking a keep on, um, licking, as he does after a particularly nasty fall down a series of staircases and his post-pizza puke extravaganza. The effect is silly. He looks like a filled in balloon with no knot tied on the end, flying through the alleys with the greatest of ease. The scene itself is dorky as hell but very funny.
What We Do in the Shadows also gets into how drinking blood affects the vampires. In an earlier episode, Nadja warned Laszlo not to drink an angry man’s blood because he would be angry all night. She also complained of feeling melancholy after drinking from a sad woman. Tonight Afanas gets a buzz from drinking a drunken man’s blood, which goes straight to his head. But as better living often comes from chemistry, so does better undeath. “I drank some blood of some people but the people were on drugs and now I’m a wizard,” Nandor happily explains with a traffic cone on his head. There is something comforting about seeing the vampires at a rave. I loved Afanas’ karaoke rendition of The Zombies’ “Time of the Season,” but am sad we will never get to hear him sing “MacArthur Park,” which melted in the rain.
This is almost a vampire’s only episode, as Nandor’s familiar Guillermo (Harvey Guillén) is away on a rosy quest for most of it. I didn’t really miss him, but he does get the ultimate punch line. The Staten Island New World initiative appears to be in limbo, which in this case is a dangerous dance Afanas does with the sunlight. He shows fine form doing the Limbo, and only singes a finger, which comes as a great, and unexpected, relief. The visiting vampire indulges in some killer comedy even in the inanimate form he takes in what looks like the “Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead” scene in Wizard of Oz, without the music. What We Do in the Shadows’ “Baron’s Night Out” succeeds because it commits the greatest violation of the unnatural order by which the vampires live: They let a house guest eat the sound recordist.
“Baron’s Night Out” was written by Iain Morris, and directed by Jackie van Beek.
What We Do in the Shadows airs Wednesdays on FX.
Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City’s Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.