This What We Do in the Shadows review contains spoilers.
What We Do in the Shadows Season 2 Episode 10
In the What We Do in the Shadows season 2 finale, “Nouveau Théâtre des Vampires,” all the world’s a stage and the players merely vampires. It is a bittersweet ending to a strangely eventful and celebratory season, because parting is such sweet, though often salty, sorrow.
The first parting comes very early. Nandor the Relentless (Kayvan Novak) opens the episode in his coffin, a foreboding sign the episode will be a special event. The ancient vampire has to do it without any help because he wakes to find he was abandoned by his loyal familiar. Guillermo (Harvey Guillén) leaves with just a one-word note, “sorry.” But who cares, the Staten Island vampires are going to Nouveau Théâtre des Vampires, or Vampire Theater, as Colin Robinson puts it, g-damn it.
The Nouveau Théâtre des Vampires is a “very big deal,” Nadja (Natasia Demetriou) explains. “They travel from Europe to the United States once every five years,” Laszlo (Matt Berry) adds. The troupe is made up entirely of vampires, and the shows are reputed to be beautiful, eerie, poignant and contain a lot of nudity. They have genitalia on display which humans could not even begin to be able to comprehend. “Only the crème de la crème de la creams get invited,” Nadja finishes. The vampires have been waiting about 500 years for an invitation.
The buildup is wonderful, of course, and each of the vampires gets themselves into an extreme state of anticipation until they remember poor Gizmo. Well, not him, exactly, but one of the many menial functions he performed for the vampires: laundry. While Colin can always just change into another of his beige suits, the other vampires have no suitable evening wear. Laszlo even wipes the mind of the mail carrier of any memory he witnessed what the vampire has been reduced to wearing. If there is one thing they take seriously at Nouveau Théâtre des Vampires it is fashion. This is also true of any vampire ball which might be thrown in the human world. Try wearing denim at one. Unless you’re on the menu, you will be mocked, eaten and hopefully both.
Laszlo takes it the worst, kicking at the walls in a tantrum. He’s already had a similar reaction to the heat in the house, kicking at walls and tearing up books to throw on the fire. All the vampires are childish. It’s part of their charm, right up there with double hypnosis. Nadja has a similar reaction to the cursed rugs. Her relationship with carpeting is developing into the same kind of nemesis Sideshow Bob has with rakes on The Simpsons. On the “Witches” episode, she sends Guillermo out for “witch-proof carpet tape.” Sadly, the familiar won’t be available to work his mundane magic for the unappreciative immortals.
“Fuck that guy for making me feel I should be more aloof,” Nandor says, summing it all up. Before he was a vampire, he was a conqueror and now, as a vampire, he has been giving his servant perks. The very idea of having to consider Guillermo at all is reward enough. The wonderful thing is you can see through his bluff. Even Nadja was noticing the depression growing in Guillermo. Of course, the scent of sadness comes out of the groin, and Nadja has a nose like a Belgian Malinois in a minefield when it comes to midsections.
Colin sucks the air out of the room while stealing the “fancy room” scene. He’s had enough of the rotting corpses on the stairs, hallways, doorways, closets and furniture, but it is not his responsibility to clean up his housemates’ messes. He reluctantly offers to go out into the dangerous outside world, at great peril to himself, possibly lethal, and retrieve the laundry. The only thing he asks in return is he wants to move out of that room he stays in the basement. The scene has a double punch line which is compounded by his dweeby personality. He probably even fed off it.
Guillermo moved back in with his mom in the Bronx. It doesn’t look like he got his old job back at Panera Bread, but he’s pretty helpful around the house. He left because he couldn’t focus on his duties as a vampire familiar while also wanting to give in to his vampire slaying desires. You can see how it’s at cross purposes, which brings us to his name. The vampires don’t know Guillermo’s last name, or even if it is a last name. We assume they didn’t pay enough attention to it during their vetting process, and considered it a minor detail best forgotten. But maybe he hid it from them for a reason. Guillermo’s last name is de la Cruz, which means “of the Cross.” It’s a heavy name to bear among vampires.
The incidental music adds to the comic effects in several gags, but none more than the very quick punctuation it makes on Guillermo’s dilemma. The first thing we see of the vampire theater is the orchestra tuning up. When Guillermo realizes the Vampiric Council is actually playing the tune, the quick cutaway to backgrounder bits includes a millisecond of a child, in full Vampire Council robes, crying, which is hysterically amusing.
Even the who’s who of the energy vampires are in the audience. A guy named Todd, who Colin once saw naked, and the legendary Pamela, whose reputation precedes her. But the true surprise of the evening, and if you are a fan of the film and don’t like spoilers you should stop here, is the Emcee. Jemaine Clement, who wrote, directed and played Vladislav the Poker in the 2012 film What We Do in the Shadows. His character in that film took it on the lam to New Zealand after he’d killed a vampire rival in his hometown. This is a very big no-no in the vampire community. Vladislav was one of the arbiters on Season 1’s “The Trial,” and the stage performance turns out to be a surprising end of its continuance.
Baron Afanas, a respected, feared and influential member of the vampire community died at the end of season 1, and all Laszlo, Nadja and Nandor seem to care about is how badly the actors on stage are portraying them. These are not the kinds of vampires who give high fives. But they are the kinds of vampires who get upset when they are promised full-bush nudity and get nothing but parodies of their own alleged crimes against vampirity. In spite of a Wu-Tang reference, he gets neither wu, nor tang. Nadja complains about the dancing. Colin gets an erection looking at the actor playing him.
The on-stage theatrics are impressive, the acting and fake violence are played over-the-top to the back of the room. Red-streamers come shooting out of necks, stakes and other orifices in place of blood. The best effect is a wrecking ball/guillotine taking the heads off dummies of the accused vampires. The plot of the play within the play is fairly intricate, detailing the killing of Baron Afanas, its subsequent trial, the escape from judgment (with the help of “some Dilbert-looking guy”), and Guillermo’s metropolitan area murder spree.
The Emcee interrupts the performance for a memorial for all the vampires who have found true death in the past year, including Toni “Teeth” Falcone, Baron Afanas, who the Emcee says died because he “got confused by daylight savings,” and the rest of the victims of the Staten Island ex-familiar. In the end, though, Guillermo steals the show from both the honored undead and the truly dead. His reward? Laundry.
Written by Jemaine Clement, Sam Johnson, Stefani Robinson and Paul Simms, and directed by Kyle Newacheck, “Nouveau Théâtre des Vampires” is a worthy close to an excellent season. The main cast performs seamlessly as a troupe within a troupe even in the play within the teleplay. They toss insults at each other even as they unify against a greater enemy and still find time to remain oblivious to Guillermo’s obvious talents. Laszlo, however, does admit admiring the balls on that little guy, and the audience appreciates his appreciation.
But Nandor truly does get the last, best words. After the ex-familiar performs his murderous physical soliloquy, which is frenetically and hysterically choreographed, Nandor asks “Guillermo, is there something you’re not telling us?” The vampire theater is the last nail in What We Do in the Shadows‘ season of horror and vampire players. The show took on witches, zombies, ghosts, curses and the modern world during season 2 and ends it by clearing the deck. Much like Lestat did to the vieux Théâtre des Vampires players in the Anne Rice books. It is possible the Staten Island vampire contingent are autonomous now, even Pamela appears to be off the scene. There is a sense of closure to the adversarial era of the series, although we know there must be consequences when it returns.