This What We Do in the Shadows review contains spoilers.
What We Do in the Shadows Season 2 Episode 2
With What We Do in the Shadows Season 2, Episode 2, “Ghosts,” our friendly neighborhood vampires move into Ghostbusters territory. This comes in early with an incident of symmetrical book stacking, just like the Philadelphia mass turbulence of 1947. Sadly, Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd only mocked up their paranormal happening for the screenplay, and Staten Island’s undead similarly dismiss a ghostly explanation. Even though we, as watchers, know no human being would stack books like this.
Ghosts are things from fairy tales, Nandor (Kayvan Novak) explains to Guillermo (Harvey Guillén), tales to keep kids in their beds, unlike vampires which roam the earth gleefully. Who knew vampires were so skeptical? The familiar is right in pointing out the inherent prejudice in the vampire’s belief system. Nandor has no problem with werewolves (well, actually he has a lot of problems with werewolves but not with their all-too-annoying existence), demons, the occasional babadook and even familiars. What is the problem with ghosts? To disbelieve in the uncollected remains of the afterlife is old world thinking. Guillermo is very progressive. It bites him on the ass later when he says “Dios mio,” and the vampires think he is talking in tongues, but he is no spectral racist.
Neither is Nadja, who is the first to proactively take belief to the next level. I love a good séance and she throws down with everything she’s got in her arsenal: incantations, a hand-holding circle, oval table, candles, and even the dulcet singsong tones of conjuring hymns. It is a small tour de farce for Natasia Demetriou who channels her Nadja directly into a mystical burlesque. Like the necromancer in the opening episode, her mediumship is initially greeted with derisive toilet humor. Even Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch) throws in an irritable bowel syndrome line. He’s been practicing the energy draining effects of humor and this is better than trying to get someone to pull his finger. It’s all fun and games until you get ectoplasmic residue in your hair.
It’s nice to see Gregor back. His recent beheading really works for him. It’s a good look even if it makes conversation distracting. Nadja’s reincarnating recurring lover pulls his best Beeteljuice faces to mark his claim on his new haunts. It is hysterical watching the vampires flee from the spooky spectacle. It is also gratifying to see it doesn’t get to Colin, who is different from the other vampires.
Ghosts, Nadja explains, are the spirits that are in people which get out after they die. Laszlo (Matt Berry) makes a very good point, one which probably hasn’t come up in vampire mythology before this. Vampires are dead, their human counterparts have given up the ghost. Except of course Colin who doesn’t even know his own backstory. So could there be disembodied spirits of the old selves looking for some kind of closure to cross them over to the other side? This is a weighty subject best explored in a comic setting and when the undead reassemble for a second séance they are deadly serious.
Their efforts turn a haunting into a contagion. And this time the poltergeists are personal. The three sanguinary vampires get to interact with the people they used to be, somewhat. Nandor forgot the language of his birth and only remembers how to say “good morning.” His human counterpart comes across as so needy for more we know right away this couldn’t be anyone’s ghost but his. Nadja’s animas has nothing but enmity for what she became. The ghostly Nadja kvetches and kvetches about the wasted life her vampire self has led since she stopped living. Laszlo’s deceased remnant has no problems with what he’s become since he stopped ceasing. He finds his vampire self quite becoming, so much so it’s not too far of a stretch to say he can get himself aroused.
The problem with arousal in ghosts is that self-satisfaction is too far out of reach to get a good grip. Laszlo has always been more than a bit of a narcissist, and this is classic get-lost-in-your-own-reflection fetish play. His unfinished business is a case of terminal coitus interruptus. Nadja took his life before climax and well, without climax, the afterlife is an anti-climactic hell. The best part about the scene where he brings up the idea of a spiritual circle jerk is the swelling strings in the background music. Dare he give in to self pleasure? The payoff, which comes later, shows what a huge burden unfulfilled love can be in the eternal afterlife.
Nandor’s ghost is drawn to a horse hung on the wall. Even in his old language we can hear the impatient piquancy of the warlord’s tone. The unfinished business turns out to be very sweet, and gives us an insight into the vampire warrior’s vulnerability. He loves his horse, more than he loved people. He cried while eating it to stave off starvation. The final reunion is quite touching, as both Nandor’s are truly moved by horseflesh.
But Nadja has the best solution and brings What We Do in the Shadows its newest recurring character. We get to see the origin of a haunted doll. These types of haunted dolls have been around since the days of Ramesses III in Ancient Egypt. Nadja’s newest toy is not quite an Annabelle, a malevolent spirit conjured into a traditional Raggedy Ann doll, and she’s not quite a Chucky or a Talking Tina, and I don’t think she will get dusty on a shelf.
“Ghosts” is an almost historic episode and is sure to be a fan favorite. The expansion of the monster universe is always a welcome addition. The episode only features the main characters, the only guest in the house this week is formerly-Jeff, who is almost family. He is assured to come back because he’s been banished without even getting to finish his tale of unfinished business. The series continues to gain its self-assured footing as it dances across the horror genre with unabashed glee.
“Ghosts” was written by Paul Simms, and directed by Kyle Newacheck.