This What We Do in the Shadows review contains spoilers.
What We Do in the Shadows Season 2 Episode 6
What We Do in the Shadows season 2, episode 6, “On the Run,” separates the roommates for the first time. Laszlo (Matt Berry), it may come as no surprise to anyone, has never paid a piper for a tune in his life after life. It really is the vampire way. Live long, run fast, and stay a good looking corpse.
The vampire roommates have dug themselves in so deep at their home it’s like Staten Island is their native soil. The episode’s opening shows they’ve become fairly casual about their continued safety. Guillermo (Harvey Guillén) comes up with a very fun game: finding the corpses buried on the property because their decaying flesh is creating sinkholes. The vampire familiar is very inventive. It really is a shame his master is always so quick to offer up his life or limb. Nandor the Relentless (Kayvan Novak) is supposed to be an ancient and brave former invader, feared and fearsome. His very first reaction to any altercation is usually an excuse to unburden himself of his human slave. But tonight it takes on a new artistry. When a foe from the past shows up at their house demanding vengeance, Nandor says if he is indeed the person the offended intruder is seeking, he can take Guillermo. He even adds that he knows it’s not as satisfying.
Nandor probably isn’t as frightened of the stranger with so many names we aren’t given one as he is tired of it. Why, just last week he had to fend off Nadja (Natasia Demetriou) for some crime against her village that happened so long ago he barely remembers it. But the honor of the visit actually goes to a different vampire. Laszlo, it is revealed, was supposed to meet the devil at a crossroad in San Francisco to exchange his soul for extraordinary guitar playing prowess. He got the directions wrong by a few thousand miles, the actual crossroads are in Mississippi, and he owes a month’s rent and a deposit on a house he rented 160 years ago.
We learn two things about Laszlo right away. The first is that he plays guitar at all. It is a perfectly random detail which automatically makes senseless sense. The second is his reaction to the intrusion and demand. He is all bravado, accepting a duel rather than settle up with his former landlord, until he’s just a few steps into the turn-and-fire moment, at which point he reverts to the Laszlo he truly is. First he transforms into a bat, his go-to getaway, and then into something quite different.
Laszlo finally gets a shot in the spotlight. It’s a shame he spends it hidden behind a toothpick. We can barely recognize him incognito. It is funny that this is taken so seriously, both Laszlo and by his nemesis, played by Mark Hamill. The only one who seems to have fun with the premise is the long-suffering Nadja, who either doesn’t recognize her husband when he’s sucking wood, or it’s part of the sexual roleplay. Either way works, because if he truly is transformed in the eyes of his vampire peers, she can have sex with another man and not cheat on her husband.
But let’s look at the toothpick itself for a moment. It is actually a perfect item for the disguise. Toothpicks are like little stakes, which are used to pierce the hearts of vampires. And here they are, so close to the teeth. Laszlo is far more vulnerable than he appears. The other weapon featured in the episode is a pool cue. The bar battle is also masterful. First it references Hamill’s other role as a Jedi master, but then it turns from light saber to the light from the savior. The two vampires face off against each other with the broken cue stick held in the cross position, but the cross actually affects the person holding it, not the opponent. Yes, they can barely bear to look at a cross, but that’s only because touching it is what does the damage.
Jackie Daytona’s life, it ain’t so bad. Laszlo’s alias relocates to Pennsylvania, which is a cool place because it sounds like Transylvania and is the only vania in the U.S. He says he’s from Tucson and swears that’s how they talk in Arizona, pronounced “Arizonia.” The fancy talking new bartender has got a friend in Billy Bass, the rare talking fish decoration over his bar. He is completely modest, covers up all the mirrors in the bar, and does amazing shadow puppetry. Jackie Daytona is a simple, regular, human guy who supports the local volleyball team and gets to kick ass. The biker gang who intrudes on the bar’s parking lot may only have been trying to raise money for Toys for Tots, but if there’s one law vampires apparently take very seriously, it’s the no soliciting rule.
For a guy on the run, Laszlo doesn’t travel light. He buys an expensive truck to hang his “Go Bucks” bumper sticker and takes along the camera crew. He even addresses them, thanking the chaps for accompanying him while he takes it on the lam. If he hadn’t chosen to take them, then they would have had to find him, which behind that toothpick, is pretty hard. Even when the mysterious stranger comes back and looks Daytona right in the eye, there is no recognition.
Back at the house, Nadja is suffering horribly without her husband. The farewell letter he wrote is small compensation for the loss of the regular sex he provided. This leads to one of the tastiest bits on the show. Colin Robinson, the energy vampire who has no actual physical attributes to brag of, tries to comfort his suffering housemate. At first Nadja suspects he’s actually trying to drain her, that’s what energy vampires are known for. But his sincerity turns to interest as he horribly misreads her cues and goes in for a gentle kiss. She rebuffs his quite pleasantly, gently even. But things will never be the same between them again.
Or will they? For Colin, things will stay exactly as they are because Nadja was completely correct not to trust him. That awkward moment they share is as delicious as any terrible trauma he can suck the life from. And it is a gift that, now, will keep giving, because that awful moment will always be in the air between them. “Fucking guy,” as Nandor might say.
The episode is filled with drama. The Bucks qualify for state finals, but they don’t have the money for the entrance fee. Laszlo is inspired to fix this by his barmaid, played by Madeleine Martin (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), who can hum pleasantly enough to fool him into thinking she can sing. Laszlo fills the bar, using his manipulative non-Jedi-mind tricks on passersby, for a charity show. But, like vampires in the morning sun, it all goes up in smoke.
What We Do in the Shadows continues to mine the vampire mythology for new ways to parody it. The Billy Bass decoration is as good a stand-in for the vampires as the toothpick is a disguise. This is a fish-out-of-water comedy for the ages. Sure, some things don’t make sense. If the vampire landlord suffered over a century of financial woes because Laszlo stiffed him out of what amounts to two month’s rent, he probably wasn’t a very good landlord, or vampire, to begin with. “On the Run” is a fun entry, which doesn’t break particularly new ground, but doesn’t get caught in the sinkhole.