This What We Do in the Shadows review contains spoilers.
What We Do in the Shadows Season 2 Episode 7
What We Do in the Shadows season 2, episode 7, “The Return,” takes on another of Laszlo’s many nemeses from the past. This time the threat does not come from the distant past, like last week’s episode “On the Run.” The vampire’s run-in happened during season 1 and, like many longstanding and short-lived vampire feuds, it was set off by the tip of a hat.
The four vampires and their familiar went to a party thrown by Manhattan’s vampire king and made a lasting impression. Simon the Devious (Nick Kroll) came to New York with Nadja (Natasia Demetriou) and Laszlo (Matt Berry). They settled on Staten Island and he opened up the Sassy Cat Club. It was very popular during the roaring twenties, which is also just about the time Nadja and Laszlo last went to the movies. The episode opens with the pair leaving the talkies and complaining about the pop music and the lack of subtitles. What We Do in the Shadows often finds small ways to hammer home the ancient vampire timeline. Referring to the moving pictures as talkies is a great way to date the pair in shorthand.
Nadja and Laszlo might have been better served going to a foreign language film at an art-house cinema. They are always dressed for it. They might have considered that slumming, however, because as polite as they try to be, the pair has a hard time hiding their real feelings about a last minute invitation. Laszlo hears his name coming from a sewer grate, and even though it is plainly audible to the audience, he feels the need to tell the cameramen who follow the vampires how they shouldn’t bother trying to hear it. Only vampires with their finely tuned extrasensory senses can sense it. One trait all the vampires share is their self-importance. There is a scene where Simon wants something which belongs to Laszlo and Nadja immediately assumes they are talking about her. To be fair, Nadja and Simon did have an affair on their boat trip from the old country.
Of course, what they are really talking about is a cursed hat made of the flesh of ancient witches. In this particular case, this reviewer has to side with Simon. He really does look better in the hat, and appears to appreciate its finer qualities, like the witch flesh pressed against his temples. It looks like Simon has suffered enough when he is first reunited with his former friends. Ever since his Sassy Cat Club burned down, which is really his own fault but was prompted by the Staten Island vampires, he’s been living in the sewers. At their initial reunion, he apologizes for them having to see him in such a wretched place, but he’s not talking about the “shit pipes” he calls home. He is talking about Staten Island.
Nadja is wonderful at deflating the other vampires’ self-aggrandizing natures, although she maintains a consistent blind spot for herself. Early in the episode Laszlo says he was fully aware the mysterious disembodied voice belongs to Simon. Nadja points out how, merely moments before, Laszlo was wondering who was calling to him.
Nandor (Kayvan Novak) and Guillermo (Harvey Guillén) have a strong relationship, but it begins to be tested tonight. Carole, one of the friends Simon accumulated along with Count Rapula, takes a particular shine to Guillermo. Nandor explains that, while Carole is perfectly free to eat his familiar because she is a guest in his home, she might want to think twice about it. He then likens Guillermo to the last donut in a display case and wonders, why has no one else eaten this one?
Guillermo, however, as we all know, has a secret. He is a descendant of the famous vampire hunter Van Helsing and has racked up a few kills of his past. Carole, who has just come from the sewer, can smell it on him. While Nandor admits it’s a pretty cool idea for his familiar to try and make himself a date by bringing a pile of dust to life, he is not down with turning the undead into dust. Nandor is at first quite dismissive of the whole mess, except the cleanup, that he would appreciate a quick job of. But the mood shifts as he realizes this whole vampire killing business is not a joke. Nandor goes out of his way to clear any notions of Guillermo’s criminal accident, ensuring, of course, that it is all too obvious. The fight over the cursed hat is a wonder of special effects physical comedy. It is simply batty and ends with some spirited traffic play.
While we know about the perils bloodsucking vampires face, Colin’s nutritional proclivities are actually quite dangerous. He risks serious injury every time he is an Uber passenger, for example, because his energy draining can drive them off the road. Three episodes ago, Nandor and Laszlo showed us the dangers of double vampire hypnosis, Colin’s psychic vampirism can lead to a kind of highway hypnosis.
Colin Robinson’s subplot finds him sucking the life out of strangers, long distance, as an internet troll. This makes him probably the most contemporary of social commentators on a show having to do with moldy oldies. It is fun to watch him get sucked into the ultimate vampire energy drain, online debate, and even more so to see him bested by an anonymous amateur. Of course this is What We Do in the Shadows and one thing they do in those shadows is keep things literal. These are creatures who began in books, after all, so it only makes sense the internet troll would be a real troll.
Colin is especially adept at finding creatures’ weaknesses and there are a lot of bridges between New York City and Massachusetts. This is not a foolproof plan, and Colin is just the fool to get stuck between a rock and a hard place when it’s over. We knew something was off in Colin when he slipped and almost fell on the snowy stairs after being threatened by his online nemesis. This is what he gets for virtual feeding: no dinner, just desserts.
Spoiler reminder, do not venture past this sentence if you haven’t seen the episode. Like Charmaine Harris’ Southern Vampire Mysteries books which led to the HBO’s True Blood series, the king of rock and roll is an immortal presence. It seems Laszlo turned Elvis into a vampire in the seventies and he’s been making demos in a cellar studio ever since. The vampire has the laid back voice of the king, and he manages to surprise us twice as he passes through the vampire crews. Long live the king. Not the Manhattan Vampire King, however.
This probably won’t be the last time we see our vampires threatened by their shadowy enemies. Guillermo inadvertently slew Baron Afanas at the end of last season, not long after the Staten Island housemates floated the idea partnering with Simon in their job of taking over the new world for him. Now they have assassins from the Vampire Council on their tails. It really comes as no surprise when Simon calls out his Leather Skins crew for a surprise attack after the generous hospitality and hostility bestowed upon him by his hosts. His nickname is, after all, The Devious. It is, however surprising, that Laszlo knew all along.
What We Do in the Shadows has run much smoother comedy in season 2, but “The Return,” which was written and directed by Jemaine Clement, is a choppy entry. It is still loaded with laughs, gags and suspense, but the effect is somehow more subdued, even as the show retains its frenetic energy. It is still a very witty entry, the characterizations continue to enforce their own punchiness, but it doesn’t quite reach the heights of “Colin’s Promotion” or “The Curse.”