This What We Do in The Shadows review contains spoilers.
What We Do in the Shadows Season 4 Episode 8
After straying from the core mockumentary premise of the series, What We Do in the Shadows’ season 4 episode 8, “Go Flip Yourself,” doubles down on it as the worlds of vampire reality TV and human home improvement collide. This union has been a long time coming, as Laszlo (Matt Berry) is quite the fan of flipping shows, and the titular fixer-upper program is his long-time obsession. He has also proven himself to be a sucker for general contractors, and not always in a good, vampire, way.
Toby (Jason Sklar) and Bran Daltry (Randy Sklar) have seen the “worst of the worst” in home renovations, and the vampires’ “Mixed Up Mansion” on Staten Island promises to be their “toughest yet.” This isn’t just a sales ploy to upsell the “Superfan!” Laszlo Cravensworth. He’s seen every episode, taken copious notes, and is ready to embrace the flop before he even knows who is in the house.
The narration of the “Go Flip Yourself” program, done by Tina Morasco, masterfully mocks the hyper-enthusiastic tone of those shows as much as the Daltry Brothers skewer the forced but stale camaraderie of on-air real estate flipping teams, most of them glorified realtors unworthy of the Glengarry Glen Ross leads.
During the “Go Flip Yourself” patented introductory “Ambush Time,” when the brothers enter the homeowners’ premises under the guise of a routine meter reading, they are already down one knucklehead, and deserve it. This payoff has been set up over the course of several episodes. Laszlo routinely feasts on those who would check his fuses. He usually premises the attack with an exasperated warning.
The twins are split during their very introduction to the homeowners, and the vampires go to no great lengths to cover it up, to the delight of the viewers who go from voyeurs to witnesses after the fact, and happy to collude. This segment includes the best offhand line in the episode. “A girl’s got to eat,” Nadja (Natasia Demetriou) explains as the sequence moves into inspired cartoonery.
The feeding, appreciation of the kill, disposal, and burial of the “suddenly ill” Toby are all visible in the backgrounds. This is a recurring visual gag on What We Do in the Shadows, but one which always works. In this particular case, it is funnier because of the invitational joy Nadja brings to the events, mugging for the camera, and doing everything a very recent killer probably shouldn’t be doing with the recently killed.
In “Go Flip Yourself,” Nadja skips her super-voice superpower for a more powerful combination. Desdemona the Shrieker brings the house down with it late in the episode, and the vampire hypnosis portion of the evening can be filed under a So-Funny-I-Forgot-to-Laugh classic. Excused as a spiritual mass meditation, the cumulative hypnotic effects not only have to wipe the minds of the immediate witnesses, but editors, producers, standards and practices auditors, executives and their girlfriends who give notes.
The list alone is an effective gag, but the vocalization which comes out of Demetriou’s throat when she turns to the camera is mystifyingly hilarious. Viewers will think back on what they think they heard being said, and will laugh again on the complete lack of recognition. It’s only a noise, but it is a comic delivery device.
Laszlo’s “nephew” Colin (Mark Proksch) is a recurring burst of wasted energy this episode, but his entrance turns rather touching as the young creature which crawled out of the abdominal cavity of Colin Robinson runs from the room in horrified delight as his uncle shoots him in the ass with what we can only hope are real darts. It is a bonding moment, considering the family dynamic. Colin comes in handy during the demolition, using a sledgehammer to take out all the pent-up frustration Laszlo does by hand.
The merging of the two shows is seamless, as What We Do in the Shadows is as accommodating to the hammering rhythms as Laszlo is to the guest host. They show-within-a-show even captures the ever-annoying and fake touch of recreating a closing line of bad news with a new take of it cutting into the next segment. The show finds challenge when Nadja despises everything, preferring cheese-smelling throw pillows over a hat rack room, and triumph when Nandor (Kayvan Novak) obsesses over a sign reading “home is where the wine is.”
The bit about Nandor’s still-new bride Marwa (Parisa Fakhri) wanting exactly what her husband wants, a gift from the departing Djinn, finds its footing as the running gag stumbles through the episode leaving multiple punchlines in its trail. Marwa proves herself quite adept at stealing the comedy from Nandor, and his slow burn during their sequences is as expertly constructed as his Man Cave. Initially happy for the shared tastes, it gets old quickly. But not before Marwa learns to weaponize these mutual desires for a humorous and empowering finish.
Guillermo (Harvey Guillen) excels as the episode’s main comedic foil. His Machiavellian skills afford him some minor basic living improvements, but are useless against the thrilled “Superfan!.” Laszlo is so taken by the glitter of the showbiz home makeover he reinvents himself in flannel, promotes the show’s sponsors with ready-made soundbites, and is ready to throw his entire life savings into the project before the first estimate is presented. Berry plays it with utter joy, punctuated by growing annoyances at the disheveled state of his home as it currently, precariously, stands.
Which brings us to the spoiler. The setup, by Simon the Devious (Nick Kroll), is masterfully ridiculous. The concept works exceptionally well because he is a vampire, and only an immortal creature could take the time to grow a business, make a show, sell a show, get good ratings, and draw the specific demographic desired by the showrunner. It one-ups Larry David’s spite-coffee shop on Curb Your Enthusiasm. It moves into the kinds of obsessively compulsively debauched planning Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) brings to Better Call Saul when we learn Toby was put through school, educated and groomed for stardom. Such brilliance, and yet so futile, only a vampire can bring it to its most meaningless conclusion.
Simon is equally committed to his same crew, including Count Rapula (Mike Dara), and Vampire Elvis (Shawn Klush), proving the reigning Manhattan vampire is, indeed, the most devious of all the vampires, and quite deserving of Laszlo’s respect, if not his witch skin hat. This is no mere prized, cursed, living, and bleeding hat. Laszlo has treasured this hat since the Bavarian witch hunter he was draining begged him to take it as a payoff. This silly game of ownership should have lost its spark, but it is a lingering curse. It is also strangely encouraging to hear Simon the Devious say it means the world to him that Laszlo really likes his show, even “Ramshackle Ranch,” and more comforting that the Staten Island vampire doesn’t care.
“Go Flip Yourself” is a well-constructed comic episode, fully committing to the absurdity of every possible action. The installment not only pokes holes in the infrastructure of DIY shows, but tears the foundation of What We Do in the Shadows’ own mock-doc-horror-schlock genre to its silliest core. All reality shows are scary, and if the city planners don’t get you, bad planning will. The episode is flush with load bearing one-liners, obviously scripted, but tossed off as if they are ad libs.
What We Do in the Shadows airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on FX, and streams the next day on Hulu.