This What We Do in The Shadows review contains spoilers.
What We Do in the Shadows Season 4 Episode 4
It is an agonizing pleasure to see the Staten Island vampires mingle with others who are not quite of their sort, but different nonetheless. What We Do in the Shadows season 4 episode 4, “The Night Market,” benefits from the change of scenery and the creative creatures who mingle after hours.
Against all odds, the vampire club Nadja (Natasia Demetriou) opened in “The Grand Opening,” is doing remarkably well. Especially considering its main act is a creepy tap-dancing energy vampire child, and only four out of five club fatalities are human. This moves What We Do in the Shadows once again into workplace comedy territory, and there is a serious problem in personnel.
One of the ways What We Do in the Shadows differs from shows like The Office or Superstore is Human Resources mean nothing to a staff of Wraiths. This makes Nadja’s initial reaction to the threat of collective bargaining absolutely appropriate: kill them all. No collective, no bargaining. It’s worked in Alabama, Iowa, and other states which have legal penalties for union organizing. Nadja’s workarounds are addictively effective. Some of the demands Xerxes, the workers’ silent spokesperson, brings seem quite reasonable, such as getting more than one break a day in order for the Wraiths to haunt their transgressors, but vampires’ reasoning process is an elusive and tangled knot of inconsistencies and seemingly illogical conclusions.
The madcap negotiations lead to the Night Market, where all the supernatural creatures can get together, regardless of their differences, and rip each other off. The subway trip to the Night Market is a vile but ingenious ride, but more twisted because it is something New Yorkers see daily, so it is disconcerting for it to be happening under our noses and never recognize. The Night Market is an impressive set, it evokes dank pleasures and an illicit ambiance.
Even though we see her find the specific item in a book of arcane occult knowledge, Nadja’s circuitous shopping spree appears to make no sense, besides providing an excuse to introduce such nefarious mythical marketers as the Valkyries. Nadja trades a priceless item she randomly picked up from Nandor’s (Kayvan Novak) room for some of the Swedish meatballs they give out free, like Ikea, to trade for a rude T-Shirt. Where is this going? Nadja, the most cut-throat of the Staten Island vampires appears to chase cut-rate bargains. but the random elements come together in a fantastical creation: the waterlily of the Nile. It is the perfect drug for Wraiths.
It appears What We Do in the Shadows doesn’t know what to do with Nandor’s fiancée Marwa (Parisa Fakhri), but the former warlord does. She is once again left behind with a simple rub of a lamp, and we have to wonder when the Djinn’s (Anoop Desaigenie) bill for Nandor’s relentless wish list is going to come due and how it will be collected.
Guillermo (Harvey Guillén) has a secret friend. He bids a rushed goodbye on his cell, and is definitely hiding it from the vampires. The former familiar is filled with surprises which keep coming. He is a descendant of the great vampire slayer of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Abraham Van Helsing, and has mad fighting skills. However, the van Helsing in the novel wasn’t known for his backflips.
The episode’s featured set piece is back-alley impressive. The special effects are used especially well in the service of comedy. The Guide’s (Kristen Schaal) constant moving beyond the comprehension of the human eye is both amusing and frightening. The head-popping at the Familiar Fights is subtly covered up, but the nod to the World Wrestling Foundation is not. Nandor becomes the epitome of the villain wrestler in a takedown of his own errant design.
The fight sequences mix the thrill of the kill with the fun of the run, as Guillermo initially stoops to conquer, ducking fatal blows while imploring the gathered masses to all be friends. When he and Nandor finally go through the motions, they don’t skip a beat, comically or competitively. The fight is a tour de force of sight gags and acrobatic wonder, moving through an array or weapons each one capable of unleashing damage or hysterics. The build is exciting, and there are even moments of suspense when we don’t quite know if some major damage will be inflicted. The collateral damage is worth the price of admission.
“The Night Market” is also a very educational installment, as we learn the origins of the many supernatural creatures who frequent the most versatile malls in the tri-state area. “Sometimes grownups lie to children because the truth is far too boring,” Laszlo (Matt Berry) explains to the creature which crawled out of the abdominal cavity of Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch). It’s time for the growing energy sucker to learn life is not a fairy tale, not even for a vampire. “Little Red Riding Hood” was really an allegory for a brutal and still-unsolved child abduction, and the origins for Rumpled Dickskin is a question Colin should be asking himself.
Laszlo’s pronouncements appear to be cheap shots at lowly subspecies, but every one of his stereotypes is grounded in the supernatural makeup. The gnomes are indeed sad, but their appearance, and exit, are both chilling and whimsical. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote may be more mirthful than the denizens of the Fairy Tales, and the bond between the two different vampires appears to be moving toward a much larger payoff.
As set up by Laszlo, the world of children’s literature takes on even darker possibilities than the brilliant corrections Morticia used to make on The Addams Family. The most frightening thing about the conversations between Laszlo and Colin is how effective they are on different levels. It is a very perverse take on TV sitcom family time, taking the piss out of it, and yet is moving, emotionally. The bonding which occurs works better because it is a completely self-conscious mockery of the very trope it is parodying while staying firmly within the classic sitcom rhythms and intent, with an equal part of malintent.
As Nadja summarizes, “The Night Market” kind of goes on forever, and it has dark, dirty asides, a bit like her. It is a bargain at any price. What We Do in the Shadows does well to change up the scenarios and creatures, adding to its arsenal of ghoulish guests. Most shows with a monster-of-the-week only include one monster, so mixing it up makes it a party.
What We Do in the Shadows airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on FX, and streams the next day on Hulu.