What We Do in the Shadows Season 4 Finale Erases an Era

The more things stay the same, the more they change as What We Do in the Shadows closes on a bittersweet note in “Sunrise, Sunset.”

Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch) and Laszlo (Matt Berry) in What We Do in the Shadows Season 4 Episode 10
Photo: Russ Martin | FX

This What We Do in The Shadows review contains spoilers.

What We Do in the Shadows Season 4 Episode 10

Guess what? We don’t have to guess what anymore. What We Do in the Shadows’ season 4 finale doesn’t give all the answers, but it breaks through walls to try. The vampire mockumentary series has made a running gag of breaking the fourth wall, and leans back into it for revelations, brisk rebuttals, and sad goodbyes. “Sunrise, Sunset” closes the chapter by erasing much of it. We can almost hear Nadja’s (Natasia Demetriou) lulling tones reminding the audience to forget what we should have remembered.

Like the vampire club Nadja’s, which lost its bite and is now bleeding out cash, with no nutritional value beyond whatever fluids human improv comedy troupes bring from outer space. The montages of the club’s demise into children’s entertainment hit comic sweet spots, but the highlight is the song Laszlo hits the crowd over the head with. Matt Berry turns contempt into celebration without inviting anyone to the party. It is an unforgettable performance for the stage audience. It sows the seeds for years of petty grievances, the kinds vampires on the series love. But it’s a memory Nadja might want to erase.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, like sending the Wraiths to Universal Orlando Resorts for a vacation. This ironically seems like far too frightening a place for the dread-inducing servants of death. The Guide’s (Kristen Schaal) suggestion to save the club also contains a mix of fright and fancy, a winning combination bound to lose. The camera crew of the mockumentary setting has more of a presence in this episode, after losing an opportunity for the two crews to interact in the “Go Flip Yourself” episode. The crew are even chased out for a few scenes during the installment, though they never go too far.

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While it is a major and dangerous secret, the crew captures the plan to save the club. The Guide holds the second largest collection of dead souls in the U.S. The largest holder is some rich computer guy, but that’s not the creepy part. Nadja may be undead, but she is still superstitious. She spits when she learns the Guide has been studying ancient, forbidden, texts on witchcraft, but is pleased to know celebrated dead people can be brought back to life for short periods of time to boost attendance. Who wouldn’t want to ask Murasaki Shikibu (Yui Ugai), the lady-in-waiting at the ancient Japanese Imperial court and inventor of the novel form, where she got her ideas?

Among the reanimated celebrities are Leonardo Da Vinci (Felipe Aukai), Scott Joplin (Sam Asante), Che Guevara (Victor Ayala) and after a little tinkering, it seems like a genuinely workable plan. But as Laszlo says, people or vampires make plans and the “guy upstairs” has other ideas. The vampires’ relationship with god is milked for inspired amusement, from the moment the offensive word is crossed out of Are You There [CENSORED], It’s Me, Margaret, and culminates in one particularly classic comedy scene. But it is not as spiritually offensive as having Mahatma Gandhi (Murli Nedungadi) read out an advertisement for steaks.

Like most great ideas coming from the vampires on Staten Island, the project fails because of missed opportunities and miscommunications. For all the frank speak and unabashed honesty which comes out of the vampires’ mouths, they are too self-concerned to give or receive messages from anyone but themselves.

The creature which crawled out of the abdominal cavity of Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch) had a major growth spurt at the end of “Freddie,” and is now breaking hearts like the teenaged nightmare he’s become. The former Baby Colin hits the “awkward age,” as Laszlo puts it. This is a relative term for a character characterized by its awkwardness. Colin is now sullen, withdrawn, uncommunicative, and needy. In all ways a teenager, sucking the energy out of his most parental figures: Laszlo and Guillermo (Harvey Guillén), both at a loss to get through the thick skull of teen spirit. Baseball bats don’t seem to work. They should try a hammer.

Nandor’s (Kayvan Novak) attempt at youth-talk, or “gutter patois,” is a disaster before it starts. “I too got off on rocking out to cool tunes like this,” he enthuses as Colin hammers his wall to the pounding offbeats of heavy metal. To be fair, “cool” is a cyclical concept, and the things a 759-year-old warlord might have considered edgy in his youth may have come around to be hip again, but we know Colin is ranking on Nandor long before the relentless one pulls rank.

Nandor’s speech about young soldiers is less than moving. If this stuff got young men to die on the front lines of the battlefields in his day, they must have had nothing to return to at home. His advice marks a full commitment to Father Knows Best wisdom, and Colin responds like a modern Eddie Haskell on Leave It to Beaver. How cool is it to respect your elders, and show some self-respect? About as cool as deciding to spend the next fifteen- or 20-years reading books.

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In some ways, Teenage Colin is like Charlie X from the original Star Trek. That troubled teen’s angst drove Kirk to the end of his last nerve before he found out he wasn’t a regular boy, even if he had the same urges. At one point in “Sunrise, Sunset,” Colin burns the Guide a mix CD, which he says is no big deal, so nothing is made of it, like many possibilities as the episode appears to move in fast motion.

Colin’s self-discovery is a very effective and economic sequence. It saves time, money, resources, and the overall structure of the Staten Island vampire house. It also follows a What We Do in the Shadows tradition: a major turnaround we should have seen coming because the clues have been hammered into us since the beginning of the season.

Over the past four seasons, Guillermo and Nandor’s relationship has been enjoying the subtle promise of a romantic arc. While both actors have given the possibility full support, nothing has come of it. As it becomes clear the familiar-turned-bodyguard-acting-as-best-man is only a hamster running in a wheel, Guillermo turns to vampire Derek (Chris Sandiford), the miserable convenience store clerk with a moral code, to make a final transition. It is only a season ending cliffhanger, so it shouldn’t be too much to worry about.

The opening credits replace the usual theme song with Berry’s rendition of “Sunrise, Sunset,” from Fiddler on the Roof. It is haunting and melancholic. Laszlo’s short sequence of realization of the loss of his contribution to Colin’s growth is moving, and Berry invests a great amount of emotional collateral. Proksh does a wonderful job evoking the rebelliousness and curiosity, while savoring the anguish of young adulthood. The closing rendition of the song also features Proksch and Demetriou, and is also done straight, and sad.

What We Do in the Shadows strayed from earlier seasons by erring on the side of traditional sitcoms this year. There have been more set pieces and montages and less spontaneous outbursts of improvisational surprise. It closes by deepening its bittersweet tone, while committing it to memory to move forward. “Sunrise, Sunset” dispenses with many of the major events of the year: Nandor’s marriage to Marwa ended exactly the same way as Guillermo’s relationship with Freddie; vampire clubs are passe, and energy vampires continue to suck. This is how things go with vampires. They live forever and time takes care of most of their problems. Guillermo usually takes care of the rest, so next season promises to bring chaotic absurdity.

What We Do in the Shadows airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on FX, and streams the next day on Hulu.

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4 out of 5