When a “What We Do in the Shadows” TV series was announced, I was skeptical. It’s my general nature; I’m skeptical about everything. It wasn’t that I thought the 2014 mockumentary about a group of vampire roommates wouldn’t translate to TV. Indeed, the film was highly episodic, and therefore perfect for TV. But my skepticism arose around the idea that the film’s cast of bloodsuckers — including Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi — was going to be very hard to replace.
Of course, I turned out to be completely wrong. In fact, for its first two seasons, I’d say the “What We Do in the Shadows” TV series actually surpassed the film that inspired it. This was primarily due to the phenomenal cast — Kayvan Novak as former warrior Nandor the Relentless, the married couple of Laszlo Cravensworth (Matt Berry) and Nadja of Antipaxos (Natasia Demetriou), energy vampire Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch), and Nandor’s long-suffering familiar (and a not-so-secret vampire hunter), Guillermo (Harvey Guillén). This team is consistently funny and watching their vampiric exploits resulted in high comedy, particularly over the course of seasons 1 and 2.
And then came season 3. Sure, the third season of the series had its highs, and the cast remained likable. But there was something … off about season 3. The show expanded its mythology to include a whole bunch of stuff about the ancient Vampiric Council. Sadly, none of it was very interesting, or particularly funny. Nor was the addition of The Guide, an envoy of the Vampiric Council played by Kristen Schaal. I usually find Schaal to be an enjoyable performer, but she just doesn’t quite click here. She can’t match the abundant chemistry that exists between the main players. But Schaal wasn’t really the problem with season 3. Instead, the things that made the show so damn funny to begin — the mundane everyday lives of vampires living on Staten Island — were sidetracked. In short, I didn’t like it much.
Which is why I’m pleased to say that “What We Do in the Shadows” season 4 is a return to form. Indeed, the premiere episode of the season spends a large chunk of time essentially undoing everything that happened in the season 3 finale. And that’s fine.
Season 3 ended with the characters scattered to the winds, going on their own separate adventures. I thought it might take some time for them to get back together again, but the writers wisely realized that the interplay between everyone is key to the show’s success. Sure enough, as season 4 begins, the gang quickly reunites in their (increasingly crumbling) house on Staten Island. Some things have changed: Colin Robinson died last season, only to be reborn as a strange child that still has actor Mark Proksch’s head creepily positioned atop a kid actor’s neck. Lazlo has been trying to raise the child into “the most interesting adult there has ever been,” but realizes that’s going to be harder than expected when the boy (Lazlo refuses to call him Colin Robinson) reveals he loves *shudder* musical theatre. Meanwhile, the-once-and-former-Colin Robinson keeps growing at an alarming rate, going from baby to grade-schooler in the span of days.
As for Nandor, he’s feeling lonely, and on the search for a new bride — after asking Guillermo to be his best man before he’s even found someone to marry. Guillermo as a character remains slightly frustrating: no matter how many times he claims he’s going to stand up for himself, walk away, and stop letting the vampires boss him around, he always finds a reason to fall back into his old role as a familiar. Still, it’s hard to fault the show for maintaining this dynamic when it works so damn well — Novak and Guillén are laugh-out-loud funny together.
But the real MVP of the series remains Demetriou, whose unhinged, frequently oblivious Nadja gets the biggest laughs. Having fled her duties at the Vampiric Council in England, Nadja wants to turn the Councils Staten Island headquarters into a vampire nightclub, complete with blood sprinkles — like in the movie “Blade”! The first four episodes provided for critics deal primarily with this plotline, as Nadja and company struggle to get the club off the ground while The Guide remains hesitant to buck tradition.
Season 4 falling back into old habits will either be a blessing or a curse, depending on what you thought of season 3. If you wanted even more expansion of the Vampiric Council stuff, you’re going to be disappointed. But I’m on board with what I saw here, and hope the season will continue to improve on season 3’s mistakes. Sure, there’s a part of me that knows the show can’t just play the hits and give me the same old same old; there should be a progression, something driving the story forward, even slightly. But what can I say? I’m a sucker for the familiar comforts of “What We Do in the Shadows,” and having the story migrate back onto familiar ground felt refreshing in the wake of a so-so previous season.
Besides, there’s still plenty of growth here. The Colin Robinson spawn isn’t just another version of the Colin Robinson we already know; he’s a completely different character, which is perhaps why Lazlo has such trouble calling him Colin. And those craving more mythology will get it in the form of the excellent episode “The Night Market,” which takes the characters (and us) to an underground bizarre where monsters of all shapes and sizes gather to barter over various ghoulish goods.
But how much longer can this story continue? “What We Do in the Shadows” has already been renewed for two more seasons, so it stands to reason the writers already have some ideas banked. For now, I remain enamored with the series, which makes me laugh louder and longer than most other comedies on TV right now. The fount of blood may run dry eventually, but for now, I’m just happy that the old undead gang is together again.
“What We Do in the Shadows” season 3 premieres with its first two episodes on Tuesday, July 12, 2022 on FX and the next day on Hulu.
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