Not to get all Garfield novelty mug about it, but Thursdays, am I right? Last week, What We Do In The Shadows felt like taking off early for a long weekend as the vampires went on a bender in Atlantic City. This week, it’s back to work for everyone, for an episode that hit certain key themes and moved certain parts of the plot forward, but didn’t come together as dazzlingly as “The Casino” did. I still laughed out loud at several points, don’t get me wrong—as I’ve said before, this show is like pizza, in that it’s never anything less than pretty good. It’s just that some episodes are a little spicier (and more quotable) than others.
Now, let’s talk about themes for a minute. A major thread this season is exploring what happens when incompetent, out-of-touch idiots—i.e., Nadja, Nandor, and the gang—fall upwards into positions of power. This has always struck me as something that had to have come out of observing the foul miasma of an empire in decline. And “The Chamber Of Judgement” reinforced this idea with a bit inspired by one of the more spectacular cases of brain worms in recent years: Mike Lindell, a.k.a. “The MyPillow Guy.” On What We Do In The Shadows, the “GuyPillow” is a multi-level marketing scheme, which is the one shady thing the MyPillow is not. (The company has gotten into a fair amount of legal trouble over charges of false advertising, though.) But Lindell has long since transformed himself into Donald Trump’s personal Renfield, and is still out there insisting that you-know-who will be back in office by Thanksgiving.
Hell, he’s more suggestible than Nandor and Nadja, who proved only partially susceptible to Guillermo’s campaign of soft power this week. We see Guillermo reading The Art Of War in his room at one point in “The Chamber Of Judgement,” and he is successful enough to get himself onto the throne for a little while, legs a-swingin’ as he and the co-leaders of the Vampiric Council watch wraiths and white-robed dancers twirl for their amusement. Earlier in the season, I wondered if Nadja was going to turn into a tyrant in her bid for control of the council. But this week she seemed happy-go-lucky, taking the throne without asking any questions—or trying too hard to hang onto it. She’s more concerned with appearances than actual influence: It’s her idea to give up her seat, as she’s worried that Nandor’s head is too much higher than hers while she’s sitting down. Guillermo, meanwhile, is going for the old “boil the frog” technique, where you turn up the heat so slowly that the hypothetical frog doesn’t realize it’s being boiled alive. Which I’ve also heard used to describe the slow erosion of civil liberties in the U.S.! Fun!
That brings us to Laszlo, the man’s man of the episode, the good old boy who’s there when his bros need him and only asks for a kiss on the lips in return. Laszlo is all in on this ride-or-die best friends thing, even though they just gave Sean a big bag of money at the end of the last episode and he’s already blown it all on $12k in pillows. (Colin mostly seems annoyed by Sean and his friends—maybe they’re too oblivious to feed on?) There weren’t a ton of quotable lines in this week’s episode, but Anthony Atamaniuk brought a few of them as Sean wallowed in his self-imposed misery, yelling through hot tears that “it’s legally binding!” and everyone should “stop asking so many questions!!”
Indeed, my favorite joke this week took a second to click, when Sean, Laszlo, and Colin return from the bar and Laszlo appeared to be falling-down drunk. A vampire feasting on finance bros is a satisfying joke—a bloodsucker sucking the bloodsuckers, how apropos—and Laszlo appearing in vampire court completely blood-hammered after losing in human small claims court, only to win his first case ever because his wife is a judge, is a cutting comment on how systems of power protect the incompetent and well-connected. For Guillermo to save his friend Derek from turning into a pile of ash and white Doc Martens, he has to manipulate the vampires into thinking this was all their idea—something I’m sure none of us has ever experienced in our professional lives. Ah, we laugh because otherwise we’d cry. But seriously, though, friends don’t let friends shop at Hot Topic. It’s not 2001 anymore.
- A quick Google of the term “Garfield novelty mug” turned up a few winners, but this one will haunt my sleep tonight.
- I’m sure the board game enthusiasts in the audience will take this week’s mild poke at their hobby with grace and good humor...
- ...as will the Thelemites to a simplification of the meaning behind Aleister Crowley’s famous saying, “do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.”
- It’s a fun coincidence that this episode airs just a couple of weeks after the LuLaRich docuseries premiered on Amazon. Scammers seem to be having a moment in pop culture right now—nothing to do with the hangover from a previous political administration, I’m sure.
- No one cast member gets an award for their performance on this episode, but here are a few little moments that resonated with me: Natasia Demetriou giving a little smile to the wraith and kissing it on the head in the Council chamber; Harvey Guillen’s polite smile and mumbled “no thank you” when Kristen Schaal’s The Guide suggested a rub ‘n’ tug; and Mark Prosch’s look of disgust when Sean’s brother patted him on the leg.
- On the topic of the Scream mask, I defer to Desus Nice and The Kid Mero, who had this to say about it in their 11 Questions interview:
DN: We’re both kids from the Bronx, and in the Bronx it’s the Jason mask—
TKM: Or the Scream mask. Or the Dead Presidents mask, you know, the white face with the black eyes. Those are the Bronx costumes.
DN: With the Jason mask, you could commit a crime and they’d be like, “The guy was wearing a Jason mask,” but that’s 90% of the Bronx at any given moment on Halloween. It’s a great way to disappear.
TKM: It’s the same thing with the Scream mask. Here’s what I’ll say about the Scream mask: Depending on where you get it, it’ll have sweat-wicking technology. So when you’re running from the cops after you throw an egg at them—you know what I’m saying? Your sweat is absorbed by the nylon.
- Was it just me, or did I hear the Crow Cam squawk “hello?”
- Chris Sandiford, who makes his return this week as Mosquito Collector-turned-baby vampire Derek, currently has just under 1,200 followers on Twitter. What do you say we get him to 2k by the end of the night? (You can also watch a bunch of his stand-up and sketch comedy on his YouTube page.) Looking good in those new vampire threads in the mid-credits scene, Chris!!
- One thing I didn’t quite get in this week’s episode was how afraid the vampires were of Derek’s dog. They seemed fine with dogs back in season one, when they smuggled Laszlo out of animal control.
- Animals being put on trial for various crimes was a more common practice in early modern Europe than you might think. Witness the 1906 legal tome Criminal Prosecution And Capital Punishment Of Animals, which catalogs 34 separate incidents where pigs were put on trial for crimes ranging from snarfing up consecrated communion wafers to murder.
- A Wired article about the phenomenon is, delightfully enough, illustrated with the original 1864 drawing that the WWDITS art department modified for this week’s episode. It depicts the trial of a sow and her six piglets, who were accused of killing and eating a child (!) in Lavegny, France in 1457. You can compare the two below, and dig more into that story here.