Maybe it’s a “me” thing—like Laszlo, I’m terrible with putting names to faces—but if his role on the show hadn’t been announced in advance, I would not have immediately recognized Mark Hamill on this week’s What We Do In The Shadows. Hamill co-stars as Jim the Vampire (so much funnier than Joe the Vampire, don’t ask me why) in what’s essentially a two-hander of an episode, taking Laszlo out on his first real, episode-length solo adventure as he flees an immortal debt he owes for a stay in Jim’s guest room back in 1853. And Hamill is absolutely hilarious in the role, putting the voice acting skills he utilized in the second most iconic role of his career to use along with a wig, mustache, and some contacts...okay, fine, it probably is just me being halfway face blind.
This episode starts off with a solid bit of character-based slapstick—not a comedic combination you see too often—as Guillermo, in elementary-school teacher mode, convinces the vampires to make a game out of identifying the rotting corpse sinkholes in their front lawn. (Pratfalls and morbidity in the same joke? It’s not even my birthday!) Enter Jim, whose front-yard duel with Laszlo prompts the younger (or at least younger-looking) vampire to run to a nearby motel to grab his bug-out bag—to lift a term from Doomsday Preppers—and take off. It’s a testament to his affection for the other vampires, and especially Nadja, that he didn’t run off earlier, honestly, considering how few qualms he seems to have about abandoning them to pose as “an average American Yankee Doodle Dandy” as soon as shit hits the fan.
Because why shouldn’t he? Whether through the power of hypnosis or simply good old-fashioned charisma, his new identity as Jackie Daytona is a hit. Lots of details about Laszlo’s new life were really clever: The freezer he sleeps in instead of a coffin, his close personal relationship with the Big Mouth Billy Bass that hangs on the wall at Lucky Brews, his newfound love of women’s volleyball (again, were psychic powers at play in the team’s rise to dominance?), Berry standing with his hands on his hips in the parking lot after beating up the “motor bicycle criminals,” Berry throwing a full bus pan into a dumpster. Truly, a cornucopia of hilarious shit, and I haven’t even really touched on the many, many signature Matt Berry bombastic line readings in this episode.
The one thing “On The Run” was missing was Berry taking the stage for a musical performance himself. Don’t get me wrong, the bloodless acoustic rendition of “Simply Irresistible” at the Lucky Brews talent show abruptly yanked me back to some truly intolerable evenings at suburban watering holes that I had otherwise stricken from my memory. (The complete and utter inanity of every musical cue inside of that particular drinking establishment was another sharp detail of this episode.) But Berry’s side gig is as a musician—his stuff’s on Spotify, it’s very ‘70s singer-songwriter, a bit like Tim Heidecker’s music, actually—so it would have been fun to see Jackie/Laszlo sing. Just saying.
But Hamill made up for that when Jim tracks Jackie/Laszlo down at the Lucky Brews, leading to another bit of comedic gold—the shock on Hamill’s face when Berry took the toothpick out of his mouth (with his jeans and toothpick, he’s unrecognizable). Their final confrontation was also very funny, as was Jim swearing that he will get his revenge when he finds out that our nation’s store shelves are full of Big Mouth Billy Basses just waiting to be taken under his cape. (Vampires don’t go to gas stations, I guess.) Hamill unabashedly threw himself into the role without any self-consciousness about looking silly, and for that, I salute him. We’ve still got four episodes left in the second season, and given its consistently high quality thus far, even better guest stars could still be to come. But for now—Mark Hamill, you are the undead MVP.
- My friend’s roommate skipped out on thousands of dollars’ worth of rent and bills when she moved to another state back in the late ‘00s. The landlord was not sympathetic, and my friend ended up having to move back home herself in the aftermath. So I can see where Jim is coming from here.
- How much do you think Laszlo owes Jim, anyway? In 1850's money, a month’s rent on a single room was probably like $10.
- As I mentioned in the recap, this episode was all about Laszlo and Jim. But I did want to shout out these fabulous reaction shots: Guillermo shrugging and putting his wooden stake away when Jim announces he’s there for Laszlo, and Nadja fluttering her eyelids at Laszlo’s story about his “work trip.”
- Here’s a question to ponder: Is Laszlo telling the truth when he says he went to California to meet the devil at the crossroads, and was “misinformed” about its actual location? Nadja seems to know he’s full of shit.
- And another: Is Colin lying when he says he was just trying to feed on the awkwardness of the moment when he tried to kiss Nadja?
- “How you diddling, Jojo? Your wife still giving you shit about that hammock?”
- “One human alcohol beer, please.”
- “You’re fired!” “That doesn’t make any sense! I don’t work for you!”
- Special props to the extra who played the guitar like a broom. You’re a champ, buddy.
- If you enjoyed the escapades of Jackie Daytona, and you haven’t yet—please watch Toast Of London, like, right now. It is perhaps the best showcase for Berry’s talent for coming up with silly names. Here is an amuse bouche to get you excited.
- Berry wasn’t bullshitting at the end there; there really is a garage band called Jackie Daytona based out of Texas. I listened to a couple of their songs, they’re fine. The official music video for their single “Comin’ To Get You” only has 460 views; let’s quadruple that, shall we?