Kayvan Novak is underrated as a hunk. You see that screenshot of Henry Cavill in the bath on The Witcher on social media all the time (at least I do), and I ask you: Why not Novak? This season of What We Do In The Shadows is giving viewers new opportunities to respectfully appreciate this aspect of the British actor’s charms, especially on this week’s episode. In the past, Nandor has always presented himself as something of a lonely heart, but “Gail” reveals that he’s had a side piece—or is he her side piece? Seems more like the latter, actually—for the last 40 years. Her name is Gail, she’s played by Aida Turturro, a.k.a. Janice Soprano, and she reminds me quite a bit of the Twitter parody account-turned-unfortunate looking Netflix series Chicago Party Aunt. But, you know, a Staten Island version.
You’d think that Nandor’s 13th-century origins would make him too conservative for a party gal like Gail. But he is a vampire, and vampires are a famously libertine lot. (Plus, who doesn’t like Bob Seger!?) That element of decadence is something the show flirts with in nearly every episode, but this week’s had a wider range of perversity than the season opener, which mostly just had Colin being obsessed with poop. (If you can ever put the worst “just” before a scat fetish.) There’s Guillermo cuddling up to a corpse to watch Twilight like a Latinx Jeffrey Dahmer, Laszlo’s comment about his nanny forcing him to learn Latin in the nude, Colin’s about being “down to clown,” and of course Nandor pantsless in a Bob Seger T-shirt between rounds of cunnilingus. The vampires were awfully nonplussed by walking in on Nandor and Gail in that hotel room as well, but considering they hosted an orgy in season one they’re used to that type of thing.
The re-introduction of the werewolves also threw us back to the first season of What We Do In The Shadows, where—as the show reminds us in a helpful flashback—the vampires asserted their dominance by throwing a squeaky toy off of the roof of an abandoned Circuit City. In my recap at the time, I was more taken with Matt Berry’s erotic topiary monologue than the actual plot of the episode (can you blame me?), but the werewolves’ return was inevitable given that they’ve been part of the What We Do In The Shadows universe since the original film. More than anything, the werewolf sequences in “Gail” reminded me that this show is shot in Canada in the winter—that’s a real snowstorm during the vampire/werewolf midnight kickball showdown. (When I went on a set visit for season two, the costume designer told us that the vampires’ plush velvet costumes are for warmth as much as anything, given how often they shoot outside.)
In terms of writing, a signature of season one that we didn’t see in this episode is an absurd, yet erudite joke list, preferably one that’s read aloud by Matt Berry. (We did get one of those in episode two, when Laszlo was perusing the council’s library of antique erotica.) If there was a weakness in “Gail,” it’s that the side plot with Laszlo and Colin Robinson dusting off Laszlo’s old coal-fired wheels felt disconnected from the main plot in a way that suggests the show isn’t sure what to do with these characters right now. That being said, there were some good jokes—Laszlo’s Henry Ford/Mussolini bit assumes its audience is at least somewhat historically informed, which I love—and it all came together in an endearing way as the vampires puttered around the yard chased by canine humanoids who can’t resist a moving vehicle. Similarly, Guillermo took a back seat in this episode, largely returning to his subservient season-one ways in a storyline that didn’t have much for him to do except defend Nandor, both physically and emotionally.
One thing that was a sharp as ever this week was the show’s understanding of interpersonal dynamics, which we saw reflected here in the running joke about Nadja’s supposed hatred of Gail. On the one hand, it is true that men can project cattiness onto women that isn’t actually there, as the guys do to Nadja throughout the episode. On the other, at least in my experience, when someone says they’re “just worried” about someone else, it often really means “I don’t trust that person, but I’m not going to say so because you seem to like them.” (And she shouldn’t!) Similarly, the way Laszlo and Colin both claim to be acting out of pity for each other says a lot about the ways we convince ourselves that we’re doing something for someone else’s benefit, when really we’re filling a need that we have ourselves. And poor, sweet Nandor, who turns out to be a wounded puppy of a 758 year-old vampire after all. It’s okay, buddy. You’ve got eternity to figure it out.
- In a recent New York Post interview, Novak says he’s having a great time with Nandor’s season three arc, which he pitched to the show’s writers. “I think [it’s] important for a performer to really own their character and feel like when they play their character, they’re on a kind of groove,” he says. “If you’re not on that, you’ve got to make some changes. But I feel pretty groovy as Nandor.”
- While we’re discussing season one, I finally got around to seeing Interview With The Vampire last weekend and was tickled by how closely season-one highlight “The Trial” mimicked the Parisian vampire lair in that film. Seeing the parody before you see the origin of said parody is always a treat.
- Speaking of, do I need to watch Twilight? I have not seen it, but I understand there is a vampire baseball game and an unnerving baby.
- The original Vampire Council website is on some Heaven’s Gate type of shit.
- A couple of jokes for the graphic designers in the audience on this week’s episode, about Helvetica and Franklin Gothic.
- Line reading of the week goes to Kayvan Novak—the clear star of this week’s episode—and his throaty growl on “strawberry vanilla crunnnnch.”
- “The Shroud Of Urine” sounds like a movie Laszlo would have starred in back in his porno days.
- A hearty hello to Derrick Beckles as Anton. As well as the surreal Adult Swim shows Totally For Teens and Hot Package, Beckles created the found-footage series TV Carnage, which was a huge influence on me when I was a young person.
- How did Nadja play kickball in that dress?!
- This week’s closing credits music is an easy one. The lyrics fit the episode, though: “And we’d steal away every chance we could/ To the backroom, to the alley, or the trusty woods/ I used her, she used me, but neither one cared/ We were gettin’ our share...”