Well, friends, as four fine young men from Philadelphia once harmonized, now we’ve come to the end of the road. Tonight marked the season one finale of What We Do In The Shadows on FX, and overall I think the concept’s transition to television has been a very successful one. Although its narrative threads were sometimes loose enough that, if you pulled on one too hard, the whole thing might unravel like a poorly knitted sock, the show always stayed true both to the comedic identity established in Taika Waititi’s original film and to its own characters. It also excelled at building on vampire lore and incorporating SFX into the show in organic ways, like that fantastic shot of the vampires lit from below as they bleed from their eyes sitting in the back row of the church at Nandor’s descendant Madelaine’s funeral.
The guest stars were all great; more than once, they were my favorite part of the episode. Laszlo said many funny things in that wonderful sonorous voice, we got to see Nandor try to descend a staircase covered in dildos, and Guillermo’s Anne Rice fandom made me nostalgic for 1994, when my cool friend whose mom let her wear lipstick described the sexy parts of Interview With The Vampire to me at Girl Scouts. Also, Colin Robinson was there. To quote bloodsucking sex-positive feminist icon Nadja, “such wonderful filthy times we had together.”
With four (!!) credited writers on this episode, I was worried that “Ancestry” would be a bit of a mess. But although this was more of a character development episode than a joke-a-minute episode, it didn’t have the overstuffed quality that you often see in blockbuster movies written by committee. Credit for this presumably goes to Taika Waititi, who returned to direct the season finale and couldn’t be ham-handed if he tried. (Actually, that’s not a bet I want to take. Taika can do anything he wants.) Waititi’s light touch, which I praise every time he directs an episode but cannot be praised enough, came through in the timing of the jokes in this episode, particularly the just a little too long/long enough of Guillermo passing the envelope to Nandor in his coffin and the ironic surprise of Gregor-Jesh getting his head cut off with razor wire. (Nice joke setup there, by the way.)
The development of Nandor as a character in season one has basically been a slow reveal of what a massive dork he is, and so him being so excited about being a dad/granddad/whatever is only natural as the next step in his uncool evolution. (I say this with apologies to all the dads reading. You are very cool, and also aware of the dorky dad stereotype so you’re not taking it personally.) Guillermo’s worm-like subservience building to a big character shift of some sort also makes sense, and him throwing the stakes so precisely at the end of the episode points to some big Theon Greyjoy-esque climb out of wormdom next season. As the sudden shift in the power dynamic when Laszlo sees Guillermo holding the bag of wooden stakes proves, he could actually be dangerous to the vampires if he wanted to be.
The biggest obstacle to Guillermo’s self-realization as a vampire killer will, of course, be his loyalty to his master Nandor, and that points to a subtle theme that runs through this season. What We Do In The Shadows turned out to have a lot to say about long-term relationships, both in the dynamic between Nandor and Guillermo—who are intuitively aware of each other’s feelings and check in with each other when something seems off—and in Laszlo and Nadja’s marriage. The latter turned out to be a bit more traditional than was teased at the beginning of the series, in the sense that the two try to keep their more, let’s say, adventurous hobbies from each other in order to protect the other’s feelings. But in the end, neither Nadja’s eternal longing for Gregor-Jesh nor Laszlo’s porn career can stand in the way of their love, which makes a very nice point about accepting someone for who they really are, not for who you want them to be. It’s also important to make a grand romantic gesture once in a while to keep things fresh, even if you are so perfectly matched that you both make very silly noises—Nadja’s “num num num num,” Laszlo’s weird, choking laugh—in the heat of a moment.
- “Sometimes I wonder what my life would be like if I was still at Panera Bread. I’d probably be manager.” To be fair, their soups are quite good.
- “In those days, fathers didn’t really look after their children. It was down to the women—and in some cases, a couple of friendly wolves.” I never thought I’d hear a Romulus and Remus reference on a sitcom. Well, maybe on a Mike Schur sitcom.
- “You need to be careful that’s not evil witches trying to steal your semen.” “Yes, witches are semen stealers.”
- On that note, Witches Steal My Semen sounds like one of Laszlo’s pornos from last week’s episode.
- Nadja is concerned about witches, but Guillermo’s decision to get all the vampires’ DNA tested without their permission could have non-supernatural consequences, given that DNA databases are now being used to catch serial killers. And the vampires are all, technically, serial killers. Especially Laszlo.
- Colin is correct that Genghis Khan is estimated to have about 16 million living descendants. But since the study he’s citing was completed in 2003, there’s been new evidence that 10 other men—nine of whom remain unidentified—had equally large genetic footprints.
- “When I was a human man I had rosy cheeks, but between those cheeks there was never a smile.” I’m not the only one who interpreted that as a dirty joke, am I? Please say I’m not.
- “Then you get in your car and drive back to the Amazon!”
- “Grief? I don’t care for it.”
- “Look at the pictures on the glass! It’s the jeepers man!” Thank you for this wonderful quote, What We Do In the Shadows.
- “You’re my sweet baby, and I’m here to stop that kind of jive.” Now that’s romance.
- Goodbye forever for now, sweet Gregor-Jesh. You did a great job with the physical comedy in this episode.
- “It’s nothing to be ashamed of. People love piñatas! Someone’s got to breed those colorful donkeys.”
- On one final note, I’m glad that a sitcom exists where one of the big laugh lines is a guy getting his head cut off with razor wire, and I’m glad that all you gathered around with me every week for some fellowship with other people who think that kind of thing is funny. See you all in 2020.
[Correction: An earlier version of this article referred to the mythical founders of Rome raised by wolves as Castor and Pollux. It was Romulus and Remus. We regret the error.]