Of course Colin Robinson likes to ride the bus. As a repository of human misery, there’s not much that can beat it—except for the mind-numbing confines of a municipal zoning hearing, which psychic vampire Colin excitedly describes as “a smorgasbord of banality and despair” after dragging his regular, blood-drinking vampire roommates to a Staten Island City Council meeting as part of their centuries-late quest to take over the New World. In short: The vampires left the house! But much like a city council meeting—as much as it pains me to make this statement about an episode of television where Matt Berry plays the Pied Piper of raccoons—this week’s episode of What We Do In The Shadows is long on talking, and short on payoff.
Compared to last week’s series premiere, this episode was over before it really started. Jemaine Clement directs, and although the humor stays true to the ironic punchlines and absurd sight gags of previous What We Do In The Shadows installments, Clement’s timing isn’t quite as fine tuned as that of Taika Waititi, who directed the pilot. As a result, this second episode speeds by at a breakneck pace (no pun intended) without taking the time to really let the jokes breathe.
This was especially true of Laszlo’s quest to kill all the raccoons in Staten Island in order to win over the head of the city council, a romantic gesture straight out of the 18th century. Putting the funniest part of that whole subplot—Berry calling the raccoons to him with some kind of magical recorder—in a dimly lit part of the frame was frustrating, albeit possibly a practical choice to cover up less-than perfect CGI. That being said, I got a glimmer of Snuff Box’s reoccurring “fuck you” bit in the way Laszlo tries to turn things around by insisting that “I am ending this conversation,” which is always a good thing.
Nandor’s mission to hypnotize council member Doug Peterson bore more comedic fruit, resulting in both the silliest line reading in the episode—“Hi Doug!”—and the big physical comedy bit at the end. In this episode, the vampires are better together than they are separated; the chemistry between the core trio as they complained about human modes of transportation was rousing as ever, and the facial expressions on the entire row of actors as they watched a raving Doug get wrestled to the ground by security were priceless. It also points towards an interesting detail of the world-building in the series: Namely, how effective the vampires’ magic is. The fact that their hypnotic, memory-erasing, and flying abilities are all on point only underlines how lazy they really are, as well as creating some dramatic tension in the fact that, if they got their shit together, maybe they really could take over the world.
As for Nadja, she seems to have forgotten Gregor-Jeff entirely, and has fixated on Jenna (Beanie Feldstein), a.k.a. Genelf, from the Staten Island Community College LARP Club instead. I’m glad that Nadja is getting more nuanced motivations than just frenzied hypersexuality, even if Jenna interprets her friendly overtures as such. And if someone wants to embroider “someday they will all be dead and you will shit on their graves” on a throw pillow and sell it on Etsy, I will almost assuredly buy one late at night when I am drunk. But I kind of had a feeling that the show wouldn’t hire a known actor like Feldstein for a one-episode cameo, and saw where that subplot was going as soon as Nadja asked, “why do they ignore the female one?,” while watching the LARP meeting.
For the time being, Nadja’s adventures in particular feel pointless—or at least incomplete—and separate from the main storyline in a way that makes them seem like an afterthought. But given the smash cut to the credits at the very end of the episode, we’ll be seeing more of Jenna next week, so hopefully that’ll change.
- Well, looks like there are no hard feelings between Nadja and Laszlo about The Baron. I was kind of hoping it’d be a bigger plot point, although I suppose the resolution I proposed last week would be more appropriate for pay cable than FX.
- At this rate, we’re going to have more familiars than vampires before the season is through.
- Are you going to take this insult lying down, Canada? From New Zealanders, the Canadians of the southern hemisphere, no less??
- Shoutout to whoever came up with the name “Staten Rye-Land” for the deli.
- Including the dictionary definition of anything in any piece of writing makes my eyeballs bleed with rage, so well played there, Colin.
- Nadja’s pitch for an all-vampire TV channel featuring “my favorite comedy, priests falling down” is a solid one.
- Did anyone catch what promotional consideration, exactly, was paid for by Miller-Coors, as mentioned at the very end of the credits? I’m guessing it was the beer the LARPers were drinking at their meeting.
- I don’t really read comments, thanks to some experiences with trolls early in my tenure at The A.V. Club. If you’d like me to join in for this show, though, @ me on Twitter and let me know—particularly if you’d like to talk about Snuff Box.