A casino is a perfect place for a vampire. They don’t have windows or clocks, so you can never really tell what time it is. The place is full of people cross-eyed on cheap liquor, despair, or both—easy pickings for a snack between rounds on the Big Bang Theory slot machine. And it’s got to be exciting for a vampire to be in the bowels of an operation designed to suck the life out of the unsuspecting and gullible en masse. A trip out of the house and away from their duties as heads of the East Coast Vampiric Council (such as they are) did invigorate this week’s What We Do In The Shadows, for ensemble comedy that found fresh inspiration in deviating from the larger season-three storyline.
Not that the season so far has been bland: The vampires’ promotion has injected the show with a new sense of satirical purpose, as I discussed in my recap of the two-part season premiere. In past seasons, I’ve talked a lot about the relationships on What We Do In The Shadows, both romantic and platonic: Nandor and Guillermo, Laszlo and Nadja, Colin and his roommates, Jackie Daytona and his Big Mouth Billy Bass. But as Vulture pointed out in its review of the new season, this latest arc has shifted the dynamic towards more of a workplace sitcom, a theme that has its most overt expression yet in this week’s episode.
We’ve all worked for someone who can’t remember our name, but expects us to sacrifice our nights and weekends for them because “we’re a family here,” right? That framework has always been implicit when it comes to Guillermo’s loyalty to the vampires, who treat him like shit. But many of Guillermo’s illusions have fallen away now that he has embraced his destiny as a descendant of the great vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing. A promotion in name only will only satisfy him for so long, so it’s time to bring out the big, emotionally manipulative guns. Here, I can’t put it any better than Colin: “At every office I’ve worked at, they say ‘we’re a big family here,’ and it does motivate people to work harder and neglect their actual families and put up with all sorts of degrading shit.” Of course, they all live together, and don’t have other families to go home to. But maybe he’d like to? Has anyone ever thought about that? (Of course they haven’t.)
Jetting around Europe is a good compromise for this episode, at least. With Guillermo out on a mission to collect dirt from the vampires’ respective homelands so they can slumber—I get it, I can’t pull an all-nighter anymore either—we’re left to explore what begins as a series of character-specific storylines before coming together in what I must say, having just re-watched the movie a couple of months ago, is a very Ocean’s Eleven fashion. If you recall, the vampires’ neighbor Sean has the world’s largest collection of Ocean’s Twelve memorabilia. But if you’re in a casino you’ve got to go with the original, am I right? And that’s what goes down when the vampires accompany Sean and his wife on a trip to renew their vows at the Monaco Grand.
For the most part, the vampires seem to have gotten over their desire to eat their neighbors—particularly Laszlo, who has a rare bout of conscience after borrowing Sean’s Patrick Ewing commemorative MasterCard to pay for Guillermo’s emergency soil-harvesting expedition. So far on season three, Laszlo has been gloomy and distant, but the prospect of going to a “mecca of the depraved” seems to have perked the randy old coot right up. Matt Berry’s baritone was booming, which is always a delight, and the interplay between Matt Berry and Natasia Demetriou in this episode was excellent. Two highlights: the little faces they made while talking about their love of coitus at the dinner table, and Demetriou stumbling in the background as Berry confirmed that Frank Sinatra had indeed been transformed into a Chinese chap sometime in the past 60 years. I love Nadja and Laszlo’s love, and it made me happy to see them having fun together this week. Ring a ding-ding!
The fact that no one notices that the vampires are deteriorating physically and mentally because the symptoms are similar to a human getting falling-down drunk was another clever touch, as was Colin humming along with the casino infomercial on the hotel TV. Nandor’s existential crisis—of course Colin reveled in bumming him out—fits in with his arc this season, as does Guillermo’s whirlwind tour as we discussed above. All in all, an excellent half-hour of television, with inspired storylines and character details that give it great rewatch value. (I’ve already watched it twice.)
- Matt Berry leading us into the theme song on piano...what have we done to deserve such blessings?
- I know everyone always beats up on The Big Bang Theory, but I can’t defend that show. It knows what it did, and deserves what it gets.
- Besides, “‘Bazinga!’ is the war cry of Sheldon,” made me laugh so hard.
- “Hello Guillermo, do you have any interests?” Ah yes, I’ve been to this happy hour.
- “Come on you stinky bitch, the library is open!”
- For me, the performance honors this week go to Demetriou and her interactions with the “Rat Pack,” especially when she stuck her legs up in the air so they’d recognize her.
- Sparrows are the lamest of all birds, as are movies about them.
- Colin was eating well this episode, huh? The moment where he smacked the cage to wake up the clerk towards the end of the episode had a little sadistic edge to it, one of those occasional reminders that these lovable dum-dums are also inhuman predators.
- I’d love to know how the sequences where Guillermo goes to London, Greece, and Iran were filmed. It seems awfully expensive to fly Harvey Guillén to any of those places, and a COVID nightmare besides. But the set dressing was pretty convincing, especially at Heathrow.
- The idea that the world is held up by four elephants on the back of a giant turtle originates in Hindu mythology—a belief system to which Nandor, who was born in modern-day Iran, could have been exposed back in his mortal days. Apparently, the Lenape and Iroquois people of North America also came up with the idea of a cosmic turtle completely independently of Hindu belief, which is pretty cool!
- “My sweet maraschino cherry babies!”
- The posters on the wall in the “Rat Pack’s” dressing room are for “Sano the Supernatural” and “Brainsqueeze—the magic show that will explode your mind!”, which is a fun little bit of foreshadowing.
- Lately we’ve been signing off with the song from the end credits of that week’s episode. But Bruce Springsteen once wrote a song called “Atlantic City,” and per The A.V. Club’s bylaws I cannot let an opportunity to plug The Boss on the site pass me by.