One of the great things about the fantastical nature of What We Do In The Shadows’ base reality is that it really widens the field for how its characters can be assholes to each other. Lots of shows, after all, have had one of their characters, irritated at the spotlight being stolen from them, decide to have sex with their friend’s new significant other. Very few of them have had that character instead opt to spend one of the three wishes he got as a wedding present from a djinn to turn his wife into an exact copy of said significant other, then have sex with them instead.
But such is the magic of “Freddie,” an episode of our favorite vamp-based televised sitcom in which heartbreak runs rampant and where everything truly magical—whether it’s love, youth, or a vampire clown who can suck his own dick—never seems to last quite as long as you might like.
We open at Nadja’s, where business is booming and celebrity heads are flying—R.I.P. Sofia Coppola and Phoenix’s Thomas Mars—all thanks to the continued superstardom of Baby Colin Robinson. Laszlo, sensing a chance to throw his weight around, tries to turn Baby Colin’s indispensable nature into a new contract with some status-heavy riders (“Nightclub staff will not make direct eye contact with Colin unless they are giving him a gift”), but Nadja shoots him down. (It’s one of the lovely things about this show that, at no point during the argument did it feel like this conflict was going to turn into a problem for the pair’s relationship; they really are perfect for each other.) Undaunted, Laszlo pledges to take Baby Colin out on the vampire nightclub circuit, copies of his new double CD in hand—a plan that gets wrecked almost immediately when another growth spurt hits, transforming Baby Colin into squeaky-voiced, acne-ridden, Papa Roach-loving Adolescent Colin.
It had to happen eventually, of course (if for no other reason than that all of those tuxedo’d child actors the show has been CGI-ing Mark Proksch’s head onto all season couldn’t have been cheap). Outside of a few easy surly teenager gags, and the end of his musical career, we don’t get much of a sense of what this’ll mean for Colin, or his relationship with Laszlo, as we head into next week’s season finale. (Although we do get a long list of successful vampire musical acts from Laszlo, which might ultimately be more satisfying, depending on your taste for Matt Berry saying very silly things.) It also underlines tonight’s sense that a boom age is winding to a close.
See also: Things back at Nadja’s, where brief efforts to bring in new child actors, or, barring that, replace them with an erotic vampire circus with some apparently serious booking issues, all come to naught. Not even the much-mentioned Blade-style blood sprinklers can save the day, and the only person who leaves happy from the nightclub’s debacle is undead clown Gustave Leroy (Michael McDonald), who cheerfully proclaims “Wasn’t that amazing? I’ve never lasted that long!” after managing 20 whole seconds of on-stage auto-fellatio for the swiftly enraged crowd.
And with that allusion to self-love, we turn back to our A-plot tonight, as Guillermo’s much-hinted at British boyfriend Freddie (Al Roberts) finally comes to visit—only to immediately find himself wrapped up in the bizarre web of jealousy, affection, and vampire-familiar bullshit that exists between Guillermo and his master/friend/bodyguardee/etc. But rather than lurk in the discomfort like some slow-burn relationship drama, What We Do In The Shadows does what it does best: blows out the whole situation to absurd proportions almost immediately by having Nandor uses one of his last djinn wishes to transform his “beloved” Marwa (Parisa Fakhri) into an exact copy of Freddie so that he can have one, too.
It’s a perfect Nandor move: the final punchline of his season-long treatment of Marwa as nothing more than an extension of his own selfish desires and his unending but unspoken need to be at the center of Guillermo’s world at all times and (if you really squint) a somewhat sweet expression of his affection for him. (After all, he could have just taken the real Freddie. But that would have been wrong!) It also opens up the door for a truly bizarre game of Charades, and a couple of great sight gags, once the two Freddies have been hypnosis’d into not being freaked out at the whole thing. (Which apparently ends up working a bit too well, because, well…)
As the titular beau, Roberts hits all the required notes. He’s funny, he’s charming, and he’s just self-obsessed enough to make the episode’s final dose of heartbreak (Guillermo flying to London to surprise his first real boyfriend and discovering that he’s been dumped by Real Freddie for Marwa-Freddie) land. He also plays well with the darker satire of the episode. There is, after all, a certain superficiality to the fact that Freddie’s list of New York musts don’t really change whether he’s with Nandor or Guillermo; in the end, he really does seem to be in it for, uh, himself.
Ultimately, though, “Freddie” turns on Harvey Guillén and Kayvan Novak, who demonstrate once again why this relationship is where What We Do In The Shadows has invested so much of its admittedly sporadic character development energy over the years. The show takes Guillermo’s feelings about his sewage-strewn living situation, his general disrespect from the housemates, and his fruitless quest to become a vampire pretty lightly. But it always takes his feelings about Nandor—and his need for Nandor to see him as more than just an expression of his endless desire to have stuff—seriously. So when Guillermo expresses to Nandor that he’s genuinely hurt him, it hits. So does Novak’s reaction; he’s always been good at projecting a childlike innocence that endlessly threatens to leak through Nandor’s haughty self-regard, and the moment when his face opens up as he realizes he’s really hurt his best friend rings true.
So: busted nightclub, heartbroken hero, terrifying teenager. We’re clearly at the all-is-lost moment of the season. The only thing left to do is tune in next week, and see if “Sunrise, Sunset” can grant our main characters a dose of the same happiness we see tonight from the guy dating his own magically created clone, or the hyper-flexible clown. Fingers crossed!
- I rolled my eyes a bit at the celebrity cameos from Coppola, Mars, and Jim Jarmusch, but the reveal of the “Celebrity Special” got the first big laugh of the night out of me. “Surely they won’t kill them” I caught myself thinking, foolishly—right before Coppola’s head came off.
- Call Me Colin contains a number of Laszlo Cravensworth originals (as seen way back in “Collaboration”), including “Kokomo, Seafarer’s Song” and “Cum On Irene.” (It was “Chum On, Irene” back in season 2; I’m noting this mostly so people won’t yell at me if they fix or change it between my review screener and the broadcast version.)
- I’ll miss Fakhri, who really made the most of Marwa’s magically-induced blandness. (Or, as Nandor puts it: “Fuck, she’s boring.”)
- Laszlo lists the great vampire musical acts: “Gloria Estefang. Bloody Holly. Bat Stevens. Batboy Slim. Paul And Throates. Tame Impaler. The Undead Kennedys.”
- “Rest in peace, Sofia Copp...opola.”
- Highlights from the child act auditions include the spelling bee kid who is repped by “Grandpa and Grandma” and who gets Nadja to loudly declare, “Your bullies are not doing a good enough job!”
- Nadja singing about a large bird “stealing all my brothers” once is funny; twice is magical. “I realized that the egg was me!”
- Nandor, when Guillermo lays it all out for him: “Stop saying things that I have done!”
- The reveal of the identifying signs on the back of both Freddies killed me.
- Nandor, after releasing his Freddie (who he decides not to turn back into Marwa, because “she seems happier this way”) to see the world: “I suppose I am the one who is now granting a wish…. Fucking sucks.”
- Laszlo bursts back into Nadja’s with a foolproof plan to save the club: “I’ve heard of this amazing clown who can suck himself dry!”
- “Impaler Swift. Bruno Scars. Lindsay Suckingham. Bonnie Wraith. Wraith Hill. Wraith Evans. Billy Wraith Cyrus. Wraith No More. Wraith Charles. I could go on.” God, this must be a fun writers’ room.