This post discusses plot points for “The Portrait,” the third season finale of What We Do In The Shadows.
Colin Robinson is dead—or, at least, the version of him that What We Do In The Shadows fans have grown to love. The energy vampire met his end in season three’s penultimate episode, on his 100th birthday, no less. Colin (Mark Proksch) got his skull accidentally crushed by Nandor (Kayvan Novak)—but he was already on his deathbed, as Laszlo (Matt Berry) revealed to the group that energy vampires die after this milestone birthday.
Proksch tells The A.V. Club that while he stewed for a couple of hours after reading the end of “A Farewell” before getting the finale script, he wasn’t nervous about being written off the show. In fact, the actor was quite confident the creative team wouldn’t kill Colin off just yet. “WWDITS is like a cartoon in how you can figure out many ways to bring someone back to life after killing them, and I knew the writers would do just that.” Boy, did they figure a fun way out.
The finale, “The Portrait,” closes with Laszlo finding a new version of Colin—a baby with Proksch’s head that crawled out of old Colin’s dead body. Laszlo quietly stays back to raise this infant, while wife Nadja (Natasia Demetriou) heads to England to work with the Supreme Vampiric Council with an unwitting Guillermo (Harvey Guillén) in tow. WWDITS executive producer Paul Simms tells The A.V. Club that part of the intention behind Colin’s arc was to pair Proksch with Berry to let their characters form this unlikely friendship.
“It’s satisfying to watch them together because it makes no sense,” Simms says. “Throughout the season, people online kept saying ‘Why is Laszlo being nice to Colin, he would never really put up with him?’ It’s great everyone can see now that a plan was being laid out and the breadcrumbs were all there.” The writers began planting clues about Colin’s fate, and Laszlo’s knowledge of it, all the way back in the season’s second episode, “The Cloak Of Duplication,” when Laszlo tears a page from his energy vampire research book in the background shot.
“The goal is not so much about tricking people, but to lay these hints so when you look back at the season, you can see there’s a reason Laszlo was being there for Colin. For us, it was about creating the surprise,” Simms adds. “My favorite moment this season comes early on, when they’re both starting to bond, and Colin believes he’s doing Laszlo the favor by befriending him. It’s so much fun when you look back at these scenes in retrospect.” Proksch quips that working closely with Berry was enjoyable because of his funny voice.
Episode writer Sam Johnson adds it was also important for them to try and figure out Colin Robinson’s history. “We wanted to know where he comes from, how old he is,” Johnson tells The A.V. Club. “We know for sure the other regular vampires are dead, but what about him? He doesn’t even have a ghost, unlike Nadja, Laszlo, and Nandor.”
Simms says that even WWDITS writers room often debates these questions, but don’t have reasonable answers. “Jemaine Clement [who co-directed, co-wrote, and co-starred in the 2014 What We Do In The Shadows movie with Taika Waititi] came up with the original idea of energy vampires. Most of the vampire stuff is covered in pop culture, but even we don’t know much about this one, so we thought to let Colin question his identity as a story.”
WWDITS successfully avoided killing off a major character, but was there ever a moment when Simms and Johnson thought that Colin should, as the theme song suggests, “stay dead?” They’re both quick to say no. “Colin is a joy to write for. He’s an embodiment of the things we are self-conscious about,” Johnson says, before praising Proksch’s performance and improv skills.
Simms agrees, adding that his favorite line of the entire series comes from the actor at the end of season three’s seventh episode, “The Siren.” Colin turns the radio on to listen to the singing of the siren he’s just escaped from, and turns to the camera to say, “If you guys could give me a minute, I’m going to beat off now.” “It’s such a romantic moment that immediately becomes vulgar and funny,” Simms says. “It’s thanks to the performance and the writing.”
Now that Colin Robinson has returned, what does that mean for season four? Proksch teases that his character is cursed because he can’t ever get close to any human because he’ll end up killing them. “As much as I hate to say this, it makes him a tragic figure.” But will coming back as a baby change that? Simms reveals that the turning point may be being raised by Laszlo, who “sees this opportunity as an interesting experiment of nature vs. nurture, and what he can do to shape Colin into something different than he was before.”
The creators and cast want to ensure that this death has actual value for the other WWDITS characters moving forward: “It needs to have real impact, it can’t just be that Mark is back to being Mark two episodes later,” Simms explains. “So we’re not getting rid of the actor, but maybe the character. It’s the death of Colin Robinson version 1.0, so to speak. The new version is up in the air. Is Colin destined to grow up as an energy vampire again? That’s the fun of season four, which we’re shooting right now.”