Since its premiere in 2019, What We Do in the Shadows has featured one major goal for its human character – become a vampire. That’s the reason Guillermo (Harvey Guillén) sometimes referred to as Gizmo gave his entire life up to move in with 3 traditional vampires and one energy vampire in a centuries old house in Staten Island. And for 4 seasons, achieving the end game goal of becoming a vampire has always come second to whatever shenanigans the vampires get into. Whether its opening a nightclub or renovating their home on television or becoming heads of the Staten Island chapter of the Vampiric Counsel, Guillermo’s wants and needs always come as an afterthought.
However, season 5 starts with Guillermo gathering his housemates Laszlo (Matt Berry), Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch) and master Nandor (Kayvan Novak) to announce something. This of course comes on the heels of Laszlo proclaiming Gizmo has been acting odd lately. But whatever Guillermo wants to get off his chest is immediately interrupted by the group in typical comedic fashion that only spirals out of control with distractions. Cut to a talking head of Guillermo in which we hear the producer of the mocumentary ask Guillermo about a particular night that Guillermo visits his friend and asks him to turn him into a vampire.
Guillermo’s strange behavior leads Nandor to believe that the group has simply forgotten his birthday – that’s on them. Titled The Mall, Nandor, Nadja, Nadja’s doll, and Laszlo treat Guillermo to a dinner at a steakhouse where Colin Robinson works since maturing and rejoining the workforce to suck the energy out of unsuspecting patrons. Who hasn’t experienced an over baring, annoying server who can’t take a hint? That’s exactly the type of waiter Colin Robinson has become, taking the intrusiveness a step further.
Easily the best interaction is during couple who are clearly breaking up and Colin interrupts to top off their water. Classic energy vampire.
Like it has always done – intercut with the main plotline of the story comes talking heads. A first for the series that blurs the lines between the documentary staff and its subject matter. The Office did the same in their final season leading up to the premiere of the documentary about a Pennsylvania paper company. During these talking heads, featuring mostly Guillermo recounting the night that could change the course of the series going forward – we get a first-hand account of what happened. The comedy of it all never taking a break.
5 seasons in and the sharp, intelligent writing is at an all-time high coming from indifference, naïve understandings of the human world and self-absorbed behavior. One example that standout the most in episode 1 comes during a cut away scene. Nandor is sporting his “Dream Team” jersey (great call back to season 1) and trips down the steps at a basketball game. Thinking everyone saw him, Nandor runs out on the court and hypnotizes the entire arena. When in reality, no one saw him trip except for Guillermo.
In the 2-episode premiere, episode 2 titled A Night Out with the Guys, continues the main plot that follows Guillermo’s journey as well as the subplot of too much hypnosis among others. The main draw focuses on exactly what title says. Both Nandor and Laszlo get invited by everyone’s favorite Superb Owl host and neighbor Sean (Anthony Atamanuik) to a wine bar. One thing leads to another hilarious situation that sees the only solution involving hypnosis.
Since the boys are gone, Guillermo is inquiring about his transformation, Nadja, The Guide (Kristen Schaal) and Colin Robinson discover ‘Little Antipaxos’ in the heart of the island, just blocks away from the house. This leads to a moment in which Nadja nibbles on a kebob only to violently throw up since vampires cannot consume human food or beverages.
Still, it was worth the taste of her home.
While there are plenty of jokes, crude behavior and sexual innuendo to burst out laughing to, What We Do in the Shadows features more sincere moments. Some that come unexpectedly when we need them the most.
In particular, the ending of The Mall or as Nadja pronounces it, the Marwl. A place that Nandor thought was the creation by an evil child. But the end of the episode comes back at the house after Nandor goes to sleep and gifting Guillermo the footlocker he was going to buy on his fake birthday. It’s a line that can only be given by Guillermo but resonates far beyond the half our runtime of the episode. In this moment Guillermo has given up – he’s tired of giving 200% to a master that rarely gives his familiar any credit and over promises and neglects Guillermo’s wishes.
It’s a line that will stick with you, that relates to the modern world and perfectly encapsulates several toxic relationships we all succumb to on a daily basis. And Harvey Guillén delivers the line the only way he can. As much as Nandor, Laszlo and Nadja claim to be the leader of this unorthodox group, its Guillermo keeping the ship from sinking or keeping the mundane world from realizing they have been infested by vampires.
Season 5 gets off to a hot start, picking up on threads from the previous season and doubles down on it. Performances by the main cast all deliver and the comedic timing by the 6 of them is on par with some of the best in the genre. The fangs are as sharp as ever with the gimmick showing no signs of being dulled anytime soon or played out. Getting an exclusive peek into these vampires lives is further proof that the mockumentary genre of comedy works if the subject matter is truly entertaining. What We Do in the Shadows remains to be a one-of-a-kind entertaining watch with a ton of heart and charm beneath its centuries old clothing and ideologies.
Created By: Jemaine Clement
Episodes Directed By: Yana Gorskaya & Kyle Newacheck
Music By: Mark Mothersbaugh
Cinematography: David A. Makin & Kim Derko
Starring: Kayvan Novak, Matt Berry, Natasia Demetriou, Harvey Guillén, Mark Proksch, Kristen Schaal
Where to Watch: Hulu
Release Date: July 13, 2023
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%
Based On: What We Do in the Shadows by Jemanie Clement & Taika Waititi