Today is an exciting day, dear readers! In just a few hours, the second season of FX’s What We Do in the Shadows series kicks off, and honestly, it could not have come at a better time, because this writer could definitely use a pick me up right now. I was a bit skeptical going into the first season of WWDITS, because the film version is truly one of my go-to happy place movies and I absolutely adore those characters with every fiber of my being, so I wasn’t sure if I was going to connect with a new batch of vampires living together.
Boy, was I wrong.
The WWDITS series quickly endeared itself to me, as I knew I liked it after the first episode, but by episode 2, I was completely smitten with Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), Laszlo (Matt Berry), Nandor (Kayvan Novak), and his human familiar Guillermo (Harvey Guillén, who I believe is the breakout character in the series). And even “Energy Vampire” Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch) grew on me as well. Somehow, creators Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi were able to capture lightning in a bottle twice, with WWDITS becoming one of my very favorite genre shows of the last decade.
And with the arrival of season 2, I thought the timing was perfect to celebrate five of my favorite moments from the inaugural season of What We Do in the Shadows. Just a quick warning, though—there are definitely spoilers here, so if you haven’t watched season 1, definitely proceed with caution if you’re someone who is concerned with spoilers.
Be sure to check out the season 2 premiere episode of What We Do in the Shadows tonight on FX at 10:00pm EST (it hits Hulu tomorrow).
5. Guillermo’s DNA Test Reveal: In the season 1 finale, Nandor is feeling blue once he discovers his homeland no longer exists. It’s up to his familiar Guillermo to cheer up his master, and he decides to do so by sending in their DNA to an Ancestry service so that Nandor could see how lineage has lived on over the centuries. The test reveals that Nandor has over 200,000 descendants due to the fact that at one point, he had 37 wives. This leads Nandor to discover that he has an extremely elderly great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great granddaughter living not too far away, which was a nice way to humanize Nandor. That is, until he frightens the 94-year-old woman, and causes her to have a fatal heart attack. Oops!
But the really big moment in the “Ancestry” episode was the reveal that Guillermo is actually a descendant of Van Helsing—who was, of course, the mortal enemy of vampires and other supernatural creatures. And this revelation has huge potential for changing up a lot of the dynamics within the show, especially with Guillermo in particular, who has spent the last 10 years serving Nandor in hopes of being turned into a vampire. During most of season 1, we watched as Guillermo struggled with his frustration over his master being very dismissive towards his desire to become a creature of the night (Guillermo laments at one point in “Ancestry” that he had hoped to be Armond from Interview with the Vampire by now, and it was looking more likely that he’d end up a Renfield instead).
While I love all the characters on WWDITS, it’s Guillén’s character that has become the emotional lynchpin to this series, and I’m really excited to see just how his lineage will play out in season 2.
4. Jenna Discovers Her Vampire Powers: The relationship that blossoms between Nadja and the co-ed baby vampire that she sired, Jenna (played by the subtly hilarious Beanie Feldstein), culminates in a really sweet way during the “Citizenship” episode, and I think the dynamic shared between these women adds a lot of heart to the WWDITS series. The reason Nadja decides to turn Jenna in the first place is because of how horrible everyone is to her, but as it turns out, even after she becomes a bloodsucker herself, Jenna still can’t seem to make any sort of impression on her fellow classmates, and she’s not exactly settling into her new existence very easily, either (at one point Nadja calls Jenna a “sickly donkey” as she observes the newly turned vamp awkwardly feeding on small animals in the park).
Usually, Nadja has a low tolerance for the shortcomings of others, but with Jenna, there’s a sense of pride that we see as she does her best to show her “stupid baby vampire” how to function as a creature of the night. Nadja takes Jenna to a frat party so that she can feed on human blood for the first time, and that’s where Jenna’s frustrations at being ignored end up manifesting her special vampire power—invisibility, which is just perfect—and once Jenna realizes what she can do, it gives her the confidence to feed, completing her transformation into a full-fledged vampire. Ultimately, this episode is a great turning point for Feldstein’s character, but there are some really excellent female empowerment moments sprinkled in there that I couldn’t help but thoroughly enjoy.
3. An Emotional Vampire Romance: One of the best new additions to the lore in the WWDITS series is Mark Proksch as Colin Robinson, an “Energy Vampire,” which is an entity who feeds off the boredom and malaise of those he engages with verbally. Proksch’s dry delivery style is perfect for this type of vampire, but in the episode “Werewolf Feud,” Colin meets his match at work when a new woman named Evie (Vanessa Bayer) arrives, and he discovers that she’s an “Emotional Vampire” who thrives whenever she can unload her overwrought dramatics on anyone who will listen.
At first, they clash as they compete to drain their co-workers of their vigor and spirit, but they quickly realize it would be far more fun to start dating so that they can team up and go around zapping others of their vitality. Honestly, if you’ve ever worked in an office environment, this peek into Colin’s daytime professional activities is so spot on, and I know I’ve worked with a few Colin and Evies along the way (and admittedly, I feel lately like I’ve been a bit of an Emotional Vampire on social media, too). Bayer’s performance in this episode is fantastic, too, and I wish we had gotten more of Evie before Colin decided it was best for everyone if they broke up, and went back to sucking everyone’s life forces separately.
But of course, Evie has to get a few last tastes of Colin’s energy before they bid their final farewell, and it was a lot of fun to see the tables turned on Proksch’s character in this episode, allowing Colin a bit of a breakout moment as well.
2. Hitting the Town with the Baron: When Baron Afanas (played by Doug Jones) shows up, it totally stresses out Nandor, Nadja, and Laszlo, as he’s usually something of a hard-ass who is primarily focused on enslaving the human race. The gang initially “floats” the idea of killing the Baron, but when he wakes up after his arrival, it turns out that all the Baron wants to do is get a taste of Staten Island’s nightlife.
He insists that his trio of hosts take him out to experience all the best that modern life has to offer, and everything starts off innocently enough. They hit up all sorts of hot spots: a convenience store where the Baron finds a special totem (basically, a squeezy toy), a local bar where they decide to do some shots (which involves levitating a human upside down in the bathroom), they do some late-night karaoke and go dancing at a rave where they all get wasted on “Drug Blood,” leaving everyone totally high and out of their minds. Once they arrive back home as the sun is beginning to rise, the shenanigans don’t stop. And as the Baron accidentally falls down the stairs, Guillermo arrives, and the rays from the sun instantly toast the Baron, and vampicide is definitely a big no-no in the vampire world.
Despite its shocking conclusion, “Baron’s Night Out” is a fantastically fun time and is a wonderful showcase for Doug Jones in particular, who is downright hysterical from start to finish (when the Baron reveals he has no genitals, I laughed so hard I cried) and it directly leads into my favorite moment of this first season to boot.
1. The Vampire Council Trial: Look, I’ve experienced many, many hours of genre television over my many years but nothing, and I mean nothing, has ever filled me with such a geeky sense of glee than the “The Trial” episode of WWDITS. After the Baron’s untimely demise, Nandor, Laszlo, and Nadja are summoned by a wonderfully over-the-top Kristen Schaal, who informs them that they must appear before the Vampire Council to be tried for Baron’s death.
When they arrive at the Temple of Blood-Devourers, Nadja, Laszlo, and Nandor first plead their case to Vasilika the Defiler (Alexandra Henrikson) and Garrett—just Garrett (Dave Bautista)—who are sympathetic, but the trio still have to appear before the actual Vampire Council, which is comprised of a “Who’s Who” of notable fictional vampires, led by Tilda Swinton. Other members include the original vamps from the What We Do in the Shadows movie—Viago (Taika Waititi), Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), and Vladislav the Poker (Jemaine Clement)—as well as Danny Trejo, Evan Rachel Wood, and Wesley Snipes, who Skypes in for the trial. Oh, and Colin Robinson is part of the whole thing, too. We also get a few references to some other notable cinematic vamp actors: Rob Pattinson, Kiefer Sutherland, Tom Cruise, and Brad Pitt.
The trio end up being found guilty, even though Guillermo tries to tell the council it was him who accidentally fried the Baron, but no one believes the meek familiar could possibly do something like that, so Laszlo, Nandor, and Nadja are sentenced to death by sunlight, and are left in a well, awaiting their cruel fate (à la Interview with the Vampire). Colin and Guillermo intervene thankfully, and the trio are rescued and brought home so that they can continue to enjoy their eternal lives in peace.
But as a whole, “The Trial” episode is not only a watershed moment for season 1 of WWDITS, but it’s also a ridiculously fun celebration of modern movie vampires, and as a lifelong genre fan, that filled me total and complete joy. While every episode of What We Do in the Shadows is endlessly watchable, “The Trial” is the one that I’ve revisited the most over the last year.