It’s a rare sight to see a show grow into something more spectacular with each season. But then, there are few shows like What We Do In The Shadows (★★★★☆), FX’s vampire mockumentary based on the 2014 film of the same name from Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi. Over five seasons, Shadows has evolved into itself while embracing the weirdness that made it worth watching in the first place. Seventeen Emmy nominations later, season five arrives as one of the goofiest shows on television while getting even better (and queerer), even if there are some bumps in the road.
Picking up a couple of weeks after the last season’s finale, the main question on our minds is what happened to Guillermo (Harvey Guillén), the group’s familiar who may have taken being sired into a vampire into their own hands. The only one who notices (or cares) that something is different with Guillermo is Lazlo (Matt Berry), the self-proclaimed “king of bottoms” who notices that their normally calm familiar is acting weird.
His master, Nandor the Relentless (Kayvan Novak) notices nothing different, nor does Nadja of Antipaxos (Natasia Demetriou), with the latter trying to fix her doll, animated by a piece of her soul, after its legs were accidentally crushed in a blood liquor incident. Meanwhile, Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch) is back to his old energy-draining self, this time making people’s lives hell as a restaurant server.
Uncharacteristically, the new season starts on a somewhat bumpy foot, with the “is Guillermo a vampire now” storyline making the cast go in circles with the same jokes. While the season opener lets you know right away what this season is about, it comes at the cost of the episode itself, which ultimately feels like filler. The drawn-out story has an interesting conclusion but doesn’t come with a lot of laughs. When the vampires inform Guillermo about the taboo of getting turned into a vampire by someone other than your master, it not only feels redundant, but lazy. Luckily, things don’t stay this way.
The second episode improves with the reintroduction of The Guide (a wonderful Kristen Schaal). When she helps Nadja remove a hex placed upon her, we get some stellar humor from the two as they travel to Little Antipaxos on Staten Island, where Nadja relives her past and even sees a painting of the beach she “tried to lose [her] virginity on so many times.”
The episode also serves as a continuation of the previous season’s storyline that sees Nandor and Lazlo reconnect, showing that when the plot is moving forward, the cast can really excel. The series shines best when it takes a concept and runs with it fully, such as Colin Robinson’s run for city comptroller. He and his former flame Evie (Vanessa Bayer) attract the attention of the energy vampire council, leading to a gut-wrenchingly hilarious interrogation involving some amazing guest stars and a seemingly endless slideshow.
By the third and fourth episodes, things really get going, with the early standout being “Pride Parade,” all about how their neighbor Sean (Anthony Atamanuik), also running for comptroller, wants to win over the gays with a parade. Lazlo excitedly accepts and makes himself the grand marshall, proclaiming he is worthy because he speaks “14 languages, as long as they are all English.”
The episode highlights how the series consistently uses queerness to everyone’s benefit. The cast lets no one’s gender impede their hedonistic goals, while also treating it as an everyday thing. The show’s queerness is far and away among the most underrated on television, and that Shadows still hasn’t dominated the Emmys feels like a hate crime.
Fans of What We Do in the Shadows will be thrilled that everything they love is back. The music and settings are all appropriately gaudy, while the special effects remain some of the best in a comedy fantasy series. The writing and acting are pitch perfect, with the multiple jokes a minute making rewatch viewing easy and enjoyable. Whether the vampires are going to space, discovering the mall, or simply having dinner, What We Do in the Shadows is endlessly watchable comedy excellence.
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