“What We Do in the Shadows” makes the old feel new again in season 4

The logo for "What We Do in the Shadows" (2019–) is pictured. Via Wikimedia Commons
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As far as comedies go, nothing on television right now is as creative as “What We Do in the Shadows” (2019–). Although the show treads familiar territory in season 4, it’s still a joy to watch as the characters we know and love are sent in new directions.

Based on Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement’s 2014 film of the same name, “What We Do in the Shadows” tells the story of four vampire roommates and their human familiar living together in a Staten Island mansion. The FX series is presented mockumentary-style as a film crew documents the day-to-day (or night-to-night?) lives of vampires Nandor (Kayvan Novak), Laszlo (Matt Berry), Nadja (Natasia Demetriou) and Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch). Guillermo (Harvey Guillén) plays an equally important role as their familiar-turned-bodyguard, providing a human perspective on the vampires’ lives.

After going their separate ways in the cliffhanger season 3 finale, the main characters are conveniently reunited a year later at the start of season 4. Although last season’s ending saw the characters in different parts of the world, it’s clear that the writers were eager to bring them back together. This season, Nandor, the group’s self-proclaimed leader, searches for a bride, using a djinn in a genie lamp to resurrect his dead wives from centuries past. Meanwhile, Nadja opens up a nightclub for vampires with help from the Guide, played by the effortlessly funny Kristen Schaal.

However, the season’s best moments come from Laszlo and “Baby Colin.” After Colin’s death at the end of season 3, he is reincarnated as a baby, whom Laszlo decides to raise as his own child. Because the rules of aging don’t apply to vampires, viewers have the joy of watching Laszlo go through all the stages of parenthood in a matter of weeks as Baby Colin grows rapidly from a newborn to an adult. Baby Colin is the perfect change of pace, a fresh take on a familiar character and he lets us see a new side of Laszlo, who seeks to turn this version of Colin into someone different.

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Guillermo gets sidelined early on in the season, forced to attend to his vampire masters without getting much to do himself. He gets a few moments to shine in later episodes, including one where his vampire-hunter family visits the mansion and another where he introduces the vampires to his boyfriend, Freddie. Guillén continues to give a strong performance as Guillermo, who is torn between his vampire masters and the human world.  

The series defies categorization, pulling from classic sitcom tropes as well as the sci-fi and horror genres. In a world where vampires, werewolves and wraiths live alongside humans, the opportunities for comedy are endless. The show’s strengths are highlighted in one of the season’s best episodes, where the vampires meet with the headmaster of a private school in hopes of enrolling Baby Colin. When their interview is unsuccessful, they are forced to repeatedly use hypnosis on the headmaster and start the conversation over again. In another episode, Laszlo, Nandor and Baby Colin get a taste of human life on a “guys’ weekend” in New Jersey with their neighbor, Sean, who remains blissfully unaware of their true identities.

One reason for the show’s staying power is the strength of its characters, which is a testament to both the cast and the writing team. Nandor, Laszlo and Nadja could have easily been over-the-top caricatures, but instead they are fully fleshed out characters with clear motivations and compelling personalities. That’s not to say that the show isn’t lighthearted — the actors are effortlessly funny, whether it’s Nandor’s one-liners, Nadja’s singing or Laszlo’s constant sexual innuendos. The scripts are full of running gags that reward viewers for coming back to watch every week. And the show isn’t all just laughs: season 4 also features frank discussions about sexuality, relationships and what it means to be a family.

The interior of the vampires’ house, a centuries-old mansion filled with relics from their pasts, is an impressive feat of production design. The intricate set is highlighted in another standout episode where the house is featured on Laszlo’s favorite home renovation show, a parody of “Property Brothers” (2011–2019). Despite the chaos that ensues throughout the season, everything is wrapped up nicely in the final episode, ending with an exciting reveal that suggests we may be seeing more of Guillermo next year. “What We Do in the Shadows” was renewed for two more seasons earlier this year, proving that just like the vampires themselves, the show never gets old.

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Summary

"What We Do in the Shadows" is still a joy to watch in its fourth season, blending comedy and horror to create a uniquely funny series with a top-notch cast of characters.

4.5 stars
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