‘What We Do in the Shadows’ Season 2 Puts an Even Better Spin on the Hassles of Vampire Life
In FX’s “What We Do in the Shadows,” maintaining a vampire home is as hard as living with five roommates in any major American city. It’s a bit more fun because instead of jerk landlords you’re dealing with fanged assassins, annoying ghosts and interns who tend to turn into zombies. This is the second season of this hilariously good show, originally based on a 2014 Taika Waititi-directed mockumentary about life as a one of the children of the night. Because the concept lends itself so easily to television it transitions easily into a new season with just as many great laughs.
And so we return to the gothic, yet messy Staten Island dwellings of an elegant gang of ancient vampires composed of Nandor (Kayvan Novak), Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), her passionate aristocratic husband Laszlo (Matt Berry), and Colin (Mark Proksch), still gifted with the mere power of boring you to death with mundane chatter. Their “familiar” Guillermo (Harvey Guillén) still does their bidding, hoping to one day have his Latinx nerdy self be turned into a vampire. Unbeknown to the group, Guillermo has been secretly killing off gangs of vampire assassins, who are bald, fanged creatures sent to kill this particular group after leaving a prestigious vampire clan. Guillermo also harbors a terrible secret: He is by blood a descendent of the legendary vampire hunter Van Helsing! For now he’s more worried about a new familiar that’s been brought in, a cocky guy named Topher (Haley Joel Osment) valued for knowing how to use Microsoft Excel. When Topher is accidentally killed in despair the vampires take him to a “necromancer,” Wallace (Benedict Wong) who turns the obsessive high-fiver into a zombie. And that’s just one problem this blood-chugging troupe face on a weekly basis.
The charm of “What We Do in the Shadows” is how it works as vampire satire by taking itself quite seriously. Following this gang around is the equivalent of a gothic-supernatural “Shahs of Sunset.” But instead of simply repeating the formula or storylines that worked so well last season, the characters are expanded and made even more entertaining. Guillermo is still the typical assistant who gets nowhere, all the while enduring his bosses’ abuses, but now he has a secret to keep. He’s caught in the dilemma of defending his masters but unable to tell them how. The appearance of Haley Joel Osment is a gut-busting new addition. He impressively switches from bragging intern boasting about his half-ownership of a cider business to becoming a snarling, stinky zombie. Like all great satire “What We Do in the Shadows” takes something familiar and enhances it to an extreme degree. Guillermo’s feud with Topher is the equivalent of a longtime office worker feeling threatened by the new guy everyone likes. The vampires blame Guillermo for everything, but don’t mind zombified, resurrected Topher trying to chew on someone’s leg. Wallace the necromancer runs a classic Ponzi scheme, bringing back the dead in a defective manner but offering you a free license plate keychain for compensation. Nando becomes particularly obsessed with a key chain with the name “Steve.”
Dark humor is one of the hardest forms of comedy to pull off. This show does it exceedingly well because it’s not too excessive and delivered with a straight face. Notice Kayvan Novak’s masterful performance as he stands over the body of someone he’s attempting to drown, he plays it like someone getting rid of a mere pest. When a ghost begins haunting the house in the second episode of the season, it turns out to be a human lover of Nadja’s who Laszlo took care of with a beheading. A séance to get rid of the entity conjures other spirits who need to conclude final missions before finding eternal rest. One ghost needs to have a final orgasm. All of this works brilliantly because the cast is fantastic. The Transylvania accents, swooning capes and fanged smiles are all done with a combo of Dracula-style theatrics and the feeling of quirky roommates. They duel with spirits but need someone to help them out with email.
In this age of quarantine here’s a group worth observing in their own home life. “What We Do in the Shadows” boasts baroque production design, hilarious performances and witty writing, not to mention a great use of music beginning with the theme song, Norma Tanega’s “You’re Dead.” However the best reason to see it is because it’s just so much fun to watch. In a brilliant way we can relate to these vampires, particularly when the world is suddenly feeling very weird.
“What We Do in the Shadows” season two premieres April 15 and airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on FX.