With great power comes great responsibility, unless you’re a vampire in “What We Do in the Shadows.” There, in the recesses of Staten Island, great power bears great fruit irresponsibility, great arrogance and a great deal of crazy schemes involving body swapping, spaceflight and sunburn. “He Only Lives Once,” Lazslo (Matt Berry) says in Season 5, Episode 3 – and while he’s not wrong, he’s risking centuries of his life.
In “Pride Parade,” written by Jake Bender and Zach Dunn and directed by Yana Gorskaya, vampires become local heroes in Sean’s (Anthony Atamanuik) campaign for controller and the linchpin of his LGBTQ-voting candidacy. In typical “WWDITS” fashion, everyone raves about the attention, only to set the event aside with their own personal chaos until the episode ends.
Now aware of Guillermo’s latent vampirism, Laszlo chooses not to kill Guillermo or turn him over to Nandor (Kayvan Novak), but instead use him as a guinea pig (Gizmo pig?) to test what he really knows about vampires. Far from vengeful and bloodthirsty, it would seem that Lazslo is all for it. As IndieWire’s Ben Travers noted in his review of the season, Laszlo pairs well with pretty much anyone on this show, betraying that beneath his cocky exterior hides an unspeakable depth of compassion. The vampire tests distract Guillermo from his unnerving fate (both as a familiar and as a being between life states) and feature a thick montage of hilarious gags (“Take off your clothes, fucking ahoy, and get in the race car. I need three liters of your sweat for science”).
As is always the case with Guillermo, Nandor doesn’t care until he does. Having unexpectedly loved his familiar over the years, he hates watching Laszlo take him away for science. In any other sitcom, the point would be that Nandor is jealous, denying it and acting out to get Guillermo’s attention. In “What We Do in the Shadows,” Nandor admits her feelings directly to the camera, then takes it to the next level by flying through space and looking outrageously comical in GoPro footage. Berry may be on his MVP race, but Novak gives him a hard time with powerful one-liners throughout the episode, from his abject bloodlust in the open (“Identify your opponents then slaughter them in their sleep!”) to his ongoing feud with a bird (“I’m not talking to Matthew right now”).
Not to be outdone in risk or sex, Nadja (Natasha Demetrious) and her doll decide to switch bodies. Now I would like to confess my personal eternal love for the doll with the spirit of the deceased human Nadja who inhabits it. I’ve loved her since her debut in season 2, and I’m happy to see that, based on her major appearance on the show, I’m not alone (it also helps that season 5 doesn’t worry about the financial and logistical cost of grafting Mark Proksch’s head onto the bodies of dancing children). I’m 100% on the doll’s side when it comes to how vampire Nadja treated her, and I support her urge to even the score by spending a day in Nadja’s body for carnal pleasure.
But I digress.
Demetriou makes the best possible meal of opportunities for physical comedy – which he already excels at – by falling on his limbs and obscenely flirting at the restaurant (he also does a killer Colin Robinson impression). The decision for doll-in-vampire-Nadja’s-body to have sex with Colin Robinson (Proksch) couldn’t be more perfect, and not just because she repays the moment in episode 1 when she apparently inspected her butt (was it consensual?!). These two have rarely paired together throughout the series — Nadja quickly makes it clear they’re not friends — but their twisted hijinks feel as natural as any other combination in the episode.
“Pride Parade” puts all vampires in situations that could actually kill them – or worse. Laszlo enters the sun, Nadja separates from his body, and Nandor exits Earth’s atmosphere (vampire flesh isn’t built for that environment, even if you don’t need oxygen), and none of them (heh) keep tabs on the risk. The episode features various myths and truths about vampires — they need to count spilled grains of rice, maybe they shouldn’t lose socks or shoes in a river — but what the Staten Island crew has in common in this installment is that no matter how long they’ve lived, they’re completely at peace with not existing anymore — or maybe they were too caught up in their narcissism to think that far.
“What We Do in the Shadows” airs Thursdays at 10pm on FX and Fridays on Hulu.