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What We Do in the Shadows Maintains Hysterical Bite in Fifth Season

The fangs of the offbeat, quirky, and queer vampires of Staten Island—Nandor (Kayvan Novak), Laszlo (Matt Berry), Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), and Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch)—and human familiar (or so we think) Guillermo (Harvey Guillén) are still sharp as ever. Five seasons deep into "What We Do in the Shadows," these buoyant batty vamps might return to their bare selves this time, but their wittiness remains. Sorry, Pete Davidson, they're the real kings and queens of Staten Island.

The last time we saw the crew, the household's status quo reverted to normal: Nadja's vampire club business venture, "Nadjas," burnt down; Baby Colin grew into his original dull energy-sucking self; and Nandor is single again following Marwa's (Parisa Fakhri) departure. Frustrated and disillusioned, Guillermo claims, "Nothing in this house changes. Nothing's ever going to change unless I change it." And so he puts matters into his own hands. He goes to his convenience store-working vampire friend Derek (Chris Sandiford) with a handbag full of money he stole from Nadjas before the fire and pays him to turn him into a vampire.

At the top of the fifth season's premiere episode, "The Mall"—where you guessed it, the vampires go to the mall for the first time and get into wacky hijinks, something that's hard to believe hasn't happened yet—Guillermo does the deed but the stakes (pun intended) are dire and unexpected.

A few weeks following the incident—framed hilariously in signature gory/quirky fashion—Guillermo's behavior changes around the house. He's slightly more aggressive and confident but tries to keep his secret confidential. Bothered that the vampires have been more careless in keeping their identity hidden than usual, Nandor suspects his attitude is due to them forgetting his birthday. Laszlo, meanwhile, presumes something else. At a birthday dinner, the vamps reveal that to be turned by another is the highest dishonor a master can have. And, of course, like most things ever established in the series' Vampiric rubric, the consequence is death.

“WWDITS”’s latest season comes alive with Guillermo's predicament. Interwoven cleverly as B-plots in each episode, the former vampire slayer's long-anticipated transformation journey offers some of the show's best horror-comedy work yet. The writing team has always had an "anything goes" approach to rule-setting and worldbuilding. Still, they raise the stakes here with Guillermo's process, which takes longer than usual compared to other vampire peers, leading to great gut-busting body horror. 

As briefly shown in the season's trailer (so it's not a spoiler), Laszlo soon gets involved in Guillermo's plight, surprisingly offering a fun, enticing character-clashing dynamic between them. While character growth for these literal ageless vampires is negligible to nonexistent—like the other FXX ensemble in the "It's Always Sunny" crew—it's always heartening to witness the characters show some care when push comes to shove. Plus, it gives Laszlo a new activity following his fatherhood era with Baby Colin cut short. 

Even though things in the house "never change," Season Five significantly shifts the camaraderie with Kristen Schaal's promotion to a series regular. Schaal's presence as The Guide has been a delight since her first guest star appearance in Season One. In Season Four, she became vital to Nadja's business venture, where the two got close (or at least the Guide thinks). Still subservient to the vampire crew, who are negligent to their vampiric council position, she's simply crashing at the house, desperate to be Nadja's best friend. Schaal isn't forced into the main crew; she's just part of the fun full-time. While she doesn't have as much agency as in Season Four, seeing her is still a joy. Besides, who doesn't love Kristen Schaal? This critic fist pumped in the air with glee once they saw her credit during the updated intro. 

In the four episodes screened for review, this comedy remains one of TV's funniest ongoing shows. Arguably less story-driven than in the previous season, “WWDITS'” returns to its primary roots with episodic raunchy, supernatural kookiness. With plots centering on the vampires going to the mall for the first time, taking part in a Staten Island pride parade—which has bi-king Laszlo in glee—Colin Robinson running for council, or Nadja Doll having her "Barbie Girl" moment, the show's writing staff never loses sight of the silliness and charm that has made the show a biting winner since its debut.  

Four episodes were screened for review. "What We Do in the Shadows" premieres on July 12th on FX on Hulu.

Rendy Jones

Rendy Jones (they/he) is a film and television journalist born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. They are the owner of self-published independent outlet Rendy Reviews, a member of the Critics' Choice Association, GALECA, and a part time stand-up comedian.

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