Fri. Jul 3rd, 2020

Here’s why ‘What We Do in the Shadows’ deserves Emmy attention

This article contains mild spoilers to What We Do in the Shadows.

The film was there first. Written and directed by Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement, What We Do in the Shadows told the story of three vampire flatmates – Viago (Taika Waititi), Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), and Vladislav (Jemaine Clement). In the style of The Office or Parks and Recreation, a camera crew follows their lives, nightly quarrels, and bloody (sic!) encounters with werewolves. The film, from 2014, was a hit. Years later, FX Networks, alongside Clement, created the series under the same title. 

The concept is almost the same yet slightly different. This time, we are invited to Staten Island, where four vampires have lived together for a long time. Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), Laszlo (Matt Berry), Nandor (Kayvan Novak), and an energy vampire, Colin (Mark Proksch), don’t differ much from an average Joe. Yes, they need blood to sustain their life, but the conversations they have are very similar to human ones. In one episode, for example, they visit their neighbors for Superb Owl, where Nandor and Laszlo “brain-scramble” one of humans. At the same time, Nadja meets an elderly woman whom she knew when said woman was a child and used to “pin her to the ceiling for hours.” See? Not so much different. 

But what does make What We Do in the Shadows different and possibly much better? There are many components that go into the immense success of the show. One of them is its well-crafted, full-fledged characters. The way the vampires act, talk and behave is presented in a humorous yet intelligent way. The married couple, Nadja and Laszlo, add even more spice to every episode with their snarky, sarcastic banter or Nadja’s eye-roll to the camera whenever her husband does something ridiculous. Next out of the group is Nandor, who paints himself as the legendary Nandor the Relentless, a blood-thirsty vampire who once was an Ottoman warrior. He’s the head of the household who utterly loves calling house meetings – “All secret meetings take place in the fancy room.” Despite the dark past, Nandor is a big softie. He doesn’t even know how to operate the computer and tries to wake it up by waving his hands in front of the machine and saying, “wake!” His loyal familiar, Guillermo (Harvey Guillén), is always at his service. The last of the characters is the most real one, the energy vampire, Colin Robinson. He lives in the basement, goes to work every day, and feeds on the people’s energy. Sounds almost too real. At some point, he even explains that one of the best ways to feed is via the Internet and trolling. With the help of multiple laptops and a variety of fake accounts, he drains people’s energy. 

But one of the characters who deserves standing ovations the most is Guillermo. Nandor’s familiar is a human who desires to be a vampire. For his master to change him, Guillermo needs to serve him and his housemates. While the group often bullies him, he’s the one who saves their asses over and again. As portrayed by Harvey Guillén, he’s a true unsung hero of What We Do in the Shadows, and you cannot change my mind. In season two that is currently in progress, Guillermo’s character development skyrockets. His whole belief system is turned upside-down when faced with a group that’s “fighting the mosquitoes.”  Clumsy yet incredibly smart, Guillermo is delightful. As his character develops, even more so in the second season, we can all experience Guillén’s wide variety of acting skills. 

Although the series’ cast solely carries the well-designed plot, one thing that raises the bar are surprising guest stars appearing in some of the episodes. Do you remember when Evan Rachel Wood was a vampire on True Blood? Well, nothing lost yet, because she graces the small screen yet again with the help of fangs. Another famous cameo is Mark Hamill. Yes, the Mark Hamill. Portraying a vampire, he just wants to drink “normal human beer” and get revenge on Laszlo. While the viewers can experience a lot more well-known faces, I don’t want to reveal too much.  

If the power of the phenomenal cast and legendary cameos aren’t enough, there’s also the meticulously designed costumes by Amanda Neale and the vamps’ gothic dwelling by Kate Bunch, Aleks Cameron and Shayne Fox. You’ll also want to catch all of their lines that almost always deliver a gale of laughter. “Pablo Picasso? More like Pablo Pic-asshole”, Nadja says in one of the episodes where they try to decide what painting they should hang. What makes it even more satisfying is their accent and facial expressions while giving said lines. But to understand the power of the series and fully comprehend the excellence of What We Do in the Shadows, one has to binge-watch the first season, then catch up on the second one. 

Additionally, the series was recently renewed for the third season. If Primetime Emmy Awards actually happen (although I’m not so sure), I believe that What We Do in the Shadows should receive a nomination in multiple categories such as Outstanding Comedy Series, or Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series. In the latter category, one of the latest episodes titled On the Run should appear amongst competitors. Matt Berry and Mark Hamill brought a phenomenal dynamic as two vampire frenemies. Furthermore, for this episode, I would love to see Matt Berry (Laszlo) being nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. Alongside him, there is a chance for Mark Hamill to receive the nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series. And, of course, for her countless eye-rolls and battles with her tv husband, Natasia Demetriou definitely deserves the statue. Harvey Guillén has to appear in the Outstanding Supporting Actor category for his hilarious portrayal of Guillermo.

It may not happen this year, but hopefully, we will see them running for the award. This charmingly absurd series about cutthroat yet naive vampires needs to be celebrated. Just not with blood, please. 

What We Do in the Shadows airs Wednesdays on FX then on Hulu the next day. It was greenlit for a third season this week.

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