With great power comes great responsibility — unless you’re a vampire on “What We Do in the Shadows.” There in the recesses of Staten Island, great power yields great irresponsibility, great hubris and a great amount of hair-brained schemes involving body swaps, space flights, and sunburn. “You only live once,” Lazslo (Matt Berry) says in Season 5, Episode 3 — and while he’s not wrong, he’s risking centuries of life.
In “Pride Parade,” written by Jake Bender & Zach Dunn and directed by Yana Gorskaya, the vampires become local heroes in Sean’s (Anthony Atamanuik) campaign for comptroller and the centerpiece of his bid for the LGBTQ vote. In typical “WWDITS” fashion, everyone is thrilled with the attention, only to sideline the event with their own personal chaos until episode’s end.
Now in the know about Guillermo’s latent vampirism, Laszlo chooses not to kill Guillermo or out him to Nandor (Kayvan Novak), but to 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 Lazslo is in fact completely on board. As IndieWire’s Ben Travers noted in his review of the season, Laszlo pairs well with just about anyone on this show, betraying that beneath his cocky exterior he contains untold depths of compassion. The vampire tests distract Guillermo from his troubling fate (both as a familiar and a being between states of living) and provide for a densely-packed montage of hilarious gags (“Strip off, cock ahoy, and get on the running machine. I need three gallons of your sweat for science”).
As it always goes with Guillermo, Nandor doesn’t care until he does. After growing to unexpectedly cherish his familiar over the years, he detests watching Laszlo steal him away for science. On any other sitcom, the bit would be that Nandor is jealous, denying it, and acting out to get Guillermo’s attention. On “What We Do in the Shadows,” Nandor admits his feelings directly to camera, and then takes everything up a notch by flying to outer space and looking outrageously comical in GoPro footage. Berry might be on his MVP run, but Novak gives him a run for his money with potent one-liners throughout the episode, from his abject bloodlust in the cold open (“Identify your opponents and then slaughter them in their sleep!”) to his ongoing feud with a bird (“I’m not speaking to Matthew at the moment”).
Not to be outdone in risk or fuckery, Nadja (Natasha Demetrious) and her dolly decide to switch bodies. I would now like to confess my personal undying love for the doll with the spirit of deceased human Nadja inhabiting it. I have adored her since her Season 2 debut and am delighted to see that, based on her increased appearance in the show, I am not alone (it also helps that Season 5 isn’t preoccupied with the financial and logistical toll of grafting Mark Proksch’s head onto the bodies of dancing children). I am 100% on dolly’s side when it comes to the way that vampire Nadja treated her, and I support her impulse to even the score by spending a day in Nadja’s body in order to experience carnal pleasure.
But I digress.
Demetriou makes a meal in the best way possible of the opportunities for physical comedy — which she already excels at — by falling over her limbs and flirting obscenely at the restaurant (she also does a killer Colin Robinson impression). The decision for dolly-in-Nadja’s-vampire-body to have sex with Colin Robinson (Proksch) couldn’t be more perfect, and not just because it pays off the moment in Episode 1 where he ostensibly inspected her butt (it was consensual?!). These two have rarely paired together throughout the series — Nadja is quick clarify that they aren’t friends — but their twisted hijinks feel as natural as any other combination in the episode.
“Pride Parade” puts all the vampires in situations that might actually kill them — or worse. Laszlo steps into the sun, Nadja separates from her body, and Nandor exit’s the Earth’s atmosphere (vampire flesh is not built for that environment, even if you don’t need oxygen), and none of them bats (heh) an eye over the risk. The episode presents various vampire myths and truths — they need to count spilled grains of rice, they maybe shouldn’t lose socks or shoes in a river — but what bands the Staten Island crew together in this installment is that no matter how long they’ve lived, they’re completely at peace with no longer existing — or were perhaps too wrapped up in their own narcissism to even think that far ahead.
“What We Do in the Shadows” airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on FX and Fridays on Hulu.