TV: What We Do in the Shadows (Season 5)

At times during its run What We Do in the Shadows has threatened to overplay its bag of tricks, but somehow it always manages to reinvigorate itself with timely, surprising invention. Season five is another great example; it continues to deliver its tried-and-true banter and conflict, but also staves off formula, introduces weird new ideas, and even brings one of its core sources of tension—the desire of Guillermo (Harvey Guillen) to become a vampire—gloriously full circle.

Guillermo’s plight serves as the season’s major throughline. Tired of waiting for his master Nandor (Kayvan Novak) to turn him, Guillermo has taken matters into his own hands and had his friend Derek (Chris Sandiford), a former vampire hunter and current ineffectual vampire, turn him. Something goes wrong, though, and Guillermo fails to become a full vampire, his physiological reactions to the process going in bizarre directions. Guillermo’s  betrayal of Nandor fills the house with tension, as the others gradually become aware of it and in some cases—particular Laszlo (Matt Berry)—attempt to keep the secret and fix his condition. Despite these efforts, an ultimate confrontation with Nandor becomes inevitable, leading to another dramatic reckoning.

If episodic television often succeeds by delivering “more of the same but differently,” What We Do in the Shadows is a perfect case in point. It anchors its weekly proceedings with familiar furniture—mockumentary interviews, crass bickering, gorey violence taken to comical extremes, outrageous sex jokes—but continuously evolves its milieu with paradigm-mutating innovation. If the deeply weird rebirth of Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch) gave season four unpredictable, what-the-fuck laughs, here it’s the mystery of Guillermo’s incomplete metamorphosis, abetted by Laszlo’s hilariously inept scientific experimentation—which leads to developments so visually bizarre they can’t be unseen. It seems unlikely the series can sustain this level of originality indefinitely; minor signs of strain have been creeping into the scenario for seasons now. But the shark remains unjumped, in my view, and man, is this cast every glorious.

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