Season 3 of What We Do in the Shadows ended with a tantalizing cliffhanger. Of all the things that could have happened, Laszlo (Matt Berry) pushing Guillermo (Harvey Guillén) into a coffin bound for London with nothing but Oreos and Pedialyte was something that nobody saw coming.
It was an act that caused nearly every member of our main cast to be suddenly isolated from one another, right on the precipice of taking on a new challenge. Nadja (Natasia Demetriou) and an unwilling Guillermo were shipped off to London, Nandor (Kayvan Novak) set off on a solo trip to find himself, and Laszlo opted to stay alone at the house to take care of Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch), who had recently been reborn as a baby.
The finale left fans screaming and shaking in its wake, and there was speculation aplenty about how the following season might resolve all of these individual storylines. Season 4, however, neatly sidesteps all the would-be theories by opening on a time skip that sees Nadja, Guillermo, and Nandor all returning to the now-dilapidated house after a year away.
How you feel about this time skip probably depends on how invested you were in the premise that the season 3 finale set up. Personally, as someone who spent many a frenzied hour discussing what might happen in season 4, it was a bit of a disappointment. The characters of What We Do in the Shadows felt more clearly defined and comfortable in their roles than ever in the third season. It would have been interesting for the show to probe into how this codependent mass of vampires (and one human) would fare when out of their element and left to their own devices. Circumventing that undercuts the emotional weight of the season 3 finale; there’s little payoff to the turmoil that these new circumstances must have thrown the characters into.
Still, it’s hard to stay disappointed with a What We Do in the Shadows that’s firing on all cylinders. Much as I would have liked to see the characters grow on their own, the show really is at its very best when the main cast is together, and it quickly reminds you of why it’s still one of the best comedies on TV. It hasn’t lost a bit of its sharp wit and ability to comedically blend the supernatural with the mundane, and it provides plenty of new scrapes for our central cast to get into.
Even though the characters are mostly still the same old eclectic group that we love, they’ve definitely done some growing and changing. Some of the changes the past year has wrought are quickly obvious. Guillermo has gained an off-screen love interest, while Laszlo has slipped into the role of long-suffering father. Though Nadja and Nandor spent last season fighting over who would take charge of the Vampiric Council’s East Coast branch, both their interests have shifted in season 4, with Nadja eager to open a vampire nightclub and Nandor on the hunt for a new wife.
Based on the four episodes provided for review, these storylines seem to be the ones that will define each character’s arc throughout the season. The most engaging one involves Laszlo’s attempts to parent Colin Robinson, whom he refuses to acknowledge as being the same person as the previous iteration and simply refers to as “boy.” Laszlo made an effort to spend more time with Colin Robinson in season 3 because he secretly discovered that Colin Robinson was nearing the end of his life cycle as an energy vampire, and that theme of finding real affection in a bond born of obligation is present in their new father-son dynamic as well.
Laszlo has gradually become the most empathetic and emotionally mature of the central vampires, though he shows it in unorthodox ways. From his escapades as Jackie Daytona to his kindness toward Colin Robinson, Laszlo has grown far past his initial portrayal as just a vulgar British dandy. That’s why, even though he’s ill-equipped to take care of anything, including himself, his sense of duty toward a dear friend makes this new role feel natural for him.
Laszlo introduces Colin Robinson to activities like swordplay and art theft in an attempt to make him more exciting, but it seems to be a fruitless endeavor. Colin Robinson, now played with Proksch’s head CGI-ed onto a real child’s body, is a boy with thoroughly childlike tendencies. He develops a fascination with musical theater, which Laszlo denounces in disgust. Still, Laszlo eventually grows to accept Colin Robinson’s interests, boring as they may be. It’s not unlike their season 3 dynamic, which began with Laszlo humoring the energy vampire out of pity but ended up being genuine friendship. Though Laszlo plays the part of exasperated caretaker and Colin Robinson is a deeply strange child with “a Sondheim lyric for every occasion,” the two obviously care about each other. (Colin Robinson also mispronounces Laszlo’s name in a way that’s extremely hard not to be charmed by.)
While Laszlo learns to take care of someone else, Nadja and Nandor are focused on realizing their own desires. Their central power struggle in season 3 began as part of their conflicting desires as vampires. Nadja, having had very little power in her human life, constantly craves it in her eternal one, while Nandor’s warlord past led him to believe that power was the only thing that would make him happy. Now, after the events of season 3, both have realized that vampire bureaucracy won’t lead to fulfillment for either of them, leading them to set their sights on new goals.
Naturally, the first thing Nadja does is convert the Vampiric Council chambers into a nightclub for vampires, something that brings her real joy while also allowing her to make a difference. That storyline often pairs her up with The Guide (Kristen Schaal), who has literally just been sitting and waiting for the vampires to return for the last year. Though initially against the nightclub idea, The Guide ultimately comes around and gives her wraiths over as the nightclub’s primary employees. (And, because I know you’re wondering: Yes, the show does touch upon worker wraiths’ rights.) Nadja and The Guide make for a fun duo, although the latter’s voice sometimes doesn’t feel as well-defined. Nadja is also generally kept apart from the rest of the main cast, which leaves you missing her banter with the likes of Laszlo and Guillermo. Luckily, Demetriou — a performer so funny that she can literally play off herself — is still a delight to watch on her own.
Meanwhile, Nandor accidentally brings a Djinn (a hilariously put-upon Anoop Desai) back from his trip to his ancestral homeland, which proves both useful and detrimental in his quest to find a wife. The show is careful to show that Nandor has had both “girl-wives” and “guy-wives,” in case anyone needed to be reminded of the vampires’ fluid sexuality.
Nandor’s season 3 existential crisis was a significant moment of character growth for him, as an ex-warlord who still fondly reminisces on all of the pillaged villages in his past. The effects of that crisis are still felt in his season 4 storyline. Nandor’s unique blend of insecurity, flippancy, and total lack of self-awareness makes it obvious that his dogged search for a wife is actually still a search for happiness. The Djinn also quickly becomes one of the series’ best side characters, and I hope he sticks around.
Guillermo, as usual, is by Nandor’s side every step of the way. Of the main cast, Guillermo has changed the most since the very beginning of the show, going from a meek, subservient familiar to an expressive, self-assured… well, he’s still a familiar, but it feels less like that than ever. His relationship with Nandor has felt more like a partnership than a master-familiar dynamic for a while now.
Season 4 takes this even further. Even in his previous attempts to leave, Guillermo has always returned, trapped by his reluctant fondness toward the vampires and especially Nandor. In this season, though, he’s often glimpsed talking to a presumed love interest on the phone. We don’t get to see who it actually is over the first four episodes (which makes sense given that the fake documentary is mainly about the vampires), but that in itself gives a sense that Guillermo is starting to really carve out a life for himself independent of the vampire house. It’s an intriguing direction for a character who’s always struggled to truly liberate himself from the vampires, even after his desire to be turned has seemingly been put on the back burner. Guillén also continues to deliver one of the strongest performances on TV, simultaneously embodying the soft-spoken familiar and ruthless vampire hunter. At this point, it’s hard to even imagine that Guillén wasn’t always meant to play this role.
Though the characters have still markedly changed, season 4 of What We Do in the Shadows doesn’t quite deliver on the dramatic premise that its season 3 finale suggested. Instead it quickly goes back to doing what it does best: making us laugh at these silly vampires going about their silly lives. It is, in other words, more of the same. But that really doesn’t matter when “the same” is so good. The show became a source of comfort to many people at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. And it’s still comforting, in a way, to know that it will stay true to what it’s always been.
What We Do in the Shadows season 4 premiered on FX on July 12. New episodes air on FX every Tuesday, and are streaming on Hulu every Wednesday.