After the dramatic Season 2 finale, wherein Guillermo (Harvey Guillén) was revealed to be a descendant of Van Helsing, there was a question of how What We Do in the Shadows might move forward. The first four episodes of Season 3 have given us a straightforward answer: like it always has—with practiced nonchalance.
Guillermo’s fate is what takes up most of the Season 3 premiere (and, as all things Gizmo, is fantastic), but it’s also an episode that showcases just how incompetent and indecisive our dear vampire lords—Nandor (Kayvan Novak), Laszlo (Matt Berry), Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), and Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch)—can be without the resourceful familiar there to assist them. As Guillermo helps them decide what should become of him (because what other way would it happen, really?) the group discover that because of his actions, they are the new Vampiric Counsel. Congratulations, I genuinely can’t think of a less qualified group of immortal idiots.
From there, What We Do in the Shadows Season 3 settles back into the daily happenings that the show is so good at chronicling. Going about normal business, like Nandor trying to date the desk girl at the 24 hour gym, is not normal for these weirdos. In Nandor’s case, that’s because the rest of the house tries to help win the girl over by posing as Nandor (thanks to the aid of an ancient artifact), but it’s also true as Laszlo thumbs through the pornographic tomes of antiquity or Colin Robinson volunteers to search through prisoner scat. Or, in the way Nadja dramatically ends a rote argument against wayward vampires as only she, in her wonderfully unhinged way, could manage.
The new season does reintroduce some other supernatural factions, but for the most part it’s interested in small stories that really play to the well-honed strengths of its cast. Proksch’s delivery of “I don’t give a cat’s knuckle,” or “I’m down to clown at the drop of a hat,” are fantastic, but almost nothing beats Matt Berry giving an explanation of non-participation by turning swiftly as if he forgot something only to pause and say, “because… I can’t be fucked!”
There is, oddly, a noticeable increase in swearing this season, but it all fits pretty seamlessly in with our delightfully foul vampires’ vibe. The show knows when to pepper in those moments to punctuate its humor, and what to leave out—doll Nadja has a brief and outstanding return, but EP Paul Simms confirmed to journalists at a recent Television Critics Association press event that Jackie Daytona will not be seen in the upcoming season. And that is, ultimately, a good thing—undoubtedly, there will be something new for us to excitedly meme, but it also illustrates that the show understands it doesn’t need to pander to keep viewers enthralled.
It’s clear that What We Do in the Shadows has a lot of confidence going into these new episodes (the show was also recently renewed for Season 4), and that it’s operating on its own terms. It does its best work that way, especially as it balances the particular strangeness of the vampire world with the everyday normalcy of ours. It’s always a treat to see the vampires move between those spaces, desecrating the ancient traditions of their kind—mostly on accident—and meeting a range of confusion, politeness, or curious acceptance when traveling to, say, Atlantic City.
The new season also finds the vampires, as well as Guillermo, a little more introspective. They begin exploring their pasts and their very roots in new ways, although thus far it has all mostly played out in the background. Expanding the show’s world in this way is the right move, giving further bizarre context to our leads so that they are more than just punchlines and outrageous accents. Any good fantasy or supernatural series needs to come stocked with lore, and the way What We Do in the Shadows continues to weave these elements in makes the jokes land even harder.
When writing a review of a series that has been running for several years, the bottom line is letting entrenched viewers know if it is, indeed, still good, and to provide some general expectations. So yes, What We Do in the Shadows is still very, very good—maybe even better than ever. But as for expectations, leave them behind. It’s so much more fantastic to not know, from one minute to the next, what awaits.
What We Do in the Shadows Season 3 returns with two new episodes Thursday, September 2nd on FX, and will stream the following day on Hulu.
Allison Keene is the TV Editor of Paste Magazine. For more television talk, pop culture chat and general japery, you can follow her @keeneTV
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