It was inevitable, yet also a bit shocking that it took this long. In “Gail,” the third episode of What We Do in the Shadows’ excellent third season, FX’s acclaimed mockumentary about vampires living together on Staten Island finally paid homage to one of the greatest moments in motion picture and pop culture history: Twilight’s infamous baseball scene.
(Editor’s Note: If you haven’t watched this episode of WWDITS yet, go and do that now then return!)
The setup is this: When the gang finds out the titular Gail (Aida Turturro)—a woman Nandor (Kayvan Novak) has been seeing off and on for 40 years who he wants to turn into a vampire—has become a werewolf, they are predictably enraged, especially because Nandor knew about it. Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), who dislikes the fact Gail has been stringing Nandor along for decades but likes Gail as a person, is worried about how a dalliance with the enemy might reflect on them as the new leaders of the Vampiric Council. However, soon everyone agrees to mingle with Gail and the rest of her clan at Nandor’s request so they can see that werewolves aren’t so bad. But things quickly get out of hand when they arrive and Gail is spotted kissing the werewolf who turned her. Guillermo (Harvey Guillén), ever the problem solver—and the protector of Nandor’s heart as well as his body—suggests they settle their beef “Twilight-style” with a game of kickball.
What ensues is a perfect example of What We Do in the Shadows’ unique ability to engage with the lowest-hanging fruit and turn it into some of the best and funniest television of the year. From the pitch-perfect needle drop of Muse’s “Supermassive Black Hole” to the werewolves jumping high in the air to catch the balls kicked by the vampires, the energetic sequence—which was written by Marika Sawyer and directed by Kyle Newacheck—captures the sheer ridiculousness of the now infamous scene in Twilight when Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) plays a game of baseball in the woods with Edward (Robert Pattinson) and the rest of the Cullens as the same song plays in the background.
The baseball scene, simply put, lives in cinematic infamy. It’s a scene that when mentioned, even to someone who hasn’t seen the film, most everyone knows what you’re talking about. It’s also a scene that is so ludicrous, so stylistically silly, and so completely inconsequential to the rest of the narrative that it stands out to the point where its legacy is far greater than that of the entire Twilight franchise. The scene, which also appears in Stephenie Meyer’s book, has outlived Twilight and everyone’s memory of it. And now What We Do in the Shadows—a show defined by purposeful silliness and subverted expectations—has brought it back in a way that succeeds because it pays homage to the vampires that have come before, much like it did in Season 1 when it featured several actors who’d famously played vampires in pop culture (and even referenced Twilight’s Pattinson). By recreating the Twilight baseball scene, What We Do in the Shadows has reminded us how it is we got here (an overwhelming obsession with the undead to the point of media saturation) and why, exactly, it is one of the best shows on TV.
Since it debuted in 2019, What We Do in the Shadows, which is based on the 2014 film of the same name from series executive producers Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, has consistently proven its comedic prowess by taking the most obvious of jokes and turning them into gut-busting art by playing on viewer expectations. The show subsists primarily on vampire gags and tropes that are wrapped inside the most mundane of circumstances. It’s fueled by humor that plays on the basic idea that the central vampiric trio (which also includes Matt Berry’s Laszlo) does not understand the modern world or evolving technology. But it never feels tired. It never feels lazy. And it never feels uninspired. The show has managed to find humor in everything from Super Bowl parties to chain emails, and once even featured an online troll that turned out to be an actual troll.
In the case of the Twilight homage in “Gail,” What We Do in the Shadows takes things to new heights and reveals just how capable it is in regards to mining humor from even the most basic situations. What initially feels as inconsequential as the Twilight scene itself is punctuated by Nadja accidentally kicking the ball directly at Gail, who is sitting in the bleachers and is largely disinterested in the game that was sparked by her own romantic entanglements. The direct hit kills her instantly, and Nandor turns her into a vampire to save her, a popular trope in stories involving vampires. (In the Twilight universe, for instance, Edward turns Bella into a vampire to save her after she nearly dies during childbirth). After an entire episode of Nadja having to defend herself against claims she hates Gail—everyone knows women don’t like other women, duh!—it’s a genuinely funny moment that delivers on a promise you didn’t even know the show had made. And it’s made even better when a newly undead Gail brushes off Nandor’s proclamations of love the way she always has and leaves everyone behind, talking about how she has to fly to Buffalo in the morning. After years spent watching women fall in love with and become seduced by the undead, that Gail is largely indifferent to them is a welcome reversal. But it’s also more than that.
“Gail” features the simplest of human stories—someone loves someone else who doesn’t love them back—but it gets the What We Do in the Shadows treatment, making the episode memorable in ways no one saw coming. Yes, it’s silly with the reference to Twilight, which is an obvious punching bag at this point, but it’s remarkable in its ability to connect with viewers on multiple levels while subverting familiar tropes. Not only does it make us laugh at every turn—Nandor explaining that bat dicks are proportional to the rest of their bodies is funnier than it should be—but it simultaneously makes us feel for Nandor, who is on a quest for love this season, while also commenting on the misguided depiction of women in media. No other show on TV could do all of this in just 25 minutes, just as no other show could make jokes about Twilight funny in 2021. This is the true magic of What We Do in the Shadows: even when it does something that appears to be of little substance or that you think would fall flat, it turns it into something deserving of praise. That it has now honored the Twilight baseball scene is just further proof of its excellence.
What We Do in the Shadows Season 3 airs Thursday nights on FX and streams Fridays on Hulu.
Kaitlin Thomas is an entertainment journalist and TV critic. Her work has appeared in TV Guide, Salon, and TV.com, among other places. You can find her tweets about TV, sports, and Walton Goggins @thekaitling or read more of her work at kaitlinthomas.com.
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