I still can't believe that Season 1 of What We Do in the Shadows, the FX comedy that's essentially a continuation of the cult Kiwi film of the same name, was as good as it was. The series was basically a single joke told over and over -- ancient vampires act like undead idiots as they fail to fit into modern society because they can't let go of the past -- but thanks to a brilliant cast, impressively cheesy special effects, and clever writing, that joke never got old as they tussled with werewolves, got stuck in animal shelters when in their animal form ("BAT!"), or planned vampire orgies.
However, barring the What We Do in the Shadows' writers' room being in a blood pact with the demon god of comedy, the fear of Season 2 being able to pull that off again was very real. Shenanigans only go so far. But Season 2, which debuted Wednesday night, returns with its fangs fully sharpened thanks to a heroic effort from one character: Guillermo (Harvey Guillén), the vampires' human familiar.
I'm not just now recognizing Guillermo -- he was great in Season 1 -- but the Season 1 finale twist-out-of-nowhere that Guillermo is actually a blood descendent of the Van Helsings, folklore's famed vampire-hunting family, has What We Do in the Shadows poised to become television's best comedy. And after watching the first four episodes of Season 2, I can say it certainly has my vote.
Guillermo's humiliating desire to become a vampire at all costs was his reason for being in the first season, and it was mined for laughs by the trio of vampires' indifference toward making him one, as is promised in that relationship. But in Season 2, the dynamic has changed as Guillermo begins the season doing his own things in the shadows, namely acrobatically murdering vampire assassins who want to kill his vampire master, Nandor, (Kayvan Novak) and his vampire roommates, Nadja (Natasia Demetriou) and Laszlo (Matt Berry), for abandoning the vampire council.
Call it character development or character conflict, whatever you want, I call it absolutely hilarious as Guillermo is now forced to wrestle with his destiny as a vampire-killer while also desperately wanting to be a vampire himself (he wants to be one so badly that he wears budding buns in his hair like an early version of Gary Oldman's Dracula in Bram Stoker's Dracula). Those looks that Guillermo throws to the camera now carry the extra weight of heavier exasperation and confusion, as his innate talents surface with crafty kills of the very thing he wants to be. It's such a simple turn for the character, but it's one that extends life to the series and exemplifies how a small change can take a show to another level with ripple effects that lap against all the other characters.
As far as I can tell, it's a plot that's sticking around for some serialized fun. Though Guillermo's new life as a vampire killer wasn't around much in the second episode, it comes back big time in Episodes 3 and 4 and almost becomes a show-within-the-show, as he accidentally groups up with a gang of amateur and incompetent vampire hunters. The climax of Episode 4, shot horror-movie style, is drop-dead funny and among the best the series has ever done, tapping into the show's trademark silliness and low-budget attitude and culminating in questions of who the real predator is in the house.
That's not to take away from the greatness of the main three vampires, who are basically undead boomers with a fear of sun, or Colin the energy vampire, who sucks life out of others but provides laughs for us. But through his vampire-killing prowess that he can't avoid, Guillermo's proving there's more to the show than a simple gag as he's literally raising the stakes of the comedy. There's nothing funnier on TV.
What We Do in the Shadows airs Wednesday nights at 10/9c on FX.