What We Do in the Shadows episode 2 review: Civic engagement for all


The second episode of FX’s What We Do in the Shadows doesn’t have much of a plot, but its biting situational humor feels like a show that’s built for the long haul.

The pilot episode of FX’s What We Do in the Shadows was something of a mixed bag. Though it was certainly funny, it had almost nothing in the way of a plot, and spent most of its time on exposition. This series’ second episode, entitled “City Council,” feels much more like a true representation of the sort of show we might see week to week.

To be fair, I like it a lot better. Like, a whole lot.

Even though “City Council” doesn’t have much to speak of by way of plot, either, it’s still relentlessly entertaining, featuring everything from raccoon mass murder to civil servant mind control. It’s kind of amazing, even if it’s not the most complicated of stories. It’s also the kind of show I’d be happy to see more of in the coming weeks.

With the Baron still in his immortal coma or whatever it is, Nandor, Nadja, and Lazzlo must figure out how to pull off the world domination they’ve been putting off for hundreds of years, or at least determine how to take control of Staten Island.

Colin introduces them to the concept of civil government, which is how the gang ends up at a City Council meeting. Colin’s there to feed, as there’s little more boring and mind draining than an extended discussion of zoning restrictions. While the rest of the vampires are more than ready to take things over from the human leaders – they’ve even prepared an extensive list of demands – they clearly have no idea about the grinding pace of local bureaucracy which instructs them to return in two months, when issues similar to theirs might be heard by the group.

They do not do this, of course.

Instead, Lazzlo decides to win over the (female) head of the council by performing a grotesque romantic gesture, which involves Pied Piper-ing all of Staten Island’s raccoons to him and then leaving their dead bodies in a pile on her porch. Nandor, for his part, hypnotizes a council member and forces him to deliver a dire message about darkness approaching. The physical sequence that closes the episode, in which the vampires watch with a strange mixture of surprise and pride as a raving Doug Peterson is repeatedly tackled to the ground by security guards, is pretty great.

In fact, the strongest moments in “City Council” come when the vampires are together (both with and without Colin). The actors all play off one another perfectly, and there’s something fantastic about every scene in which the vampires must face some sort of basic human fact of life like public transportation or the grocery store. The sequence in which they all ride the bus with Colin was probably the highlight of the episode. Let’s send them all to, say, a laundromat next.

Elsewhere, Nadja has apparently taken in a new familiar or possibly made a new vampire; the rules of the show aren’t super clear on this yet. But young, ignored LARP-er Jenna is charming, and to be honest, this show could really use more female characters on it. I’m here for it. The effort to give Nadja some layers that don’t involve her sex drive is also much appreciated, and her nuanced yet vulgar response to Jenna’s treatment by her so called friends was actually rather lovely. (Even if her exact quote on the matter is something I probably shouldn’t repeat here.)

It’s still not clear what exactly What We Do in the Shadows is trying to be. Surely none of us tuned in to see whether or not they’ll actually take over Staten Island. I mean, watching the vampires hypnotize people, charm vermin and fly through the air to spy on potential snacks, one has to wonder. How lazy are these people? Their abilities seem on point, if they made even the most basic of efforts – now or when they first arrived in the New World – they probably really could be running things.

But the show works so much better as a sort of random situational comedy, in which these three misfits are forced into awkward interactions with the human world they don’t understand and have almost zero interest in. So fingers crossed for more of that, and less proclamations of impending doom.

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What We Do in the Shadows continues next Wednesday at 10pm on FX.