What We Do in the Shadows review: Animal instincts


The vampires have to rescue one of their own in the latest episode of FX’s What We Do in the Shadows, with wildly uneven results.

The episode “Animal Control” serves as an almost perfect example of What We Do in the Shadows at both its best and worst. It’s incredibly uneven, with several laugh-out-loud funny moments interspersed with cringe-worthy awkwardness.

The set-up is pretty fantastic. There are some truly classic one-liners, and almost every character and relationship set gets a chance to shine. The vampires’ increasingly clunky attempts to free Lazzlo are genuinely entertaining and funny, as we learn that Nandor can turn into a dog and Guillermo may have been exposed to rabies.

However, the plot about Nadja’s reincarnated lover Gregor from the pilot returns out of nowhere, and isn’t any more entertaining now than it was then.

Sure, there is some fantastically dry commentary as she relates his long history of conquest and sexual adventure (“He mongers a lot, in his lives.”), but it does precious little beyond reinforce how incredibly stupid modern day Jeff is. And it goes on for much, much too long.

Their final scene in the parking lot together is particularly excruciating, even if it does give Nadja a chance to save the day on her own for once.

The story of “Animal Control” is pretty basic. While attempting to feed on a neighbor, Lazzlo is captured in bat form and handed over to the local Staten Island Department of Animal Control. The gang must rescue him. That’s it. That’s the story.

But it leads to some truly hilarious moments as they attempt to free him from the clutches of the local animal shelter, staffed by the world’s obviously most bored employees. The episode also uses the concept of CCTV as a framing device for bits of the story in interesting ways. Whether that’s to save on SFX costs since there are a lot of bat-human transformations this week or to show us the way the rest of the world sees the actions of these weirdos isn’t clear. But either way, it works.

(I do have a question, though. If these vampires don’t have reflections in mirrors – as we’ve established already – how are they showing up on CCTV?)

What We Do in the Shadows does best when its vampire characters are forced to interact with the human world in a realistic way. This is why almost every scene with Nandor and Colin in the animal shelter feels pitch perfect, as did the opening set up scene in which one of the vampire’s neighbors beats the crap out of Lazzlo in bat form as Nandor and Guillermo commentate from across the street.

It’s also why every scene with Nadja at the street carnival feels so forced.

It also doesn’t help that this whole Gregor plot is just deeply uncomfortable to watch. Perhaps by the time this season ends, What We Do in the Shadows will figure out how to use Nadja as something more than a sex fiend.

While “Animal Control” is often entertaining, there’s also something kind of off about it. Tonally, it feels as though this episode belongs earlier in the season, and it’s easy to wonder whether it was supposed to air slightly earlier than it has.

Admittedly, this feels a bit strange to say about a series that’s only aired five episodes to date, but it’s still true. This installment feels quite different from, say, “Werewolf Feud,” even if Colin Robinson does get the best lines in each of them.

But suddenly, the descriptive captions are back onscreen, and the vampires are directly acknowledging the camera crew following them around. There’s a bit more exposition than in previous episodes and, much like the pilot, there are more obvious send-ups of traditional vampire tropes.

The physical comedy and sight gags are much less subtle, from Najda’s popcorn kernel-fueled stream of projectile vomit to Lazzlo running screaming through the night draped in aggressive cats.

In short: “Animal Control,” at times, feels like accidentally watching an episode of the first season of The Office when you’ve already moved on to the much-better season 2.

Let’s hope the rest of What We Do in the Shadows is about looking forward, not backward.

Next. GoT novels will have unicorns, but the show won't. dark

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