What We Do in the Shadows review: The most well-rounded episode of the season


FX’s What We Do in the Shadows offers up one of its best episodes of the season as the vampires face down frat parties and government workers.

While “The Trial” will likely go down as the season’s most memorable episode of What We Do in the Shadows‘ first season thanks to its star-studded guest cast, it is “Citizenship” that proves how great this show can be when it tries.

The installment is a perfect blend of vampire weirdness with real-world life, as Nandor decides to investigate becoming a U.S. citizen and Nadja finally remembers that she turned college student Jenna into a vampire all those episodes ago.

Nandor’s realization that his homeland of Alcalidar hasn’t existed since the 1400s drives him into a depression, which Guillermo attempts to cure with the suggestion that he simply adopt a new country by becoming an American citizen.

Now, the reality of Nandor visiting an immigration office is as hilarious as you might expect, though unlike “City Council’s” similarly themed bureaucracy-tinged storyline, “Citizenship” really leans into the political commentary. Granted, it’s sort of an extremely extra, over the top kind of political commentary, as Nandor refers to America as an “unholy nation” and an “evil empire” while applauding its ability to conquer others through Olympic basketball. (“What does the constitution do for the people?” “Oppresses them!”)

Sidebar: The Dream Team jersey is maybe the best costuming choice this show has made all season.

The last-minute dig about America’s obsession with firearms  – and how in the U.S. pretty much anyone can get a gun for any reason at all – feels a bit awkward given that Nandor can basically kill anyone he wants with his bare hands already. But, hey, I’m personally all for reminding folks that we need sensible gun control in this country.

Elsewhere, Nadja finally decides to take pity on Jenna, who it would appear has been slowly turning into a vampire for weeks now, levitating in bed, attacking small animals. and randomly sizzling in sunlight. (Who knew this process took so long?)

Everything about Jenna’s transformation is funny, largely because actress Beanie Feldstein is so great at deadpan commentary, but also due to the fact that the situation is just wildly entertaining. Jenna’s a mess, hissing at strangers, struggling in classes — thanks to her sudden inability to look at religious works of art — and freaking out her roommate. By the time she turns to Nadja for help, she clearly realizes what’s going on — which, considering she drank someone’s blood a few weeks back, feels more than a bit slow.

Nadja, for her part, revels in having a protégé. Or, as she puts it, a stupid little baby to take under her wing. Her proud attitude toward Jenna’s transformation is both endearing and oddly empowering. For me, Nadja works best as a character as a kind of feminist commentary. I can take or leave her Gregor obsession and the constant jokes about her sex life with Lazzlo, but she sparkles with Jenna, because there’s clearly something personal going on here for her.

She initially decided to change the shy, awkward LARP-er after seeing how the boys in her group ignored her. Here, Nadja appears to be grooming Jenna to be a predator and manipulator of terrible men. Their trip to the frat party is hilarious, simply because college boys are awful, and seeing Nadja mind control one into respecting women more is both satisfying and…frankly, kind of sad. She can’t mind control all of them, after all, even though maybe we wish she could.

Not for nothing, the bit where she forces Lazzlo to apologize to Jenna is also extremely great. I don’t need Nadja to become a crusading man hater or anything, but What We Do in the Shadows so rarely centers female perspectives that this all feels like a breath of fresh air. And her mentor-student relationship with her new “child” is charming. (“You’re going to murder!” she intones happily at one point.)

That Jenna’s vampire superpower turns out to be invisibility probably shouldn’t come as a shock, as she spent so much of her human life ignored and belittled by others. Her glee in her newfound ability to disappear is rather adorable, as is her awkward first kill, which involves dragging a (terrible, both in terms of talent and behavior) ska singer into a bush to die.

It’s not clear whether Jenna will now officially become one of the roommates or not, but I’m hopeful. Her budding rivalry with Guillermo – who’s bitter that he’s still not a vampire – and her friendship with Nadja have a lot of potential.

And not for nothing, but this is also one of the few episodes of What We Do in the Shadows that actually passes the Bechdel Test. Jenna is welcome to stay around for the rest of her undead life, if you ask me.

Next. 5 ways to watch Nikolaj Coster-Waldau other than Game of Thrones. dark

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