What We Do in the Shadows Season 2 review: Bleeding hilarious
Ivan Radford | On 11, Jun 2020
Warning: This contains spoilers for the end of What We Do in the Shadows Season 1. Not seen it? Catch up with our spoiler-free review here.
If life is bad, try being undead. That’s the darkly amusing truth at the heart of What We Do in the Shadows, Jemaine Clement’s TV spin-off from his vampire mockumentary made with Taika Waititi. Using blood-suckers as a springboard for a flatsharing sitcom, the result was a fantastically silly ensemble comedy when it debuted on our screens last year. Now, it’s back for more of the same after-life antics, and the show’s absurdity is only matched by its ability to build upon its own mythology.
Back again for a second bite is Nandor “the Relentless” (Kayvan Novak), womanising Englishman Lazlo (Matt Berry), Mark Proksch as “energy vampire” Colin, and the scene-stealing Nadja (Natasia Demetriou). A lot of the show’s charm stems from their fish-out-of-water confusion – and the more that juxtaposition between horror tropes and real life is developed, the closer to the series comes to Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt than BBC’s similar undead sitcom Ghosts.
Season 2 sees them fall victim to a con artist necromancer (played by a delightfully game Benedict Wong), and discover not only the ability to send emails but also the apparent dangers of a cursed chain letter (a gag involving “Mailer Daemon” is inspired). Some of these moments are hit and miss – one episode is centred on the age-old meme that confuses the Superbowl with a “Superb Owl” – but the cast’s delivery remains hilarious, particularly Matt Berry’s unctuous idiot Lazlo and Demetriou’s wonderful mix of filth and sarcasm. If you enjoyed Season 1, there’s still lots to enjoy here.
Amid some of the more familiar gags, meanwhile, are sly signs of character growth, chief among them Mark Proksch, whose stand-out Colin gives up draining people’s energy by driving them to boredom and instead turns to terrible jokes. A running gag involving an “updog” is laugh-out-loud funny, while a board meeting in which he finds people so desperate for laughter that they’ll chuckle at anything is a joy. The best character arc, however, goes to Guillermo, Nandor’s human familar. Played with deadpan gusto by Harvey Guillen, he grows from background punchline to a descendant of Van Helsing – a journey started at the end of Season 1 that sees him fall in with a group of vampire hunters led by Claude (Craig Robinson). (Watch out, too, for Mark Hamill as “Jim” the vampire, and – a treat for fans of 2015’s The Witch – a cameo by “Black Peter”.)
It holds all kinds of promising twists on the show’s basic set-up, opening up possibilities of extending the show’s mythology in new, surprising ways – and also gives Haley Joel Osment an opportunity to appear as Guillermo’s entertainingly annoying replacement familiar, Topher. Indeed, one of the most impressive episodes (an icky joke about ectoplasm aside) sees the series introduce ghosts to the genre mix, allowing Matt Berry to play scenes opposite himself with knowing plumminess, Natasia Demetriou to have fun with a haunted doll and Colin to have an unexpectedly sweet moment with his grandmother, which is followed by the tragic reality of Colin facing the consequences of what draining other people of energy does to your relationships.
All of this is balanced with a rapid barrage of visual and verbal quips – from named keyrings to a decapitated ex-lover – that means that even when What We Do in the Shadows threatens to be retreading the same old territory over and over again, it does so in a way that’s all too fitting for its group of outsiders who are destined to be stuck in their own loops for the foreseeable future. In that sense, this might be the unlikeliest contender for best lockdown TV show to watch right now.
What We Do in the Shadows Season 1 and Season 2 is available on BBC iPlayer.