2020 was a breakthrough year for FX's What We Do In the Shadows, with the show earning its first Outstanding Comedy Series Emmy nomination for season two's top-shelf "Jackie Daytona" episode. While quarantine delays meant the series was unable to air during this year's Emmys eligibility window, we're still getting a new season in 2021, and we're picking up right where the story left off. And where the story left off was the vampires' familiar, Guillermo (Harvey Guillen), living up to his vampire-hunter lineage by slaughtering the entire Vampiric Council in order to save our vampire crew: Nandor (Kayvan Novak), Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), Laszlo (Matt Berry), and Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch).
With the third season of What We Do in the Shadows — a ten-episode run that kicks off with back-to-back episodes on September 2nd — Guillermo's actions have shaken things up in the vampire mansion. "It is a dark time in Staten Island," Nandor declares with befuddled gravity. For one thing, there's the question of what's to be done about Guillermo now that he's revealed himself to be quite the prolific killer of vampires. He's still Nandor's familiar, a fact that a blame-shifting Nadja makes sure to mention often, but despite his many assurances that he only killed vampires to protect them, they've got him caged up in the basement with a mini-fridge full of raw chicken and Yoohoo until they figure out his fate.
The slaughter of the Vampiric Council isn't all bad news, though, as the power vacuum at the top has left an opening for our four vampires in the Vampiric Council of the Eastern Seaboard. Kristen Schaal, who's previously guest-starred a few times as "The Guide," a bureaucratic middle-person in the vampire chain of command, returns as a recurring player this season to help usher Nandor, Nadja, Laszlo, and Colin Robinson into their new seats of power. Or, more accurately, seat of power, as there is only one. Watching the four vampires bicker over which one will stand supreme among them is just one of the new season's many delights.
Adapted from Taika Waititi's 2014 horror comedy film, and relocated from New Zealand to New York's least glamorous borough, What We Do in the Shadows' central theme concerns the question of what happens when a group of supernatural predators do when they have to simply muddle through the indignities of modern life. In just two seasons, the show has established itself as an oasis of quickly-paced and impeccably-delivered comedy in a TV landscape dominated by half-serious, emotionally-wrought half-hour shows. The show's quartet of vampires offer a potent mix of personalities. Nandor's fussy imperiousness is only encouraged by this new position of authority, and this season he's feeling particularly lovelorn, so expect to see some particularly foolish stories about Nandor's dating life.
Nadja's general impatience with just about everything is always fun to watch, although it's her breaks in character that stand out most (this season includes some fantastic revelations about her history with the Rat Pack). In the four episodes that were screened for critics, Laszlo is mostly hanging back, not all that interested in the power of the vampiric council, and just generally acting louche, which is a great mode for him. Colin Robinson, meanwhile, is embarking on a search for knowledge about his particular breed, the energy vampire.
Guillermo, for his part, has moved ever more to the center of the show's story. Where he used to be the subject of the group's nasty little punishments, he's learned to roll with those punches and quietly defy his masters' commands, mostly by just waiting for them to focus on their next petty annoyance. His put-upon shrugs are no longer pitiable but rather the satisfied smirks of a (begrudgingly) accepted member of the team.
Ultimately we don't really want too much to change in the world of What We Do in the Shadows, and thankfully it remains very much itself in its third season. Petty gripes, tiny failures, the occasional skirmish with a pack of werewolves, these are the simple but effective ingredients that make the show thrive. And then every few episodes there will be a Jackie Daytona, or a gag you didn't see coming from Nadja's possessed doll, and that's when this comedy goes from dependable to miraculous. To that end, a road trip to Atlantic City in the season's fourth episode is a particular early-season highlight.
At a time when TV's most celebrated comedies lead to frustrated arguments on Twitter (I'm looking at you, Ted Lasso), it's a gift to have a show like What We Do in the Shadows that so easily and consistently goes for the laugh. You wouldn't expect that Nandor, Nadja, Laszlo, Colin Robinson, and Guillermo would be the players in a fun hangout comedy that gives such good vibes, but this is the strange, strange world we live in.
What We Do In the Shadows returns to FX for its third season with two back-to-back episodes Thursday September 2nd at 10:00 PM ET.
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Joe Reid is the Managing Editor at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.