Type keyword(s) to search

Quick Hits

What We Do in the Shadows Keeps Guillermo's Dream Just Out of Reach

How much longer can the series dangle the vampirism carrot before it gets old?
  • Chris Saniford and Harvey Guillén in What We Do in the Shadows (Photo: Russ Martin/FX)
    Chris Saniford and Harvey Guillén in What We Do in the Shadows (Photo: Russ Martin/FX)

    [Editor’s note: This post contains spoilers for What We Do in the Shadows Season 5, Episodes 1 and 2, “The Mall” and “A Night Out With the Guys.”]

    Guillermo’s (Harvey Guillén) life as a familiar has been thankless in What We Do in the Shadows. Instead of simply serving his master, Nandor (Kayvan Novak), he somehow became the gofer, maid, bodyguard, therapist, and more for the four ungrateful vampires at the center of Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi’s comedy, not to mention any other mythical creatures they decided to let into their homes. But Guillermo put up with it for the same reason all familiars do: the promise of eternal life.

    Ultimately it would be up to Nandor, however, to do the deed, something he didn’t seem willing to do any time soon. As a vampire, not only does he have a warped view of time (a decade of dedication isn’t as impressive when you’ve been alive for hundreds of years), but in Season 4, it seemed especially clear that because of his affection for Guillermo, he may never let him go. So in the Season 5 premiere, after years and years of waiting, Guillermo takes things into his own hands and finally becomes a vampire — well, sort of.

    Season 4 ended with Guillermo approaching his vampire friend Derek (Chris Sandiford) with a bag of cash, asking him to turn him into a vampire once and for all. The Season 5 premiere, “The Mall,” slowly reveals details about what actually happened during that fateful night, tiptoeing around whether or not the act was successful. The answer is both yes and no. Sure, Derek did bite Guillermo right in the carotid artery, causing a comedic amount of blood to squirt right back into Derek’s face. And, yes, Guillermo technically drank Derek’s blood. But somehow, something didn’t go quite right, and Guillermo was left as some sort of human/vampire hybrid with few supernatural qualities to show for it.

    The mix-up does open up a new well of jokes to pull from: the visual gag of a failed attempt at shape-shifting resulting in a bat-eared Guillermo alone is almost worth the entire storyline. But it also feels deeply unsatisfying to see a character who was on the precipice of fully realizing his power and importance in the world take two steps back in his quest in such an unceremonious way.

    It doesn’t help that the series has gone out of its way to invent brand new vampire lore specifically to torture Guillermo. Hybrid vampires aren’t completely unheard of in other vampire tales, but they usually have powerful abilities beyond perfect vision and a craving for raw meat. In the world of What We Do in the Shadows, a familiar being turned by anyone but their master is a crime punishable by death, for both the familiar and the master. The notion that Guillermo could just have Nandor turn him anyway, saving them both that demise and perhaps amping up Guillermo’s abilities, is immediately dismissed — as Baron Afanas’ (Doug Jones) neighbor learns the hard way, a vampire who is turned twice immediately self-combusts.

    As things stand, there seems to be no winning for Guillermo. If Nandor discovers his secret, which Guillermo’s already let slip to Laszlo (Matt Berry), he’s dead. He doesn’t know how to remedy his partial transformation, either by going full vampire or returning to life as a human. Season 4 gave us a taste of Guillermo’s full potential, hinting at an exciting shift in the dynamic among the series’s characters. Leaving him in vampiric limbo undoes much of that, and it’s only a matter of time before keeping him down gets old.

    What We Do in the Shadows airs Thursdays at 10 PM ET on FX and streams next day on Hulu. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

    Brianna Wellen is a TV Reporter at Primetimer who became obsessed with television when her parents let her stay up late to watch E.R. 

    TOPICS: What We Do in the Shadows, FX, Chris Sandiford, Doug Jones, Harvey Guillén, Kayvan Novak, Matt Berry