Last week’s venture to Atlantic City was filled with gambling addictions, tired vampires, and a brutal beheading at a boxing match, courtesy of Nadja (Natasia Demetriou). I probably shouldn’t be surprised at her commitment to making matters infinitely more violent than they really need to be, but I screamed when Nadja’s cue resulted in that boxer’s head flying clean off of his body. “The Casino” is one of those episodes where the environment provides so many opportunities for the main cast to let loose and have fun. It’s probably the highlight of the season so far.
Just a forewarning that everything from here on out is loaded with *SPOILERS*, so read at your own risk!
Episode 5 – “The Chamber of Judgement” (dir. Kyle Newacheck)
“And, also, I was thinking, because we showed the other man mercy, for this one, I think we just balls to the wall, just go f*cking crazy.”
Today’s the day for Nandor (Kayvan Novak) and Nadja to take their place, and take part in their first Vampiric Council Tribunal, white robes and all. But before any of that can transpire, everyone has to watch an extremely brief one-reel about harassment in the workplace. I wish I could see where they were coming from with the odd punchline of ‘it’s gonna happen, so we usually save it for the end of the week just to get it over with.’ I get that vampires act maliciously outside the boundaries of human practices, but this tidbit feels kind of icky.
And now we come to the question: who will take the throne of the Vampiric Council? After the season premiere, I made a prediction that Guillermo (Harvey Guillén) would somehow secure his place on the throne by usurping Nandor and Nadja. Well, while I’m not entirely spot-on, I’m also not wrong either so I consider this a win. Guillermo takes advantage of their gullibility and whispers into their ears, pitting them against one another. I’ll say it again. They’re so lost without him; it’s no wonder he’s able to make Nandor and Nadja second-guess themselves without even blinking.
Guillermo slyly introduces the idea of donning one of the Council’s cloaks and silently sitting on the throne as a symbolic gesture; no one else objects. Guillén looks like a kid on Christmas as he swings his legs back and forth on top of his high chair. I have to say, it suits him. He sits there silently through the first ceremonies of Judgment, that is, until a familiar face appears in the room: Derek (Chris Sandiford).
When we last saw Derek in “The Curse,” he was left behind during the amateur vampire hunting mission gone wrong. We didn’t see what happened to him, but it turns out he was turned into a vampire that night. He hasn’t gotten used to the rules of being a vampire yet, as indicated by his many egregious charges. Much to Guillermo’s dismay, Derek is harshly sentenced to the same capital punishment laid upon Nandor, Laszlo and Nadja back in season one: death via the Well of Daylight.
Guillermo feels guilty for leaving Derek behind, and offers his jacket to protect him from the sunlight as he figures out some way out of the Council’s chambers. It doesn’t look like whispering into ears is going to do him any good, as they start to see through his charade a bit.
Meanwhile, Laszlo (Matt Berry) and Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch) head over to Sean’s place for a boys’ night. Up until Sean makes it clear why everyone’s been called to his basement, everything feels really disorganized in terms of what we’re supposed to be inferring as the joke. It kind of becomes this listless mess of Colin Robinson getting everyone to play a stale Agatha Christie murder mystery game, Sean’s friends being confused, and Laszlo trying to figure out what is even going on. It’s a very listless bit.
It becomes apparent that Sean had invited everyone to try and sell them a supposed state-of-the-art product called ‘The Guy Pillow’, of which its design closely resembles that of a pillow company owned by some loser who shall not be named. No one shows any interest in buying a $50 pillow. Note: never corner your friends with your half-baked sales pitch, especially in bulk. It makes everything very uncomfortable very fast when they eventually pass, and you have to just sit there in awkward silence.
Outside, Sean tells Laszlo that he has a secret he hasn’t even told his wife, Charmaine, about yet. Laszlo goes in for a kiss, and immediately mind wipes him after he says it’s not about that. I’m shocked he hasn’t killed Sean yet with the amount of brain scramblies he’s given him. It turns out Sean bought an entire garage worth of ‘Guy Pillows’ and has only about three, prompting the seller to take him to small-claims court. Laszlo, being the best friend he is, offers to provide counsel for his buddy despite only having defended himself and some hogs over 300 years ago. Again, I didn’t find that many laughs in Laszlo’s batch of stupidity in the courtroom. Sean loses his case, of course. Laszlo gets drunk, of course.
With few options left, Guillermo takes advantage of a very drunk Laszlo, still in his courtroom garb, to make the case for letting Derek go free, promising that the drunken vampire will take him under his wing. The epilogue shows Derek, dressed like Gary Oldman in daywalker mode in Francis Ford Coppola’s “Dracula,” going door to door, selling the remainder of Sean’s ‘Guy Pillows’ with his hypnotism. It’s a good look!
When “What We Do in the Shadows” is good, it’s really good. “The Chamber of Judgement” resembles the show at its weakest, just getting by on the goodwill of these characters. A lot of the jokes here either don’t land or are just plain uncomfortable, and I’m hoping that next week brings us back on track.
You can catch “What We Do in the Shadows” on Thursday nights at 10/9c on FX. And you’ll find weekly recaps right here on Shuffle Online following each episode.
Featured Image: (L-R) Kayvan Novak, Harvey Guillén, Natasia Demetriou and Kristen Schaal in “What We Do in the Shadows” I FX
Matt graduated from Keene State College in 2017 with a Bachelor’s in Critical Film Studies. A few of his favorite films include “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Army of Darkness,” “Before Sunrise” and “Certain Women.” Having already contributed to Bloody Disgusting, ELF Magazine and The Simple Cinephile, Matt aspires to expand and continue writing with various outlets. If there’s any chance to talk about horror films and/or Twin Peaks, he’ll very much jump at the opportunity.