Humanity is a paradox. Never is this more at play than in the famed tradition of the Roast. We exalt someone by placing them on a pedestal only to throw verbal tomatoes at their expense. It’s instinctive. It’s painful. It’s funny. It’s tribal. It’s shared among friends and family because at the end of the day, you love each other. At least I hope so.
Nadja (Natasia Demetriou) is worried. Her husband Laszlo (Matt Berry) is comatose. Even brigantine talk from Nandor (Kayvan Novak) isn’t enough to get Lasz’s cudgel to twitch. The Relentless believes his roommate is jealous. Nadja believes her beloved is fraught with nerves about her hex. Guillermo (Harvey Guillén) believes his science buddy has been pushed to the point of burnout. All Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch) is concerned with are his residual memories surfacing in his dreams. The solipsism is strong. Business as usual. They convene, with the first one to speak up being The Guide (Kristen Schaal). The first one to be heard is Colin when he just recites The Guide’s idea for a roast of Laszlo. Poor Guide, but Guillermo gets the struggle.
Later that night, Nadja leads her blindfolded beloved into the parlor of the house to a room full of guests. Among those present are Seanie (Anthony Atamanuik), the Baron Afanas (Doug Jones), and a jazz trio. The crew is on the dais with Nandor presiding as the Roastmaster General. He works a decent ‘five’, passing over the Guide for a ribbing. I really fucking feel for her. She is overlooked and underappreciated. They seem to hitting harder on that this season, so I can certainly see her moment on the horizon.
Nadja’s jabs at Mr. Cravensworth are pretty Foxworthy, and Colin goes for the immediate drain with an old dirty joke fumble out of the gate. It is, however, when Guillermo takes to the podium that Baron realizes that he, not Laszlo is the ultimate punchline by dint of the Guide explaining a particular burn. He takes to the dais and delivers the ultimate put-down: the icy truth. Mediocrity’s taken hold of Staten Island’s vampire community and a party for sadboi Laszlo shouldn’t be considered an event but rather an embarrassment. To the Baron, they’ve gone softer than Brie and that’s the biggest insult of all. That and the resident Van Helsing tried to kill him.
The Baron gives chase, causing Guillermo to fall through the same banister his pursuant did before getting some Vitamin D. Nope. Not this time. Baron’s got the drop on Gizmo, picking him up singlehandedly by his neck. Laszlo isn’t concerned and no amount of pleading by either Nandor or Nadja will stop the dude in his collection of a life.
The Guide apologizes, but the damage is done. Nadja entertains abstaining, however, there is the one albatross around the neck about them all being descended from the Baron, so protection of them both is paramount. She does have a plan that involves ‘capturing’ the Baron to lure Gizmo out. Colin Robinson administering the taser from the sack (something I’m sure he was volunteering himself before they could ask him) was just icing on the cake.
Guillermo refuses to accept death as payment. Nandor calls for a drink break, leaving Guillermo to lay it all out. Before the Baron could bust his nut on how deliciously twisted shit is, the whole truth comes out and even Colin doesn’t want to be within the blast radius of that energy, and how. After a blood toast from Nandor, all seems to be right with the world. The Baron imparts a little vampire wisdom to he who would be toast. Until the resident Van Helsing tries to kill him. Again.
Lookin’ a little on the crispy side, Baron wakes up for an early night run. Maybe he ‘bumps’ into Guillermo? Maybe ‘debt’ is paid. Nandor’s ‘good word’ put in on his Familiar is the biggest joke of all to the Baron. Laszlo gives him up on account of everybody delaying the inevitable and soon enough, Nandor is eulogizing over the corpse of what appears to be his Familiar, using the terms “bodyguard”, “best man,” and “friend.” Things an alive Guillermo de la Cruz would kill to hear.
Nadja wants Laszlo to help bury the body, but he’s sure that’s not him and proves it by being thorough. It turns out, it was amphibious fully-grown Guillermo, who was also pregnant. Baron just drops the whole thing. He realizes that he was projecting. he’s really the one that’s gone soft, living that suburban Jersey lifestyle. Even with the Sire and a Hellhound, he was unsatisfied. Operative word: was.
Later that night, Nandor finds Guillermo hiding in his coffin. He nails (hiss) his master’s final quiz question, revealing a very tender and storied history with Guillermo and his respect for Nandor, which makes a very poignant moment all the more for Guillermo.. and when he’s nearly handed a moment of true honesty before Nandor, he still doesn’t spill. Rough stuff.
Nadja’s at her wit’s end, finally gets Laszlo to speak. He’s been posted up for three weeks in his study with nothing but the decision on whether to alphabetize his library by author or by title weighing on his mind, with the former winning out–
It’s the antepenultimate episode of What We Do In The Shadows (FX) titled “The Roast” and my intuition seems to fall in line with where we’re at on the map this far in the game. I find that in this ten-episode series, the shit really starts to cook in episode eight. For that, it has delivered. So far, Guillermo’s journey has brought us serpentine twists and turns, but despite the massive sacks at the vampire’s disposal to catch the Baron, there ain’t a bag big enough to contain this bête noire.
Doug Jones is a fucking godsend and to have the Baron pose as a looming threat if only for a half hour will never be questioned. This is the most we’ve seen him all season. At first, I was a little forlorn to see him go, but the more I think about it, there are unforeseen dangers around the bend I’d rather see than just him as a sworn old enemy. In the end, when this so-called ‘Final Stand’ does arrive at their literal doorstep as the one true Colin Robinson has foretold, we’re going to need all batters on deck. I know what I did.
The episode didn’t disappoint. I was actually awaiting this one with bated breath due to the title itself. Sure, in my mind, it would have been a hilariously vociferous takedown of Lazzie in a bottle episode, but they already brilliantly flipped that. At first, we were at a simmer. The last few episodes were letting it cook. Now, we’re turning up the flame. It did slightly feel like two different episodes, with the only tonal throughline being Laszlo’s listlessness.
That being said, I can see where the transition from gradually raising the stakes to shifting gears to the finale setup is a delicate art. It moves from delicate art to straight fucking high-science when you have to deal with time constraints for a cable television show. I can see where the bathos of Laszlo’s malaise may leave an odd taste in viewers’ mouths, but I take it as a play on what Colin failed to do up at the podium. You can get experimental with the story and play around with the format while still structurally being a sound script. I believe in experimentation, so this actually fits with how I’m beginning to see the entirety of the season’s theme: experimentation.
ADDENDUM: Nothing against a good bottle episode (we lot do believe they exist), but I do believe it can be at times a last refuge for a series that is running out of steam or “getting too big for its britches,” a phrase that probably gets Colin hard.