Thursday, August 31, 2023

REVIEW: 'What We Do In the Shadows' - Traps Force the Vampires Into Saying Nice Things in 'A Weekend at Morrigan Manor'

FX's What We Do In the Shadows - Episode 5.09 "A Weekend at Morrigan Manor"

The housemates are invited for a weekend away at the home of a mysterious, illustrious vampire.

"A Weekend at Morrigan Manor" was written by William Meny & Paul Simms and directed by Kyle Newacheck

Guillermo was never going to tell Nandor about becoming a vampire. He would always agonize over the conversation. He feared Nandor would figure it out. Nandor never did. He always excused Guillermo's weird behavior in another way. And yet, this conversation couldn't be delayed forever. Guillermo is ultimately forced to share the truth. It's an accident as the Guide is simply trying to make a point about the vampires being unkind to her. She desperately wants to be a part of their family. They don't care. Laszlo knows the precise date and time when they ever said something nice about her. That's enough to escape this precarious situation. It's a freeing moment for her. It's terrifying for Guillermo because the truth comes out. All of this dread and anticipation is fully realized. The vampires rely on Guillermo for so much. They would probably be fine without him. They would find another way to survive. It's perfectly reasonable for him to be selfish from time to time. The choices he made weren't beneficial. He transforms into a bat for the first time simply because of the heightened stress of this moment. He steps into his full power. And yet, Nandor raises an insightful point about Guillermo's blood as a Van Helsing. His genetic material is always going to be in conflict with the vampire components. Guillermo's life may have changed. It's still full of complete turmoil. Plus, the betrayal is just as visceral. Nandor doesn't care how the transformation has made limited progress. His familiar took matters into his own hands. It's an embarrassment to him. It can only be rectified by Nandor killing Guillermo and then possibly himself. That's the solution for this problem. That's the only option that has been presented throughout the entire season. Guillermo made this choice. He learned from the vampires later on how Nandor would respond to this betrayal. Laszlo helped him for a time. Nadja, Colin and the Guide were willing to keep the secret. Nandor could have figured it out if he observed Guillermo's behavior and cared about his interests. The two genuinely have a loving bond. And yet, they frequently partake in actions that ultimately hurt the other. Most of the time it has been one-sided. Nandor treats Guillermo poorly. It's a casual disregard for his feelings. In this situation, the roles have been reversed. Guillermo has always wanted to become a vampire. Nandor never professed some great excuse for denying him that fate. The Van Helsing reveal provides a solid excuse after the fact. That still isn't completely relevant. It's centered around how these characters feel. It's possible nothing will change. They will find a delicate balance once more. The extremes of this moment are heightened and meaningful. Nandor only understands the violent urge to kill Guillermo. The familiar is given a head start to escape. That may not be enough to avoid the fate that awaits him. He must finally deal with the consequences.

The vampires are very good at deceiving one another. That quality extends to Guillermo as well. He understands that they know nothing about how humans behave. He has used that to his advantage several times to get what he wants. His life hasn't particularly grown. He's been devastated on several occasions. He always offers compassion. The Guide never seeks to punish him. He is the one person in the house who sees her with empathy. The vampires don't want to enjoy her art exhibit. She's produced paintings of them. They only see the faults in the designs. She gives each of them the opportunity to do better. None of them take her up on the offer. She tests them. They believe they would respond differently if they had known they were being tested. The Guide was always coming up with ways to spend time with these vampires. Nadja doesn't have a hex. The Guide made that up. That reveal feels true. Nadja took it seriously. However, it largely informed only a couple of plots without offering much momentum that suggested some big development was going to happen. Nadja lamented how she didn't have any close female friends. The Guide wanted to fulfill that role. Nadja never acknowledged her. Moreover, the only time the vampires said anything nice about the Guide was when they were trying to convince Colin to date her. Laszlo pointedly cuts the recording off before the Guide gets to that point. She is overcome with emotion over the vampires having the capacity to be kind. She listens when Laszlo says vocalizing those feelings just isn't in their nature. The Guide is a vampire too. She knows how vampires operate. She has connections throughout this community. An invitation from Perdita Morrigan is the perfect cover for her to entice the vampires into this trap. And yet, she is desperate to hear this validation and appreciation. Just a small amount is good enough for her. She doesn't have to condemn the vampires to a lifetime of torture trapped in cages lined with lead. She was willing to deliver that fate. It only takes a few minutes before equilibrium is restored. Guillermo hopes he can make a deal with Nandor. The vampire doesn't have to kill his familiar. That's inevitable. It can't be avoided. That's the genuine emotion the show builds as it prepares for the season finale. Meanwhile, the comedy comes from the particulars of how the vampires fall into the Guide's various traps. It's outrageous watching Laszlo fence with an increasing number of opponents. Nandor and Nadja would rather run away than help the Guide out of seemingly dangerous situations. And finally, the Guide just has to be blunt in forcing Colin away. That's the perfect blend of silly and absurd. The show has never lost that delicate touch. It's power comes from adding that on top of the genuine pathos of what these characters hope to achieve. That becomes slightly more tenuous as the show ages with nothing having really evolved to show it. The characters and setting are still the same. That's a blessing. Plus, the character work remains salient enough to feel earned in each moment these characters endure.