FX’s What We Do in the Shadows just wrapped up its excellent second season, which saw the vampire roomies tangle with ghosts, trolls, witches, zombies, and vengeful fellow bloodsuckers. But the show’s most prominent human character, familiar Guillermo (Harvey Guillén), had easily the grandest arc of all.
We’re going to discuss the whole season including the finale, so if you haven’t watched yet — hiss! — stop what you’re doing and catch up before reading any further. Don’t forget, there’s another season on the way!
As we learned in the season one finale, Guillermo is descended from Van Helsing, the most famous vampire slayer in history; it’s a dicey situation given that he’s the long-suffering familiar to demanding, unappreciative ancient vampire Nandor (Kayvan Novak). For over a decade, Guillermo’s been clinging to the hope that Nandor will finally transform him into a vampire, and his facade of patience and obedience is finally starting to crack.
All of season two saw Guillermo trying to balance his deadly instincts, which he’s kept hidden from everyone in the house, with what’s really starting to feel like his impossible goal of immortality. Also, there’s the undeniable fact that the vampires he lives with — Nandor, Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), Laszlo (Matt Berry), and to a lesser extent, Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch) — treat him the same way they do most human-adjacent things: with dismissive contempt. The wryly hilarious contrast between Guillermo’s attentive work ethic and the vampires’ obliviousness reaches new heights this season, especially when Guillermo casually reveals (to us, via the show’s ever-vigilant documentary cameraperson) he’s been secretly staking every undead assassin who’s come after the roommates in the wake of last season’s disastrous run-in with the Vampiric Council.
There’s never any applause for Guillermo (Guillén is the master of sliding his eyes over to the camera for a little disgusted commiseration with the audience), which makes it so much more insulting when Topher (Haley Joel Osment), Nadja and Laszlo’s new familiar, is hailed as a priceless treasure. We can see, of course, that Topher is an irritating dude-bro, fond of taking credit for Guillermo’s chores, demanding high-fives, and working on his side hustle (a hard cider start-up) while he’s supposed to be tending to familiar duties. But his biggest transgression, at least to Guillermo, is that he doesn’t really care if he ever becomes a vampire.
When Topher accidentally perishes in a koi-pond accident and is resurrected at Nadia and Laszlo’s insistence, only Guillermo notices he’s become a full-on zombie — and is forced to fight for his life until Nandor finally steps in. Nandor’s “whatever” act of kindness gives Guillermo a spark of fresh energy. Maybe his master does care about him after all? And doesn’t caring mean… he’ll finally get to be a vampire himself one day?
Though we never get an outright explanation for why Nandor keeps putting off Guillermo’s vampire reward, the reason is pretty obvious: he likes having Guillermo at his beck and call as his personal assistant — why would he willingly give that up? And even if he’d never admit it, deep down he does actually care about Guillermo a tiny bit, even if he’s never bothered to learn his last name. When one of Nandor’s ageing former familiars turns up at the Staten Island house, hoping Nandor will finally make good on you-know-which decades-old promise, Guillermo flounces out, briefly attaching himself to Celeste (Greta Lee), a former familiar who claims to be building her own vampire colony fuelled by Shake Shack, orgies, and guaranteed vampire-dom for all who serve her.
Unfortunately, her fangs are fake, and things don’t go well when her master discovers her ruse. However, Guillermo is still able to use the lure of Celeste as a bargaining chip when a clueless Nandor asks him to return, securing one day off a week, regular breaks, and better snacks. Also, “I want to feel more appreciated and respected,” he says.
Easier said than done, of course. When even Guillermo’s Shark Tank-inspired pitch to the local witch coven — who require a regular supply of vampire semen to maintain their beauty routines, and were previously using some pretty painful extraction methods to get it — doesn’t elevate him in the eyes of his housemates, he decides he’s had enough. “Maybe it’s time to grow up, get a real job with real people,” he muses. In opening moments of the season two finale, he peaces out, leaving a note for Nandor that just says “Sorry,” and we soon see just how much work Guillermo was doing for the vampires. Specifically, how much laundry he was handling — and how many rotting corpses of blood-drained victims he was tidying up on the regular!
But What We Do in the Shadows never lets you forget is that Guillermo’s outward crusade for better working conditions (perhaps familiars need to form a union!) runs alongside his clandestine explorations of his natural-born talents as a Van Helsing descendent. Early in the season, while the vampires are all attending their neighbour’s Super Bowl party, Guillermo goes in search of virgins for them to consume, only to crash a “mosquito hunters” meeting that’s actually a vampire hunters meeting in disguise.
Nervously, he assures the camera that he’s only infiltrating the group for purposes of sabotage, something that becomes very urgent when a later episode sees them setting out to attack a suspicious old house in a nearby neighbourhood. To Guillermo’s enormous relief, it turns out Nandor and company aren’t the only vampires who’ve made Staten Island their home. Who knew? The roommates are none the wiser about Guillermo’s abilities, though Nandor does have one tiny, fleeting suspicious moment when he catches Guillermo standing over a dust pile that resembles Carol, a vampire houseguest who’d figured out Guillermo’s true nature but wasn’t able to out-fight him.
Both of Guillermo’s plot strands come together in the incredible season finale, in which the roommates, who loudly insist they’re doing just fine without a familiar catering to their every need, unexpectedly receive a coveted invitation to the Nouveau Théatre des Vampires. In their giddy excitement, they don’t notice the lavish performance is a set-up by their enemies, the Vampiric Council — something Guillermo immediately picks up on when he stops back by the house and catches sight of the invitation, which is clearly watermarked.
As Nandor, Nadja, Laszlo, and Colin Robinson soon realise, the performance — hosted by Vlad (co-creator Jemaine Clement’s character, a holdover from the What We Do in the Shadows movie who also popped up last season) — is actually a staged reenactment accusing the roommates of slaughtering countless vampires over the past year, with their own executions set to be the main event. We know, of course, that Guillermo is actually responsible for all those killings, and we also know, because he’s Guillermo, that he’s going to reveal himself and save the day despite everything, including but not limited to Nandor dragging his name through the mud in a desperate attempt to save his neck.
The last two minutes of the finale are the frenzy of crosses, holy water, wooden stakes, and utter mayhem we’ve been waiting for all season, as Guillermo has his own Lost Boys-style melee with an entire theatre full of bloodsuckers. The roommates stare in disbelief — the big secret that’s been looming over the whole season is definitely out — but the solemn moment is spoiled, as is What We Do in the Shadows tradition, by something totally banal. “We had to pick up our own laundry!” Nandor whines, and it’s Guillermo’s turn to stare in disbelief.
What will become of these exceptionally dysfunctional frenemies, after all they’ve just been through? Will Guillermo get the respect he deserves, or maybe even the eternal life he’s been chasing all this time? Or will he have to go on the run, maybe with Laszlo’s toothpick disguise in tow? The new season can’t get here soon enough.
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