On the Season 1 finale of Jemaine Clement’s “What We Do in the Shadows,” the lifelong dream of vampire familiar Guillermo (Harvey Guillén) gets a nightmarish twist. The loyal human servant of Nandor (Kayvan Novak) has endured thankless, grisly tasks for no pay in hopes of someday being turned into a vampire himself. After taking a DNA test, however, he realizes that he’s descended from Abraham Van Helsing, the original vampire hunter.
Guillermo is not supposed to become a vampire; he’s supposed to kill them. Oops.
Co-executive producer and writer Stefani Robinson spoke to IndieWire about conceiving the finale twist, the fate of Gregor (Jake Mcdorman), and what Season 2 could bring.
“When we were first writing the season, we think of the silliest premise possible. It’s really fun and easy that way because throwing a vampire in any sort of mundane situation [works] comedically,” she said. “If they got their DNA tested, what would that look like? You think about Nandor and the fact that he had many wives and a harem, or Laszlo (Matt Berry), who’s this sort of unapologetic lover and what that might look like descendant-wise.”
Although a comedy, “What We Do in the Shadows” still plays with the weighty themes that have always accompanied vampire lore. Eternal life and surviving loved ones gives the undead time to ponder the meaning of life, the concept of a soul, reincarnation, and destiny.
That last point is the er, sticking point for Guillermo. Does his bloodline determine his calling? Or does he have free will? Even if genetics have an influence, he’s only 3.12 percent Dutch from the Van Helsing line.
“It’s one of those delicious plot moments where you have someone who’s so subservient and low status, elevated to higher status and he’s grappling with that,” said Robinson. “It was one of the things early on that we really sparked to and ended up feeling right for the end of the show. And then in the episode preceding that, it’s baked in — whether on purpose or not on purpose, we realize he’s maybe destined to kill everybody.”
Although the writers’ room hasn’t met yet to map out Season 2, Guillermo’s story will be pursued in some fashion, whether it’s exploring the Van Helsing twist, exploring more of his backstory, or some combination of both.
“Before all the vampire-killing stuff, I would like to explore Guillermo as a human being,” said Robinson. “He’s got a family, he has friends, and he went to school. He’s very much a person that lives in the present day with vampires and delving into his real world and how he balances the two, what lies he has to tell to his family. Does he go home for Thanksgiving?”
Of course, Guillermo accepting his Van Helsing side could change his personal dynamics as well as the show at large.
“I’m really excited about figuring out what that relationship and that character looks like, especially with Nandor,” she added. “But then I think what also makes the show and movies so fun are these sort of a bigger universe elements in that, you know, the idea of a whole lineage of vampire killers and that sort of thing, just sort of broaden the world in a really interesting way. Our options for him are actually pretty exciting.”
Guillermo’s destiny is yet unwritten, and the same can be said about poor Gregor, Nadja’s (Natasia Demetriou) human lover who always seems to die of decapitation, after which he is reincarnated, finds her again, and then repeats the cycle. The finale continues this deadly cycle when it’s revealed that Nadja’s husband Laszlo has been the one behind the beheading throughout the centuries. Out of respect for Nadja’s wishes, he allows Gregor to live this time… until Gregor is accidentally decapitated by a clothesline stretched across the topiary garden.
It appears in this case, Gregor can’t escape his destiny, which fulfills the show’s macabre sense of order. Even in the catchy theme song “You’re Dead” by Norma Tanega, the refrain “You’re dead, you’re dead, you’re dead” is repeated with a joyful fatalism.
“We went back and forth on [whether to kill Gregor.] There were definitely different versions throughout the writing process: Do we kill him? Do we let him go?” said Robinson. “In a way both felt satisfying. If he was let go, it would be this disruption in the pattern, and that’s interesting to push forward and develop, story-wise and thematically. But there is also something true about this idea of fate since we’ve been saying the entire season he was always fated to get his head chopped off. Here, it was clever in the cheekiest way of maybe splitting the difference.”
The Gregor-Nadja dynamic is still fascinating though, especially since it has endured despite all the odds. Therefore, his story might not be over.
“There is an opportunity for him to come back, I think,” she added. “That’s the beauty of our show: The rules are so crazy [but] in a grounded way that I think you can make exceptions for all sorts of things depending on where you want to go.”
Looking forward, Robinson would also like to explore the newest kind of vampire, energy vampire Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch), who just sucks the energy out of anyone who listens to him. “He’s tricky [to write] because his character is a joke,” she acknowledged.
But overall, she’s just looking forward to building out the world that had already been established in Season 1. “There’s an unending list of supernatural characters both familiar and unfamiliar,” she said. “And we have the luxury of taking things up to see what we could comment on about society or not. That’s the beauty of the show too; it can just be silly and funny through these supernatural characters.”
“What We Do in the Shadows” Season 1 is available via FX. Season 2 has been renewed. Additional reporting for this article by Ben Travers.