Compared to past seasons, there’s nothing particularly special about Laszlo, Matt Berry’s 300-year-old pansexual vampire, in “What We Do in the Shadows” Season 5. Jackie Daytona isn’t resurrected to raise money for the Clairton, Pennsylvania volleyball team. There’s no episode dedicated to Laszlo’s hobbies, nor is there a sudden plot twist that shines a light on Nadja’s much younger hubby. During the first four episodes, Laszlo is still Laszlo, and he’s still very much one instrument in an exceptional sextet comprised of Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), Nandor (Kayvan Novak), Guillermo (Harvey Guillén), Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch), and their newest member, The Guide (Kristen Schaal).
But Season 5 still belongs to Laszlo, and thus, Matt Berry. From the first pre-credits’ button (a quote sure to spread like wildfire) to his C-plot ascendance in Episode 4, “The Campaign,” Laszlo is the integral element to his team’s success. It’s not so much that scenes without him lack for anything — “What We Do in the Shadows” remains one of the best all-around sitcoms on the market, making the most of their cast and crew’s artistry — it’s just that scenes that lack Laszlo lack Laszlo. You know when your team is on a hot streak, and everyone is contributing, but there’s still that extra jolt of energy when the hottest player steps to the plate? That’s Laszlo. That’s Berry. It’s his MVP season, even if you’ve said the same for years prior.
As he illustrated in Season 4, when playing father figure to the creature known colloquially as Baby Colin, and the year before, when he served as Adult Colin’s secret caretaker (and reluctant best friend), Laszlo is adaptable. An opinionated grump, boastful Brit, and avid supporter of the queer community (free love is the way), many of Laszlo’s personality traits appear entrenched. He’s often dismissive toward Nandor, who he doesn’t exactly hold in high-regard, and even more so toward the familiar he calls Gizmo. He has the confidence of a man who’s never wrong, and some of his finest moments stem from a cocky remark delivered at random, simply because he can. (It would be weird for a vampire to spend three centuries feasting on human blood and not develop a god complex.)
Early on, Laszlo is kind of an extreme version of a ’90s sitcom husband. He’s loud and stubborn. He’s obsessed with sex. He squabbles with his wife. (The Cursed Witches’ Skin hat became a recurring quarrel, though it’s not the only tiff with Nadja centered in Season 1.) But following the foundational first season, “What We Do in the Shadows” just keeps building. The writers expand everything from vampire lore to character personalities, wisely experimenting with different ensemble pairings to discover crackling chemistry and further develop the undead.
That’s how we ended up with rewarding, long-term collaborations like Nandor and Guillermo, which blossomed from an antagonistic boss/assistant relationship into a platonic love story; Nadja and The Guide, who found a winning rapport while opening (and closing) Nadja’s vampire night club (they get a bit more to do in Season 5, as well); and even Nadja and Nadja’s ghost, which inhabits a doll that looks exactly like Nadja (credit to Demetriou, as well as the prop department, for keeping this duo fresh all these seasons).
But arguably, Laszlo benefited the most. Not only did we end up with two seasons filled with Laszlo and Colin’s distinct brands of “family” comedy (Laszlo saying goodbye to his dying friend, then Laszlo raising his dead friend’s pseudo-son?), but Laszlo and Nadja have only deepened their bond, Laszlo and Nandor have furthered their feisty friendship, and Laszlo and Sean (Anthony Atamanuik), the vampires’ lovably dim next-door neighbor, make for the show’s most endearing odd couple. (And that’s saying something, considering Nadja & the Nadja doll, and, of course, the Baron & the Sire). If Laszlo had remained just another horny stick-in-the-mud (like other sitcom dads), he would never be friends with a Guy Pillow salesman with the thickest Staten Island accent this side of Dongan Hills, let alone take a trip to Atlantic City together. Laszlo would’ve killed him years ago, likely as soon as Sean said, “Welcome to da naybawhood!”
Season 5 advances these connections with the series’ now-standard creative flourishes. Thanks to Sean (kind of), Colin gets his time to shine within the confines of American bureaucracy. Laszlo and Nandor come together for another memorable boys’ night with Sean’s human pals. There’s a Pride night for the ages, orchestrated by — of all people — Sean. (Wait, is this actually Sean’s MVP season?) But in the premiere, a trip to the mall sets up Laszlo’s main pairing: Gizmo. At the end of last season, Guillermo grows frustrated with how slow-moving his vampire masters are — especially in regard to letting him join their ranks — and he asks his friend Derek (Chris Sandiford) to turn him into a night-walker. Without spoiling anything, Guillermo’s simple plan isn’t so simple to execute, and Laszlo becomes curious about the peculiar antics of their formerly boring familiar. Needless to say, their extra time together does not go to waste.
“What We Do in the Shadows” is in a good spot. The fandom is passionate and, one has to assume thanks to its availability on Hulu, growing. Reviews are strong, and accolades are steady. Rather than coasting on their laurels five seasons in, the entire team is striving for bigger and better ideas, jokes, and effects. Now it’s up to the TV Academy to put the cherry on top of the sundae, and give Matt Berry his Emmy. It didn’t happen for Season 4, and it doesn’t have to be for Season 5 — there’s no wrong time to hand out an overdue trophy — but it has to happen. And soon.
“What We Do in the Shadows” Season 5 premieres Thursday, July 13 at 10 p.m. on FX and streams the next day on Hulu. New episodes will be released weekly. Seasons 1-4 are available on Hulu.