review television

“What We Do in the Shadows” Season 4 Review: Night Clubs, and Baby Colin in Another Hysterical Chapter

For many years, vampires were regarded as one of the most enigmatic monsters in pop culture, frequently appearing in film and television. Just like zombies, they’re fictitious creatures that have been reimagined by many in various ways. At the height of the Twilight craze, and the sexualization of blood-loving creatures, a more comedic take on vampires emerged with the film-turned-series, What We Do in the Shadows by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi. Both the series and the film reveal vampires who are not too different from the average, normal-food-eating human, with similar hopes and dreams. Now in its fourth season, the series continues to be one of the most successful and downright hilarious shows, engaging the audience from the first episode. Get ready for more drama, an avalanche of raunchy jokes, the creation of a nightclub, and a baby (!) Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch).

Our favorite group of vampires, which includes Laszlo (Matt Berry), his wife Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), Nandor (Kayan Novak), and Colin (now rebirthed and growing faster than the average human), found themselves separated for the first time at the end of season three. In season four’s first episode, directed by Yana Gorskaya and fittingly titled “Reunited,” the group is shown coming back together after a year apart. Nandor returns from traveling alone and Nadja and Guillermo (Harvey Guillén) come back from Europe, where the vampire joined the highest Vampiric Council. The blood-thirsty voyagers (and human companion Guillermo) arrive in Staten Island to find their beloved estate on the verge of destruction and with a new resident: The remains of the good ol’ Colin Robinson, now in baby form.

“WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS” / Pictured: Kayvan Novak as Nandor. CR: Russ Martin: FX

It’s difficult to fully summarize season four’s genius, as there are so many great, chaotic, outright weird situations. Yet, each scenario is so intelligently written and executed that they make you laugh every time. In reality, not much has changed in terms of the story, but this isn’t a bad thing. It feels like it stays the same yet it gets better each season, with each of the characters developing in ways they previously haven’t, taking charge and trying to do things on their own. Laszlo and Nadja, after being separated, are beyond ecstatic to be together as they plan an unusual remodel of the Vampiric Council Headquarters. Demetriou’s character absolutely rocks the boss lady style. Simultaneously, Nandor embarks on a journey to find himself a wife, while Guillermo demands the respect he is due after years of service by Nandor’s side. 

The writing of the main characters is the best part of the series, and no doubt a big part of its success. There is no individual lead — each character, whether it’s Nadja, Guillermo, or Colin, is an integral part of the narrative and an element that brings plenty of laughter and memorable one-liners (those from Laszlo are something, let’s be honest). Despite each of them receiving their “five minutes of fame” and centering an episode or a portion of the season on one character, the creators balance it and focus on the other portrayal next. In effect, each character, including The Guide (played by Kristen Schaal), becomes more multidimensional and complex, providing the audience with added levels of familiarization.

“WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS” / Pictured: Natasia Demetriou as Nadja, Matt Berry as Laszlo. CR: Russ Martin: FX

Berry’s Laszlo keeps cursing twice as much (and if you don’t like it, he’ll tell you to get fuc*ed). As he becomes a father figure to Baby Colin, the two form an out-of-this-world duo. Nadja’s doll that contains part of the human Nadja’s soul appears in the plot more frequently, adding entertaining banters between the doll and its owner. These are just a few of the most entertaining aspects of What We Do in the Shadow’s fourth season. Its genius lies in every comedic element added to the narrative; part of the fun is discovering them all one by one while participating in vampire adventures.

The clever, highly entertaining scripts are also one of the season’s highlights. All four episodes available for review have a strong backbone, and the scriptwriters: Stefani Robinson, Paul Simms, Wally Baram, and Aasia LaShay, among others, give each actor room to shine. It’s admirable that the show’s rock-solid story keeps getting stronger from season to season, reaching the same heights as its ever-growing popularity. The writing is still as good as it was in the first season, but it feels even more seasoned now than at the beginning of the group’s journey. However, as we return to Staten Island, to a barely standing mansion (thank you, Laszlo), one pressing question remains: When will Guillermo become a vampire? While seeing him chase after his master, and then attempt to gain his independence and become an individual rather than just half of a pair, is a lot of fun, it would be awesome to eventually see him evolve into a vampire — fangs and all.

“WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS” / Pictured: Matt Berry as Laszlo, Kristen Schaal as The Guide. CR: Russ Martin: FX

What We Do in the Shadows remains a constant source of talent, skill, elaborate stories, and never failing jokes. The show’s executive producers, including Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi, Stefani Robinson, and Paul Simms, are successfully riding the high, proving that the series’ success isn’t without hard work and an eternal passion for the vampire’s sharp bite. Season four has everything its fans could want, becoming yet another lavish entry into this vampire world. So, if you wish to experience more absurd adventures and outlandish situations, strap yourself in for the ride when What We Do in the Shadows returns on July 12th on FX and Hulu the next day.

Grade: A

Bez kategorii Feature television

Mike Flanagan’s ‘Midnight Mass’ and The Show’s Themes of Faith and Rebirth

This article contains spoilers to Midnight Mass.

There is no doubt that Mike Flanagan, the director of Doctor Sleep and The Haunting of Bly Manor, is a master in creating a unique, elevated type of horror. Instead of focusing on the display of blood or jump scares, the director uses real-life terrors to affect the viewer. Through this procedure, his works are one of the scariest productions in the contemporary horror genre. For example, Bly Manor‘s topics of passing without being remembered, grief, and tragic love story made the series personally terrifying.

His most recent television series, a Netflix original series titled Midnight Mass, was something he had long wanted to make. The show, which stars Hamish Linklater in the lead role of Father Paul—the main and only priest of the close-knit community on a Crockett Island, manages to completely perplex the viewer and provoke further discussion on the subjects of faith, its abuse in the hands of a human, and rebirth, both presented metaphorically and literally in the show. The series also addresses the issues of guilt and sobriety.

The subject of faith is central to Midnight Mass. The majority of the scenes occur in a small church on Crockett Island, whether subtle or intense. The show is a slow burn, with the first episodes focusing on the characters’ study. Flanagan devotes his full attention to each character. As a result, the audience gets to know them very well. Amongst them are Riley Flynn (Zach Gilford)—a man who returns to the island after spending years in prison for driving drunk and killing a young woman, Erin Greene (Kate Siegel)—a soon-to-be-mom teacher, and Beverly Keane (Samantha Sloyan)—a particularly annoying and God-fearing woman who is willing to die for the priest if he asks.

As Father Paul mysteriously arrives on the island, strange things begin to happen, such as dead cats appearing on the beach or creatures with shiny eyes hiding in the dark. Nothing is scarier, however, than the resident’s unexplainable de-aging. Sarah Gunning (Annabeth Gish), a doctor on Crockett Island, surely attempts to solve the mystery, especially since her barely walking mother, Mildred (Alex Essoe), can suddenly stand, run, and even attend mass. But, while solving the puzzle is intriguing, the main issue is the residents’ God-fearing and Catholic attitude. They all have a strong faith in God, and while not everyone can afford to go to the measures of one Beverly Keane, the townspeople soak up every word of Father Paul like a sponge. Once could even say that the priest easily manipulates and brainwashes them, yet they still follow him “in the name of God.”

Mike Flanagan does an amazing, mind-bending job of demonstrating how dangerous and toxic faith—and faithful people—can be. It’s so simple for Father Paul to twist the words of the Bible to fit his needs and agenda. After being murdered by an “angel” and reborn, he poisons the residents with his blood “in the name of God.” Father Pruitt, who was previously old and suffering from dementia, is now young and practically indestructible. He’s using Bible verses as an excuse to tell lies and goe even as far as overlooking a murder. The latter is truly terrifying, especially when compared to real life. People of faith who believe that being a part of the LGBTQ+ community is an unforgivable sin don’t yet justify murder, but they are on their way to saying less and doing more.

Midnight Mass brilliantly depicts the aftermath of faith being used to mask the agendas of others. The show’s final three episodes, particularly its heartbreaking finale, truly encapsulate it. When Father Paul realizes what he has done, it’s too late and simply impossible to undo.

The identity of the “angel” responsible is unknown. Although the priest wholeheartedly believes that God sent the bloodthirsty creature to resurrect him and the residents, he is more likely to be an ancient vampire. It’s unclear whether Father Paul truly believes he’s an angel or if he’s just using it to mask his plan, and we can only speculate.

In Midnight Mass, Flanagan takes the theme of rebirth quite literally. After the “angel” drinks his blood, Father Paul is reborn, and the man then makes the decision for his parishioners and takes the choice away from them. They, too, are reborn for a brief time.

However, the rebirth can also be interpreted symbolically, as in Riley’s character. The Flynns’ oldest son, brilliantly portrayed by Zach Gilford, begins his life anew after returning to the island. Riley, who is still haunted by his past actions, keeps seeing a young woman he murdered while driving drunk. His rebirth is slow and subtle. The man spends the most time with Erin now that he is sober. In the final scene with Siegel’s character on the boat, we see him truly reborn. He lets go of the guilt, and he allows himself to be forgiven. The intensity of the moment, filled with emotions, grows even stronger as he burns to ashes.

Midnight Mass has many other wonderful aspects. Among them are a stellar cast, stunning direction, and an emotional soundtrack composed by The Newton Brothers. Furthermore, the series tells a unique story and brilliantly explores it. In today’s world, the topic of faith and its abuse for selfish purposes has become personal. Midnight Mass becomes one of the scariest series this year due to this aspect, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Emmy Feature television The Handmaid's Tale

The season 4 finale of “The Handmaid’s Tale” is the series’ most satisfying finale yet

The below article may contain spoilers for the season finale of The Handmaid’s Tale.

Do you remember how, after waking up from a four-year coma, Kill Bill’s Black Mamba finally exacts her vengeance on those who had wronged her and it’s both delicious and satisfying to watch? June Osborne (Elisabeth Moss) waited about the same amount of time. After years of torture, physical and mental abuse, and rape, enraged June demands justice. With the final episode of The Handmaid’s Tale, “Wilderness,” airing this Wednesday, the creators may have delivered the most satisfying and utterly delectable finale that will leave you with goosebumps.

In the final scene of the ninth episode, we discover that Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) made a deal with Mark Tuello (Sam Jaeger) – the information about Gilead and its system for his and Serena’s freedom. While the man delivers the news to June, we observe her expression gradually changing. From the slight smile, it transforms into full-fledged rage when the woman runs after Tuello and screams, “That man is a fucking rapist and you know what he did to me! You know! You know what he did to those women! I’m going to fucking kill you!”

The Handmaid’s Tale — “The Wilderness” – Episode 410 — June draws on all her resources and relationships, risking everything to ensure her own kind of justice. June (Elisabeth Moss), shown. (Photo by: Sophie Giraud/Hulu)

The scene itself exudes rage, frustration, and anger. It easily translates into our world, where women are consistently let down by those who should have protected them and are forced to watch their oppressors walk free. We can feel June’s rage in every fiber of our being. In this and every other scene, Elisabeth Moss’ acting is riveting and enchanting.

In the season four finale, “Wilderness,” we see the main character struggling to accept that Fred is ready to jet off to Geneva to await his trial. When he returns, he will be a free man, as Fred tells Serena in one of the scenes. Luke tries to console June and even suggests that she should let it go (really, Luke?). However, it’s clear that the former Handmaid won’t rest until Fred has received justice for the actions he committed at Gilead.

Bruce Miller has a surprise for us just when we think it’s all over. June has a few more trump cards up her sleeve. Commander Lawrence is one of them, and he makes Tuello an offer: twenty-two women walking from Gilead in exchange for “our brother’s return.” It’s an indescribable feeling of pleasure and satisfaction to see confused Fred being escorted away in a van. It’s possibly the first time in an entire series that he’s treated at least a little bit like the women he oppressed – confused, scared, and unsure of what will happen next. Nobody, not even Nick (Max Minghella), tells him anything.

And that’s where the spectacle begins. Miller and Liz Garbus, the director of the final episode, orchestrate a true tour-de-force, brilliant in perception and execution. The creators serve us yet another surprise that forces us to stand up and clench our fists in anticipation. After the arrival in no man’s land, June appears in front of Fred with two items – a gun and a whistle; she demands the man to choose. 

Even in a dire situation that Fred finds himself in, bleeding from his nose, he doesn’t believe that June has what it takes to shoot him. But that’s where he once again underestimates the power and wisdom of women. After blowing the whistle, other formerly oppressed women, including Emily (Alexis Bledel), appear behind June. “Run,” she quietly says.

Our emotions seem to reach their apex, and we don’t believe that the joy can be any greater, but we are mistaken. Miller and Garbus go above and beyond in an aesthetically pleasing, highly evocative sequence to serve the long-awaited vengeance in the most satisfying way, both with narrative and direction. “It has to look like love. That’s what he needs,” June narrates as the chase begins. “Pretend you like it. Pretend you love it. Pretend you want it. He is your Commander. He is your whole world. Don’t run. Don’t kick. Don’t scream.”

June’s narrative intertwines with Leslie Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me,” which has become the series’ anthem. Fred ultimately receives what is known as poetic justice, just as the lyrics reverberate in our ears. Without a doubt, the overall composition of the scene is one of the most exciting and empowering scenes in the fourth season. The main character smiles contentedly and completes her revenge, much like Beatrix Kiddo serving The Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique.

Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) and Serena Waterford (Yvonne Strahovski), shown. (Photo by: Sophie Giraud/Hulu)

June and others ultimately get what they’ve been waiting for. The character can finally move on, but that doesn’t mean her actions will be understood by those around her. For instance, Luke is struck by June’s appearance in the following scene. What will their future bring? What about the rest? When the season ends, a befuddled Serena is left hanging on Zoom, not knowing Fred’s fate. What will her reaction be? Is her safety jeopardized? What about June? Will she be able to heal and continue her search for Hannah?

The finale of the fourth season is the most satisfying yet. While the one of last season filled me with tears as the plane with children and Rita landed, this one filled me with utter satisfaction. Let’s hope that the cast and crew of The Handmaid’s Tale receive a slew of Emmy nominations this year, because they certainly deserve it. 

The Handmaid’s Tale is available to stream on Hulu.