[Note: This article contains spoilers for tonight’s episode of What We Do In The Shadows.]
After last week’s unexpected “barbecue,” we were expecting some kind of consequences for the Staten Island trio. They didn’t throw back the curtains—that dubious honor goes to Guillermo, as hopeful as ever when “The Trial” begins—but Nandor, Nadja, and Laszlo must still face the Vampiric Council, an ancient tribunal comprising vampires from many different countries, including the United States, Mexico, and New Zealand. The three bumbling roommates are summoned before this group, whose headquarters are located deep in the belly of some nondescript office building, to answer for the Baron’s death, even though they’ve only recently come down from their drugged-blood high and can’t remember what actually happened to the old vampire.
[Last chance to exit this post if you haven’t already watched tonight’s episode.]
You’ve undoubtedly seen some rumblings on the internet about the guest appearances in “The Trial,” and even though The A.V. Club was on set when part of the episode was shot, nothing could prepare us for this otherworldly council. We mean, who could have guessed Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi (who directed the episode) would have brought Tilda Swinton on to lead that group? And that the Only Lovers Left Alive star would be accompanied by other famous vampires like Wesley Snipes’ Blade (who joins us via Skype), Evan Rachel Woods as vampire queen Sophie-Anne Leclerq (from True Blood), Danny Trejo’s From Dusk ’Til Dawn bartender, and Paul Reubens, who tried to take over Los Angeles under the wing of Rutger Hauer in 1992's Buffy The Vampire Slayer? Have we mentioned yet that Waititi and Clement joined Jonny Brugh in reprising their roles from the original What We Do In The Shadows film? Or that Kristen Schaal glides through the proceedings, as a vampire keenly aware of the fire code?
Before the trial began, you probably noticed the New Zealand vampires dancing up a storm, just as you undoubtedly recognized Dave Bautista and Alexandra Henrikson as Garrett—just Garrett—and Vasilika The Defiler, respectively. The A.V. Club got to sit in on the late-night filming of that scene, where Garrett reveals he’s actually being punished for something Laszlo did (turns out, creating a vampire baby is a serious offense), and Waititi showed off some truly impressive improvisational skills, helping Bautista deliver just the right amount of cluelessness and hilarious fury. Henrikson, late of Maniac, kept up with the Shadows director, coming up with all kinds of ill deeds for her defiler character that unfortunately didn’t all make it into the episode.
With so many all-star appearances, “The Trial” managed to be a reunion for Flight Of The Conchords alums, Marvel Cinematic Universe players, and mismatched roommates from Wellington, as well as achieve some kind of “cinematic vampire bingo.” But that’s only part of what makes this the best episode of Shadows to date—as our own Katie Rife observes, “this was a fantastic episode that worked in some fun new elements as well as bringing back some of my favorite bits of the season so far—the vagina garden, the familiars’ lounge, a succession of funny reveals in the form of introductions.” Find tonight’s recap and more Shadows coverage here.