The amazing film by Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement has been adapted into a TV series, but the question remains: Can it hold up against its predecessor?
Shot in the same Mockumentary format of the film, this show is about three vampires who live together in Staten Island: Nandor (Kayvan Novak), Nadja (Nastasia Demetriou), and her boyfriend Laszlo (Matt Berry), along with Nandor’s familiar Guillermo (Harvey Guillen) and energy vampire Colin Robinson (Mark Prosch). While the group maintains a relatively low profile, after a higher-ranking vampire Baron named Afanas (Doug Jones) comes to America to see them, they are told to work on expanding the power of the American vampires so that they can rule the world. If they don’t conquer America before he wakes up again, he’s going to kill them.
Alright, it might not be entirely fair to gauge the series by its pilot, since pilots often are subject to a lot of changes before the show gets picked up, but this show needs to avoid that. This pilot was excellent. It basically sets the tone for the series, and that tone is hilarious. Since it was made by Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement, it has almost all of the feel of the film, but at the same time expands upon the vampire lore and the world that the film created.
One of the things that made the film What We Do in the Shadows work was that all of the characters were so quirky and interesting, reflecting the fact that they are humans who have far outlived the worlds they were born in. This show picks that up directly, such as giving Nandor a backstory built around being an Ottoman Turk named Nandor the Relentless (a little derivative of Vladislav (Jemaine Clement), but not much). However, they also expand on it a bit by adding in the dynamics of having two of the characters in a relationship and having Colin, who no one likes, living in the house. Additionally, while Jackie (Jackie van Beek) played a relatively small role in the film as a familiar, Guillermo gets as much focus as the other characters, giving us a human to vicariously experience some of the eccentricities from an outsider perspective.
The writing in the pilot is extremely funny, particularly some of the interviews when they’re contrasted to the normal filming. The actors, particularly Matt Berry, are all excellent at comic delivery. I think one of my favorite moments is that, before turning into a bat, Laszlo just loudly shouts “BAT!” It’s so perfectly absurd that I just laughed out loud.
Overall, this show has a lot of promise. I think they’ve set up a lot of great plotlines that could be very funny and the idea of these incompetent vampires trying to take over the world is just inherently hilarious.
Jemaine Clement guest stars in one of the craziest escapes involving a sentient cloud.
Rick (Justin Roiland) is teaching Morty (also Roiland, talking to himself) how to drive his flying vehicle so that Rick can drink more and have Morty run his errands. Rick is surprised to discover that Jerry (Chris Parnell) is in the back seat (literally sitting in plain view), claiming that he and Rick agreed that a boy’s father should be there for a driving lesson. Rick receives a call about a meeting and has Morty fly them to an asteroid where they take Jerry to “Jerryboree” a place where Ricks throughout the mulitverse dump their Jerrys to keep them “safe.”
Rick and Morty head to a parking garage where they’re met by the very upbeat assassin Krombopulos Michael (Andy Daly) who buys weapons from Rick. Rick uses the money to take Morty to “Blips and Chitz,” a Dave-and-Busters-style entertainment center which seems to specialize in Virtual Reality, including the game “Roy” that lets you live a life as another human being and somehow scores you on it. Morty is angry and states that Rick selling Krombopulos Michael a gun makes them culpable for the death. Rick disagrees, so Morty steals the flying car and crashes into the facility that Krombopulos Michael is in, killing him. Rick arrives via portal gun and he and Morty discover that the target of the assassination was a sentient cloud that Rick accidentally names “Fart” (Jemaine Clement). They take Fart with them and flee the facility.
Meanwhile, back at Jerryboree, Jerry feels demeaned by being kept in a facility that appears to be designed for children, but is also frequently distracted by the offerings. He watches Midnight Run, meets other Jerrys (and also Beth’s second husband, Paul Fleishman (Ryan Ridley)), and then decides to escape. Then, he’s told that he can leave at any time. When he does, however, he runs into trouble being on an alien asteroid and quickly comes back.
Fart, Rick, and Morty escape to Gearhead’s (Scott Chernoff) planet for repairs, but Gearhead ends up calling the authorities on Rick. Rick responds by ripping out his “gearsticles” and shoving them in the slot for his mouth gears. They try to escape the Gear Authorities but are cornered until Fart uses his psychic powers to cause a massive series of crashes. They arrive at the planet where Fart’s portal is located. Morty walks to the portal with Fart but Fart indicates that his species is going to destroy all carbon-based life. Morty asks him to sing again before shooting him with Krombopulos Michael’s gun. They pick up Jerry, or A Jerry, at least, and head home.
I love Jemaine Clement. I think he’s talented, funny, and a good singer. What We Do In the Shadows is one of the funniest movies that I’ve seen in the last 10 years and he’s a large part of that. One of his best abilities is to play someone who seems to be just a little off but also still self-confident. Because of that, his performance as Fart is especially amazing to me. He’s a being of unbelievable power, but he also cannot really relate to carbon-based life in a normal way, which makes him seem humorous rather than terrifying. Also, given that the dimensional portal he comes out of is designed to look like a vagina, I think we can safely say that “Fart” was their way of getting around what he really is.
Fart’s song “Goodbye Moonmen” is an example of how something can be perfectly recontextualized from being happy to being horrifying. The lyrics originally seem to be about leading the universe into harmony and convincing the people who don’t agree to see the beauty of peace. However, once you know that Fart wants to kill all organic life, the lines “All the Moonmen want things their way/but we make sure they see the sun/Goodbye moonmen” instead becomes a statement that they’re going to eradicate all of them. It’s a trippy, peaceful song that tries to get you to ignore that the chorus is about genocide, just like “Puff the Magic Dragon.” Yeah, I said it. It’s nonsense, but I said it.
Jerryboree is an interesting exploration of Jerry, particularly given how weird and pedantic the things that Jerry enjoys are. He prefers movies with the Director’s Commentary on. He enjoys figuring out how to set-up entertainment systems. When there are versions of him that were abandoned, they just keep living in the facility, explaining it with “We’re Jerrys.” Basically, Jerry is a giant ball of insecurities, neuroses, and aversions to risk-taking, something that, apparently, is true across much of the multiverse.
Another part of the episode that stands out is Rick and Morty’s disagreement over whether or not providing a weapon makes you culpable for the murder. I think the episode wisely doesn’t take a definite stance on it, but it’s interesting that Rick points out that Morty actually kills far more people in his attempt to do the right thing in the episode than would have died if Rick just sold the gun. Also, if Rick hadn’t created the gun, then Fart’s people would have killed everyone. Hell, if Morty hadn’t kept the gun with him (which is another question altogether) and shot Fart, then Morty would have, by his own logic, killed the universe.
A famous fan theory that seems pretty substantial arises from Jerryboree and the information that Rick fills out for Jerry in this episode. Basically, the fact that the number that “our” Rick and Morty get isn’t the same as the number that the Rick and Morty from the end of the episode have. So, after dropping Jerry off, “our” Rick and Morty probably go off and do some other stuff, possibly just chilling at “Blips and Chitz,” while the Rick and Morty we follow save their universe from Fart and kill Krombopulos Michael. This wouldn’t matter much if it was just this episode, but… well, just wait a few episodes.
JOKER’S THEORY CORNER
So, I’m not doing the theory I just mentioned as I don’t have much to add to it that the internet hasn’t already provided. Instead, I’m going to do a theory about why Rick brought Jerry along on the car trip. After all, Rick doesn’t actually seem to remember bringing him, only remarking “I guess I remember that” when Jerry reminds him of their agreement, then seems mildly astonished by the fact the Jerry had apparently just been in the car the whole time. So, there are two possibilities here:
Rick brought Jerry along so that he could dump him at Jerryboree as part of a plot to get rid of him
Let’s look at the circumstances: Rick knew that he was going to get a call from Krombopulos Michael sometime in the near future, likely during the lesson, as evidenced by the fact that the gun was already in the car. He immediately decided to get rid of Jerry on the Jerryboree asteroid, claiming they didn’t have time to take him back to Earth, despite the fact that Rick literally can teleport people anywhere. Also, Rick immediately rattled off the location of the asteroid, despite the fact that it is likely the first time he’s ever needed to use it. After all, Morty doesn’t know about it and when is Rick going to care about Jerry’s welfare when Morty isn’t around? Now, it’s true Rick could literally just have the location memorized off-hand because he has a mind equal to millions of planets, but it still seems weird that he has it memorized if he’s never used it.
Now, once Jerry is at Jerryboree, how could Rick get rid of him? I mean, it’s not like Rick had a machine that would mess with Morty’s mind that he could suddenly throw him in which he could innocently say caused him to forget the day’s events and then tell Beth and Summer that he has no idea what happened to Jerry. Oh, right, ROY. Yes, the VR game that Rick shoves Morty into basically re-writes his mind to experience another life, which clearly leads Morty to have some difficulty remembering the real world. If Morty hadn’t remembered about Jerry, then Rick would have an excuse to just never pick him up. That’s why Rick leaves Jerry’s Dimension-ID blank: So that no other Rick or the Jerryboree nurse or whoever could send him back. It was a long-shot, but we also know from one of the other Mortys at the end that at least some of the versions had Morty get hooked on playing ROY, so it’s not inconceivable. And yes, I do know the meaning of that word.
2. Rick is actually commenting on the writing
By this point it’s pretty obvious that Rick knows he’s in a TV show. As such, when he seems surprised that Jerry has somehow been in the back of his car unnoticed until now, he could very well be commenting on how ridiculous it is that Jerry would be in the back of his car for Morty’s flying lesson, since Rick would never agree to that. Rick then accepts his out-of-character past behavior as a precursor to the episode’s B-plot and obliges by taking Jerry to a place where he can be the focus, but since Jerry will be completely safe it will be less-interesting than Rick’s hi-jinks and therefore not overshadow the A-Plot.
NOW LEAVING THE CORNER
This is one of my favorite episodes, but since this is Rick and Morty that ties it with like half of the series.
Overall, I give this episode an
on the Rick and Morty scale.
Wubba-Lubba-Dub-Dub, I need a drink. See you in two weeks.