Why Nandermo Is Happening, It's Gotta, Goddamnit It Had BETTER
Here's the thing: in spite of some of the things said prior to S3 actually airing, I'm still convinced - or idk, maybe convincing myself? but convincing myself VERY VERY HARD - that Nandor/Guillermo is going to happen on a romantic and sexual level. (This is regardless of whether they actually end up together, though I think that has to happen too, I'll get to that later).
Because they didn't have to do it this way. They really didn't. It's not like everyone was chomping at the bit for Nandor/Guillermo as a queer slow burn romance. I think there were enough shades of meaning in Season 2 where they could have gone anywhere with it. 'I want to be you,' or 'you're handsome but you're also a father figure,' or 'becoming equals and brothers-in-arms as warriors.' The 'will-they-won't-they' with the two of them was always 'will Nandor treat Guillermo with respect and kindness, will Guillermo become part of their house for real, will Guillermo become a vampire?'
And then they just...set the ball rolling HARD towards two of those right out of the gate. And they set up the entire third season like cascading dominos that put Nandor and Guillermo on parallel character arcs, linking their desires and thoughts about happiness to each other at every turn. They did this while slowly, the whole time, exploring them both as romantic and sexual beings in text. And remember, they plotted Season Three and Season Four together.
Please join me in a game of 'They Did Not Have To But They Did'.
(Note: I've been working on this ship manifesto-type thing for weeks, at different levels of confidence in my own thesis statement depending on what interview the fandom just rediscovered, so it's ginormous but just...bear with me.)
You can see it from minute one of the third season, because everything is different now within this new dynamic they have. It's clear immediately that Guillermo is in control. His sadness isn't as deep, he's confident in his abilities and what he wants. He's figured out how to either herd the ancient children he lives with, or step around them. He can't even be hypnotized.
But even though he rarely needs Nandor's backup, Nandor is his constant advocate. There are still times he's rude or out of touch with Guillermo's feelings, but often that's resolved by some kind of major progress within the same episode. We see far more often that he stands up for him, corrects everyone about his new position, trusts and respects his skills.
And Nandor seeing his skills, seeing him as a warrior, is a BIG deal because up to now he's seen Guillermo as under him - as a kid. Maybe as a new pet horse. Sometimes as a friend, when he allows himself to. Certainly not as an equal, or a vampire. And yeah, Guillermo is still a "little rascal," but that's quite a few steps from infantilizing him.
What a great setup for the two of them to become equals, friends, maybe brothers-in-arms. And they could end it there and NEVER ADDRESS IT beyond that. But they don't! There's more!
Nandor is becoming a softer and more dynamic character, and the story is giving him an arc of his own. While Guillermo wants to be a vampire, Nandor is questioning what meaning and value being a vampire has. His conclusion to all this is to look for love, specifically! A committed relationship, someone to share his life with! What develops from that? Well.
Nandor's like a puppy dog ready to sweep up the first lady who's nice to him. Meanwhile we establish he used to admire the bodies of his fellow male warriors.
A lesbian clocks within two sentences that "Nandor" is really into "Guillermo" romantically. Guillermo is so freaked out by this he immediately excuses himself.
She then mentions it to Nandor (who is surprised/confused but not disgusted at the thought) and we get the confirmation that Nandor is interested in men as well as women.
They didn't have to do that, but they did.
And then there's Gail, can we talk about Gail? Because this is the setup for Gail:
Nandor wants to make someone a vampire. That person keeps getting his hopes up and then refusing them. They have done this for 40 years.
(They didn't have to do that, but they did.)
Guillermo is jealous and considers himself a protector of Nandor's heart as well as his body. It's revealed Gail is now a werewolf, their 'mortal enemy' (pretty sure slayers are up there too bud), and he doesn't hold that against her and wants to make peace with her pack. He makes her a vampire and she still leaves, never just being upfront with him, and it's Guillermo who's there to take his heartbreak seriously and to comfort him.
They didn't have to do that! But they did!!
Guillermo's role as a bodyguard is cemented among the group in The Casino, and he takes another step towards this being the family he's eager to create for himself. Nandor continues to be his biggest advocate and tries to make him feel included. Guillermo's sexuality is once again addressed, slowly and carefully, basically teased prior to what we know they'll address even more explicitly in Season 4 - and no one is looking and listening more intently than Nandor is.
Nandor's love crisis has gone to a full-blown existential crisis, but it's also still about relationships. He feels like life has no meaning and is pointless because he sees vampires as having no real connection. Vampires have no real families. (Family, a theme repeated throughout the season.) He doesn't even have a girlfriend. (Romantic relationships coming up again, even if individual women aren't for a while.) And then we get the pan over to Guillermo's plane coming home to him, showing that he's not alone in having ALL of those things that are EXPLICITLY stated together, because Guillermo is there.
Did not have to but did!
So let's be clear: we've put Guillermo into a much more equal dynamic in the household, and we've set up very clearly over three episodes now that Nandor is looking for love, Guillermo has feelings for him, they're both interested in men, and Nandor feels empty and bereft of meaning in a way that Guillermo can provide and already does.
The next three episodes put Nandor's love journey on hold but cement their new dynamic, integrating Guillermo as a part of the team and showing him experimenting with the power he holds. (He tries whispering in people's ears but, this is important for later, always does better when speaking out loud.)
Guillermo literally slaps sense into Nandor at one point while he's descending into melancholy, tells him to "help me help you fix this", which is...an insanely married statement. And Nandor's sense of honor flares brightest, as usual, when Guillermo will potentially be hurt on his behalf.
There isn't a single episode that doesn't have at least one interaction between them, that doesn't put them as a duo as much as Laszlo and Nadja in their rhythms. And then the last three episodes drive it home.
Nandor says specifically, in the depths of his depression, that he still has 'roommates' (as opposed to family members) - no life partner (a gender-neutral term now), no children, no one to share his dreams or his fears with. Jan reads his vulnerability and gives him the five seconds courtesy of asking him how being a vampire is going for him, and now Nandor wants to be human.
Nandor wants to become the thing Guillermo has spent the last twelve years trying to escape, and they're on inverse paths, with Guillermo saying that if he's turned they can both find happiness. But Nandor admits he cares far too much about Guillermo to ever make him a vampire because it'd weigh on him forever. And even with his position as servant and the promise of vampiredom revoked, Guillermo can only think of Nandor. The fact that they (he) couldn't make Nandor happy.
Meanwhile, what is Nandor getting from the cult? Well, he's getting a sense of community. He's learning new things, he's embracing the surprise and novelty of failing when he doesn't use his powers. He's second in command to Jan and it loops back to the 'number two' joke at the beginning of the season, but it's also really important I think - that Nandor is learning to find joy in being 'weaker'. Working in a position of support or equality, finding a new kind of power in that. Understanding that as a component of his life, and of relationships.
And this is all set to a song (One Week) that's about a man reciting a string of pop culture minutia so he can avoid the real problem, addressing a rift with someone he loves.
Guillermo rescues Nandor, saves his life again, and Nandor in turn gives him the second truly emotional conversation they've ever had - in which he confesses how deeply unhappy he's been for decades, how this is a new kind of joy he's never had in his entire life. He shares his feelings in a way we've never seen him do with anyone else, in a way he lamented he wasn't able to do with anyone at the start of the episode.
Nandor wants love and belonging and meaning, he wants discovery and new things, he wants to be challenged, and there's not a single one of those things that Guillermo isn't trying to create in the Staten house. Or that is already present in their relationship. They didn't have to set Nandor looking for these things, didn't have to make it clear he already has them in the person he's seeing in a new light, but they did.
Nandor winds up in the same cage Guillermo was in at the start of the season (didn't have to but did!) to process where he's been so far. I wonder if this is where he started thinking hardest about what Guillermo has become to him, because it's in episodes 9 and 10 that he begins to call him by pet names. (Didn't have to do that, but they did.)
Nandor's anger is strongest and deepest towards Guillermo after he's deprogrammed, there is something raw and personal in that "and you!" compared to the others. His attempt to Super Slumber reads very much like someone lashing out. Guillermo doesn't push back, though, mainly just says he wishes Nandor wasn't doing this. And he goes from grief to indignation to raw anger as Nandor continues to dig his heels in, and yet he's still pushing so much down, still doesn't give him that second physical or verbal slap that has been what Nandor needs in the past. He hasn't remembered that he has to truly speak to bridge that gap.
"I don't even care about [becoming a vampire] anymore, I just don't want you to go."
Nandor calls him 'my dear Guillermo.'
It takes Colin Robinson's death to remind Nandor that life is precious and break him from his super slumber plans, but all of the pain still hasn't come to a head. They read like a married couple, shooing the cameras from the room before Guillermo flat-out tells him he's running away from his feelings. Nandor in response is deeply cruel, more than he's been in ages, saying that Guillermo is one of the things (the feelings) he needs to get away from. Blatantly disregarding his presence in saying that once Laszlo and Nadja get away, he'd be all alone. Saying "[his] sweet, sweet Guillermo" couldn't possibly understand how he feels, because Guillermo isn't a vampire. (The unspoken being 'and you never will be.')
Guillermo tries to manipulate his way into keeping things as they are, but once again the way to do it is to go on the attack, challenge Nandor, be his match. To show just how much has changed between them. And I believe more and more that it really was a test on Nandor's part, a statement - "I believe you can stand with me, but you have to acknowledge the cards you hold. If you want this, throw away what our relationship was for last twelve years and come and take it."
"This is what I have been waiting for," Nandor says, when Guillermo finally does. He's newly invigorated, excited even. What has Nandor been waiting for this whole season, something he mentions again and again? Someone to share his life with. A lover, a partner, a part of his family.
He uses the same words as his marriage proposal to Gail to ask Guillermo to come with him, and to say he's going to make him a vampire in his homeland, linking their journeys together. Guillermo nearly calls him '[his] Nandor'.
They didn't have to do that, but they did!
And when it all goes wrong, when Laszlo is giving his goodbye to Nadja (a spouse he chose below his station, who his peers saw as nothing), it's a parallel to Guillermo and Nandor once again. Laszlo always saw Nadja as needing his protection but now feels he's watched her blossom and come into her own; he sends her Guillermo out of love, not because Nadja is helpless. But Nadja still feels Laszlo couldn't get by without her, that she's protecting him from himself.
"It is a very dangerous world out there."
"You're joking, right? It's me who's been protecting you!"
"You've finally proved that you can take care of yourself, and more importantly, you can take care of me."
One half of the pair understanding the other's power, the other still feeling responsible, just as both couples are ripped apart.
Didn't have to but they did!
I don't know if the whole series is a love story between Nandor and Guillermo, but Season 3 absolutely is. It's a love story about a very dysfunctional relationship that has a lot of different facets, but sex and romance are clear and present parts of it.
I think the biggest concerns going forward are going to be 1) are they going to claim one of them has no romantic/sexual interest in the other, 2) are they going to make them 'endgame' so to speak and give them a happy ending? And as long as everything we're seeing is what's happening, I don't think either of those things are anything to worry about.
Because they've made it clear both characters, especially Guillermo, are interested in men, something that's only going to come up more in Season 4 (remember, they plotted 3 and 4 together). Because there's been a romantic and sexual dimension to their relationship this whole time, but especially this season, where they started practically from ground zero and built a case for the two of them as a marriage. Because their biggest and most important relationship has always been each other.
And as for happily ever after, well, if Guillermo belongs with this family - and I think we're meant to believe he does, he's certainly fought for his place in it - then I don't think his reward is going to be forever wanting and never able to have the person he's in love with. He'd have to, if nothing else, move on and find fulfillment in some other love story.
But this is the love story they set up. This is the most important relationship in both their lives, and they spent 10 episodes moving it from something very toxic with painful edges to a chance for both of them to find the family and partner they crave.
Nothing else makes sense. There are a lot of kinds of love story, honestly, they didn't have to tell a romantic love story. But they told a romantic love story. And they know people are here for it. And nothing is holding them back from continuing to tell it.
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