How Mayfair Witches Handles Psychometry and Lasher’s Thrall

Mayfair Witches has Ciprien seeing double in episode 5, but Rowan only has eyes for Lasher.

lexandra Daddario as Dr. Rowan Fielding - Mayfair Witches _ Season 1, Episode 5
Photo: Alfonso Bresciani | AMC

This article contains spoilers for MAYFAIR WITCHES episode 5.

In Mayfair Witches episode 5 “The Thrall,” Alexandra Daddario plays with double indemnity as her Dr. Rowan Fielding gets a taste of forbidden fruit, served up as a perennially fresh egg. Until recently, she was a neurosurgeon with a particularly special talent for predictive diagnosis, who found how to weaponize it. Now, as newly inherited designee of the Mayfair family, she is endowed with all the gifts of “the 13th Witch.” Rowan’s first dinner at the head of the table didn’t go very well, and it’s a damned shame. It started with a blessing.

For the majority of “The Thrall,” Rowan gets to spend quality time with Ciprien Grieve (Tongayi Chirisa), after the aftermath of the fiery and sticky attack of “Curiouser and Curiouser.” But the psychometry specialist of the occult research society Talamasca invests far greater quantity in the entity Lasher (Jack Huston). The devious demonic force has been driving events, and sits in the front seat during Rowan’s revelational journey, leaving Ciprien in the rear-view.

“Don’t die in this house,” Ciprien is warned by a Talamasca agent who notoriously disappeared without a trace years ago and is a mere ghost of his old self. He implores Ciprien to hurry if he enjoys breathing. AMC’s Anne Rice Immortal Universe, which began with the series adaptation of Interview with the Vampire, has eternities to wait.

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Drawing from Anne Rice’s novel trilogy The Witching Hour (1990), Lasher (1993), and Taltos (1994), Mayfair Witches is the tale of a magical family tree with roots in Donnelaith, Scotland in 1681. In tonight’s episode, the midwife Suzanne Mayfair (Hannah Alline) warns her younger ward not to repeat an infernal evocation zealously quoted by a religious puritan in the town square. Foreshadowing the underlying plot of “The Thrall,” the cursed Latin phrase is a call to bring forth Lasher.

But that’s the magick of the olde ways, found in books. The magic of the screen comes very differently. As Rowan, Daddario interacts with a single entity, whose dual aspects reveal themselves in subtle clues, and covered miscues. Chirisa has to play two roles as Ciprien: one which his character lives in the present, the other lives in Rowan’s vision, the way Lasher wants her to see.

Whether playing a disguised Lasher or the real Ciprien, Chirisa still has to internally differentiate the performances. During the Mayfair Witches preview interviews, the actor explained just what possessed him to take on those scenes.

“Being a fan of mythology and religion, you look at Lasher, what his impact was and how he was conjured up, was some of the research I did,” Chirisa tells Den of Geek. “You ask what dimension he is from and what’s his mission, because they have similar throughlines. These things don’t just come for the fun of it. If you conjure something up, there’s an end goal for the entity. Just trying to discover what that is, and what it takes to take it out or send it back to its other world.”

Much of this comes from the source material, which goes on to have an entire book based on the creature behind the mask. “Obviously, reading the book to see the full circle of Lasher and what his mission was on earth just made it that much more compelling,” Chirisa says, also admitting he read Lasher before The Witching Hour.

The novels have the luxury of exploring the inner thoughts behind the actions which propel the story forward. Even though it’s a series, the adaptation condenses the books in different configurations, but the shapeshifting sequence translates bewitchingly.

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“The beauty about it is the scripts were well-written,” Chirisa says. “We had an understanding, through the guidance of the director, Haifaa Al-Mansour. They were able to really craft the gradual breakdown of Ciprien throughout that particular episode in the house. Just being able to do the same thing but with half the energy.”

It sounds as draining as an afternoon with a psychically ravenous Lasher, but acting technique and technical expertise feed each other. “Obviously, the mechanics of that really was challenging,” Chirisa says. “But it was fun, because it wasn’t something that just stuck out.”

The slow move through the bigger journey was also helped by sticking close to the chronology. “We filmed that very linearly, so it was easy to track the emotional trajectory and the physicality of the character,” Chirisa says. “It just made it that much easier to portray the weakness that he ends up having towards the end of that episode.”

In a purist’s definition, Chirisa is already playing a double role in his series credit. He doesn’t get twice the pay, but it comes with a cost to Rice’s novel. “Ciprien is an amalgamation of two characters, Aaron [Lightner], who worked for the Talamasca, and Michael [Curry] who has these gifts,” Chirisa explains. “We meshed these elements, and went on this discovery of finding out who Ciprien was in his own right, without delving too much into the history of these two other characters.”

During “The Thrall,” Ciprien uses psychometry to remember what happened before the possession, reading the knife Carlotta Mayfair (Beth Grant) stuck into him mistakenly at the end of the “Curiouser and Curiouser.” For a life-long practitioner of the art of reading objects, one would think Ciprien would have learned more about the gift than how best to accessorize for it.

“Psychometry can be very overwhelming,” says occultist Ashley Ryan, aka Pythian Priestess, whose podcast The Occult Unveiled recently hosted Mayfair Witches’ Annabeth Gish. “The book’s description makes it seem like he gets information from every object a person touches. The character receives these gifts in a very traumatic way, making the power traumatic to use. It does take a great amount of concentration in order to receive images and information. Generally, once you gain control over the power, it can become more controlled, where you don’t actually need to wear gloves.”

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Mayfair Witches airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC and AMC+.