Interview with the Vampire Episode 2 Review: After the Phantoms of Your Former Self

You’ve never lived until you’ve died, we learn in Interview with the Vampire’s “After the Phantoms of Your Former Self.”

Jacob Anderson as Louis De Point Du Lac and Kalyne Coleman as Grace De Pointe Du Lac - Interview with the Vampire _ Season 1, Episode 2
Photo: Alfonso Bresciani | AMC

This Interview with the Vampire review contains spoilers.

Interview with the Vampire Episode 2

Two vampires walk into a church, but the punchline is just the setup, the delivery is the appetizer. Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire serves up its second episode, “After the Phantoms of Your Former Self,” as haute cuisine. The installment is, after all, about the story of the first feed.

“I serve a god, it is my honor to serve,” Daniel Molloy (Eric Bogosian) is told as a table is readied for two entirely different dining experiences. The opening sequence, setting up the evening’s interview over a seven-course meal, includes a very intriguing irony. As Daniel is served the most exquisitely prepared courses of culinary refinement, but Louis (Jacob Anderson) has a reputation of being something of a bottom feeder. While speaking with the interviewer, Louis indulges his finer desires, but for the most part, he eats stray cats and roadkill.

The distinctions are marvelous. Beyond the many “endangered species” sauteed to perfection, Molloy enjoys ajo blanco, “bread, crushed almonds, garlic olive oil, salt, and a garnish of green grapes,” to Louis’ AB Negative, “fresh from the farm.” It is a meal to die for. This is a faux pas for sanguinarian gourmands. Feeding off the blood of the dead will suck vampires straight into the void, we learn from Lestat, and the second episode is very much a primer for vampire rules, regulations and limitations. Restraint is a weapon.

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The first kill is an interesting study. He’s an out of towner selling tractors. He’s got a daughter, and when he gets cornered in the vampires’ lair, he says he knew all along these guys weren’t interested in buying farm implements. So, why did he go along? It certainly wasn’t the disconcertingly ecstatic wonder Louis brings to the word “sugar.” A camera effect showing Lestat move out of the way to let the trapped prey throw a right cross at a heavy wooden door works simultaneously to present inescapable danger, an explanatory image of supernatural power, and an intentional punch line. Especially after it cuts to Lestat telling Louis not to bite the blood, but suck it. And never take the last bite.

As it is in Anne Rice’s 1976 novel Interview with the Vampire, the first death is as much a Dark Gift to the audience as it is to Louis. The entire sequence is a blur of mixed emotions, un-dulled by the narcotic effect of blood exchange. Watching Anderson transform Louis from a slow-motion near-death experience to a blissed-out lover of all things nocturnal is a mini-tour de force of sense memory and spontaneous abandon. But the most glaring personality change occurs in his mirror, Lestat, and it is the most subtle.

In the premiere episode “In Throes of Increasing Wonder,” Lestat is very intense, his stare seems predatory, which makes sense because he is on the hunt, and sociopathic, with no care of the effect of how intently he gazes. During Louis’ change in the new installment, Lestat’s eyes are just as intent, just as piercing and searching for meaning behind the eyes he is penetrating. But it is dense with love, pure admiration, and maybe even a touch of envy at a feeling of discovery he’s lost to the ages. Reid’s change is subtle, but very effective at telegraphing it to the audience, and Anderson is the perfect recipient, equally subtle, even as he’s stoned beyond the capacity of words.

“After the Phantoms of Your Former Self” introduces the most potent power of a vampire: a sense of humor. It starts out dry, but grows quite infectious as it bleeds out. Louis chides his maker consistently, with a growing mischievous curiosity grinding against invitational amusement. “It’s okay, you can be on top,” Lestat playfully offers as Louis beds down for the first time as a vampire in a coffin made for two.

Lestat, very becoming of his French nature, fills his readings with exquisite ennui. Even the ability to see into the thoughts of others like “a one-reeler” gets old, the visions present “dull monotonous picture shows.” They are tedious distractions. All Louis wants to know is, how long was Lestat going to keep a thing like this secret, the exchanges are as charged with character humor as they are with impending horror.

“Did you eat the baby and is the pandemic the opening they’ve been waiting for,” Molloy asks as a palate-cleansing change of wine is poured, and Interview with the Vampire once again becomes the horrific vampire story horror fans tune in to see. The beauty of the series is how often it makes us forget these creatures only regard humans as cognitive beings in between forkfuls.

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This is mirrored in how Louis wakes to understand how inconceivable it’s been to be perceived as an “exceptional negro,” by those whose success he equals and surpasses. The discriminating epiphany of the origin story, and the threat of a mass vampire incursion in the contemporary arc are linked in the most subliminal of ways. Fear and justice are linked, and blurred by distinctions, but a new menacing undercurrent is introduced as tastefully as the grub, while the audience is seduced by arbitrary violence.

Except when babies are involved. The family breaks are painful, but the audience is rooting for Louis to move on, until he visits his sister Grace (Kalyne Coleman), and is asked to hold her newborn. This is the basis of the greatest vampire terrors in all the classic horror literature, from Dracula tossing his wives an infant to feed from in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, to the ritualistic sacrifice of a baby in Dennis Wheatley’s The Devil Rides Out. Young blood is the tastiest, most nutritious, and enticingly taboo. In other words, an Anne Rice Special.

The dilemma is strung out almost painfully, bits of information are doled out after exquisite distractions, flavoring the suspense, and adding to the emotional investment. Lestat has time to fit Louis for a tuxedo and introduce the jazz-loving erotic impresario to the agonizing beauty of the opera. Here we see another side of both leads, as the elder vampire surrenders to his most innocent humanity, and the hustling student drops his street cred. It is quite the insight. Not everyone is dinner, after all. Especially those who sing for their supper.

Written by Jonathan Ceniceroz and Dave Harris, and directed by Alan Taylor, “After the Phantoms of Your Former Self” is a spicy dish most productions would serve cold. Death and the injustice of life is supposed to be chilling, and the episode is certainly filled with icy terror, but the warmth at the center enhances the bloodcurdling ambiguity. Vampires know curdled blood is unhealthy, and Interview With the Vampire keeps it fresh. Evil is seductive, but it is also subjective. And as the body count piles up, we know there is always room for more.

Interview with the Vampire airs Sunday nights at 10 p.m. ET on AMC and AMC+.


5 out of 5