This Interview with the Vampire review contains spoilers.
Interview with the Vampire Episode 4
“Time flies when there’s people to eat and money to spend,” Bailey Bass’s Claudia enthuses as the embodiment of eternally youthful promise, hunger, and wonder. Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire episode 4, “The Ruthless Pursuit of Blood with All a Child’s Demanding,” is an apt title because of the demands this child character makes, and the leap of faith Anne Rice loyalists have to make to accept the series as it is.
Rice expanded a short vampire story into the book Interview with the Vampire beginning in 1973, a year after her daughter died of leukemia at the age of five, the same age as Claudia when Louis finds her in 1794. This eternal-child vampire is one of the greatest creations in horror history, according to the AMC series creator Rolin Jones, but it is problematic on television. Even at the age of 11, it was daring for Kirsten Dunst to play the character in the 1994 film adaptation. Bass is 19 and playing Claudia as a 14-year-old.
In the book, Claudia enters as a hasty snack for Louis, who had been feeding on the blood of rats for four years. The five-year-old girl is grieving over the body of her dead mother, who succumbed to the plague. Louis leaves her for dead. Lestat gives the Dark Gift to the dying girl, stealing her from the useless medical care of an orphanage, and naming her Claudia. In the series, we miss seeing Lestat (Sam Reid) dance with her dead mother’s corpse. Claudia’s diary describes Louis (Jacob Anderson) as a “Black angel,” who saved Claudia from the fire which engulfed much of the New Orleans neighborhood in the aftermath of the vampire’s first true display of vampiric violence.
Beyond the alterations, Bass is enthralling as Claudia, clearly having the time of her life in an undead role with a vast range of emotional baggage to unpack. Scared or scary, kids are dream parts in horror. Claudia almost gets to mature through it, making for an even more diverse character. The actor sinks her prefabricated fangs into it with gratitude, making sure Claudia thanks each and every trolly car driver she kills. Claudia owns the episode as the new pariah in the parish, but Louis has moments where Anderson’s age similarly dissolves to match a much older soul shaken by the wisdom of disappointments. Lestat’s age-old vampire holds back more than secrets, and Reid lets out steam with restraint, but boils over wonderfully in the heat of cold passion.
The episode opens on vampire interviewer Daniel Molloy (Eric Bogosian), uncertain of how long he will be in Dubai, and explaining how his research uncovered a book, not an article. Well, maybe an excerpt in Vanity Fair, but more like something easily adapted into series TV, after a film or two. And this is before he reads Claudia’s diaries. “Anne Frank meets Stephen King,” the journalist appraises. Dangerous vulnerability is Claudia’s charm, but the diary is her talisman, and as a gloved-Molloy follows the spell, it breaks like a porcelain doll with coiled golden hair.
The first diary entries are from the year 1917, but the ambidextrous Molloy sneaks a peek at a later chapter, in Paris, circa 1945. “My whole dead self feels revitalized head to toe,” the Nov. 14 entry reads. “We might be outsiders to both humans and Parisians, but I do appreciate both now with such fervor!” He skips back a few notebooks to learn World War II POWs made for a horrible feeding experience. Only then does he dive in from the beginning.
The family unit is established very quickly, and ground rules are broken as they come up. Leaving Lestat out of the mind-reading communications between Louis and Claudia begins mischievously, but we know it’s not going to remain fun and games. However, when Claudia goes off for her first kill, and Lestat and Louis discuss how chiffon gives her pleated skirt movement, we know we will not lose the casually biting humor which has become so important to the series. The irony of watching Nosferatu as a comedy is particularly delicious.
There are moments in “The Ruthless Pursuit of Blood with All a Child’s Demanding” where Louis and Lestat even twist the vapid essence of traditional family sitcoms into their response to the hemoglobin-gobbling preteen. Turned while her metabolism is still running full speed, every cop and horn player in New Orleans becomes an eye-rolling problem for the new parents to solve. Each time Louis attempts Father Knows Best-style deliberation, he loses to Lestat’s permissive Married…With Children encouragement. The series mixes silly suspense with serious consequences to subvert family programming. The scene where Claudia is fitted for her own casket could have played on The Addams Family.
Rice’s Lestat and Louis were one of the first same-sex couples to adopt and raise a child, but serve as a cautionary tale as the book progresses. Discipline is as ambiguous as sexuality in the world of vampires, where punishment can be its own reward. The dysfunctional vampire family shares extremely tender moments, Louis’ mortal relations are only torturous. His sister Grace (Kalyne Coleman) judges him at their mother’s funeral, and he cuts the human ties that bind. It comes across like a revocation of the invitation all vampires need to enter a house, according to myths and legends.
The episode offers some slight insight on Rashid (Assad Zaman), beyond his martini making prowess and arcane references to electronic communications. Previously, he said he serves a god in Louis, but we see him offer daily prayers to Allah. He is not a native of Dubai, which he calls “a child.” Molloy wants to know what his endgame is, and it seems like the broad spectrum of the diary-writer’s curiosity is infectious. Bogosian’s simple act of cleaning his glasses represents a whole new way of looking at things in a vampire world larger than Molloy imagined.
Interview with the Vampire displays its violence diversely, sometimes gory, occasionally subliminal, and often sexy. The hunt becomes seduction after just a few bites, and the victim ultimately surrenders with longing. This is what makes the sequence with Charlie (Xavier Mills) so devastating, coloring the entire episode with the ambiguous rage of suppressed progression.
Anne Rice’s greatest creation is recreated, and not in the original image, but Interview with the Vampire makes no apologies. Cauterize the wound and move on, vampires move only forward. “The Ruthless Pursuit of Blood with All a Child’s Demanding,” as distressing as it will be to longtime fans, will still shock viewers as horror should.
Interview with the Vampire airs Sunday nights at 10 p.m. ET on AMC and AMC+.