This Interview with the Vampire review contains spoilers.
Interview with the Vampire Episode 7
Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire’s season 1 finale is a vast departure from the novel but makes for exciting horror TV. The episode hits all the beats of the page, but exchanges the locales for more cinematic settings, and keeps its options open.
“The Thing Lay Still” is laid out like a murder mystery, except the investigator is the most surprised person in the drawing room reveal. The vampire-interviewing journalist, Daniel Molloy (Eric Bogosian), sets the tone by asking about death and difficult choices. His subject, the vampire Louis de Pointe du Lac (Jacob Anderson), runs through the known ways to kill creatures like himself, such as decapitation, starvation and drinking from the already-dead.
The episode opens in the pall of the increasingly uncomfortable vampire home. Lestat de Lioncourt (Sam Reid) returns to his habit of lauding himself over his vampire progeny, Louis and Claudia (Bailey Bass). The atmosphere is increasingly oppressive, and Louis occasionally pulls that suppression over himself like a blanket, while Claudia uses it as a weapon. First, as an act of contrition, she brings Lestat a gift of sheet music made for French Fingers. Then she sets the beat, and a repetitive theme she improvises on the spot: a farewell party, which Lestat calls beautiful, but needful. The camera pans tell us the melody is in his head.
The cinema sequence is a brilliant mix of suspense and humor. During a newsreel, Lestat gets to play “Why are you slapping yourself” with an excruciatingly entitled mouth breather, and calls the rising German menace “Nasty little beasts with excellent tailoring.” All while Claudia instigates her plot, and Louis ponders the climate in Buenos Aires. The sensual and decadent party planning is further marked by how the people around the trio see exactly what is going on and react with the knowledge they should just be looking the other way. It is a concise and expansive character study, Claudia notes the similarities between the Nazis and the family dynamic. Metaphorically moving through unspoken hierarchies of race, class, and sexuality, it is a microcosm of vampire politics.
Tom Anderson (Chris Stack) has all the right answers, but that won’t save him. It only makes him more appetizing. The businessman who sold Azalea Hall to Louis is now on the “sacred” secret committee of Mardi Gras planning. He not only receives a bribe in the form of a cargo ship, he gets some of the episode’s best lines. This isn’t only because he knows how to work the acoustics in the vampire mansion’s dome-shaped parlor.
Called the “whispering room,” it was designed by Washington DC political architects to amplify all the sniping backbites in a crowded room, and provides ample sonic confusion during a pivotal scene. Tom doesn’t need a mic to bear his secrets. He deems Louis and Lestat’s invitation to pull a coup on the Mardi Gras celebrations “Good and sufficiently creepy,” throws libelous insults with a winning smile, and says what everyone else is thinking.
“Where do you meet the devil and what are the terms of the agreement?” It is the same thing the man who comes to the door offering cancer-tainted blood wants to know, only he couches it in offensive religious language. The whole neighborhood thinks Satan lives at 1132 Rue Royale. He believes it is angels. “Dolls, bibles, letters become torches and pitchforks,” Lestat notes, in a nod to motion picture horror scenarios. The party is a master stroke, lavishly distracting us from the novel, as much as Lestat is subtly guided into making it happen. Like so many setups for this kind of payoff, it is an imperfect mousetrap.
Lestat buys his way into being named the Raj of Mardi Gras, and sets a tone which mocks atonement. The festivities open with vampires’ most horrific go-to move. Lestat enters by biting the jugular of a fairly authentic looking infant, setting off a flurry of blood-colored ribbons spouting like blood, an old-style special effect which looks momentarily realistic. Louis’ emotional dilemma, “I wanted him dead, I wanted him all to myself,” also feels like full disclosure, and then the vampire duo proceeds to break the cardinal rule of keeping it too real. Louis says “the only crime unfit to print took place on that dance floor” when the two stepped up for the last dance before the feast.
Lestat’s double-edged wit pokes twice the fun in a very inventive pickup line. Upon being introduced to the MacPhail twins, Matthew (Matthew Dennis Lewis) and Mark (Russell Dennis Lewis), he asks if there is rosemary in their garden. One says under the porch. He doesn’t know he gave the perfect retort, so it works on two levels, and each stir Lestat’s appetite. The ball’s displacements of the novel maintain an inner integrity, but adjust to the changing room. The ultimate bait-and-switch of the empty vessel and the philosopher’s stone is a grand theatrical touch, with the same kind of gimmicky flair spiritual con artists employed.
It is interesting which parts of the plot and counterplot are telegraphed and which are kept hidden. The subterfuge mirrors how Claudia keeps Louis guessing, but still leaves room to undermine expectations, and to obscure Lestat’s counterattack. The double-blind has a sad effect on Bass’s performance as Claudia, constricting it into one muted note of defeated insolence, which Maura Grace Athari as Antoinette, mimics perfectly in her own private coming out performance.
The former jazz singer who gave her finger for Lestat was turned into a vampire for her troubles, and brings a vague aura of the three-card-monte setups in the grifter classic The Sting. Antoinette’s shadow play mirrors the convoluted route to violence the series offers. For the most part, the terrors have been divided between the abusive family dynamic, the oppressive racial schisms in the quarter, and the eternal human divide outside the walls. The most gruesome exhibitions have been parsed out generously, but intermittently, in the past few episodes. Saving the gore until it is at its most memorable. The finale lets loose with the violence. The feeding frenzy is a nightmarish funhouse game. Spoiler alert, Louis pulls off a guy’s jaw. The whole jaw. Vampire etiquette be damned, the trio wears white to the elegant party and stain themselves like they’re at a backyard barbecue.
In the heat of the most suspenseful sequence of the installment, comic relief cuts two ways. It may be inadvertent, but when Louis, Lestat, Claudia, and Antoinette bear their fangs for the final standoff, most fans of all-around vampire entertainment will flash on What We Do in the Shadows. I hope it was intentional, because it works too well as comedy. There is also a staking in the final battle, which is a nice touch.
Although the future is certain to be uncertain, I don’t think Lestat’s grievances added up to the verdict issued by the vampires he made. But, then, I don’t think Lestat earned such grievous enmity in the first book, nor do I think Dracula, the Frankenstein monster, or King Kong deserve their punishments. In the case of the series, Louis admits he is falling back into the pattern he covered himself with, and this is traumatic. This is also vampire love. Claudia would always have been the odd one out, it is true, but the punishment does not fit the crimes.
Throughout interview session number 7, Molloy is distracted, once to the point of cutting into Louis’ narrative. This is major telegraphing, which does not hide itself, and even though it is not subtle, a second story plays out subliminally. It is artfully done, not in particularly dark tones, and carries an ambiguity to intent all around. After hints and foreshadowing, the revealing of Rashid’s (Assad Zaman) true nature is very well done. It brings up questions, however, in regards to the novel’s sensitivities toward religion, which are basically none, at least until Memnoch the Devil. Why would a 514-year-old vampire follow any religion?
For newcomers to Rice’s universe, the vampire Armand is a significant character, and Assad is well suited for him. A whole book was named for him. We catch a fleeting glimpse of a French newspaper clipping about his vampire theater troupe, and his aerodynamic pacing betrays his powers. The cameras also imply something going on under the surface. The interviews themselves may be a call for help from Louis who may still be one of those who must be kept. When the series returns it will be a while before we feel the chemistry between Anderson and Reid, but it appears the power balance is not truly corrected at their parting.
“The Thing Lay Still” is a complicated finale to the first televised chapter of Rice’s first novel. It comes to the same conclusion, keeps the copout, and attacks itself for it. All of the ambiguities are laid out on the vista, and every one appears to make Molloy livid. Interview with the Vampire creator Rolin Jones keeps to his promise to retain the essence of Anne Rice’s work, and incorporates the revisions allegorically, situating them as plot points. Season 1 leaves a lot of corpses behind, and gives us fair warning that some are not meant to be so easily discarded. The closer leaves us primed to escape to a new world for season 2.
Interview with the Vampire airs Sunday nights at 10 p.m. ET on AMC and AMC+.