As Frock Flicks’ resident ElderGoth, I’m contractually required to watch the new AMC series adaption of Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire. So I’m dragging y’all along with me every other Tuesday!
Episode 3, “Is My Very Nature That of the Devil”
This time, the story jumps right in at 1917, skipping the interview setup. Louis and Lestat are sitting on a bench in Jackson Square in front of Saint Louis Cathedral, talking about the history of New Orleans. Lestat is charmed by the French settlement, while Louis reminds him about the history of slavery in the area.
Louis is more concerned with what larger purpose vampires might serve in the world. He’s delving into the grand ‘why am I here? what am I?’ issues that are the hallmark of this moody, introspective character. Louis has become uncomfortable with killing as his sustenance and wants there to be some rhyme or reason to the act. Lestat is disdainful, saying, “Hunting is pure instinct, reason is a set of leg irons.”
They debate the idea of only killing ‘bad guys,’ but Lestat points out that all humans have some degree of wickedness. Petty theft, evil thoughts, cruelty, what would define who a vampire is justified in killing? Lestat chooses one criminal off the street and offers him up to Louis, who grabs a nearby cat instead.
Back at Louis’ place of business, the Azalea Hotel, Antoinette Brown (Maura Grace Athari) sings, and the vampires continue their philosophical discussion of the hunt. Louis is ashamed of what they are and doesn’t want to kill humans anymore. Lestat says that’s like: “A fish that doesn’t swim, a bird refusing to fly.”
Jelly Roll Morton (Kyle Roussel) is the pianist, but Lestat critiques him. They argue, and Morton challenges Lestat to play, so he starts into an elaborate classical bit that gets booed by crowd. Then Lestat plays ragtime, which the crowd prefers, and Morton joins in and they jam together. It’s a cute bit and almost plausible in that Jelly Roll Morton did start playing piano in brothels as a teenager. But this is supposed to be 1917, and it was around 1915 that his “Jelly Roll Blues” was one of the first jazz compositions to be published. Morton was playing in Chicago, California, and Vancouver around this time. Maybe he might have stopped by in New Orleans…
Louis’ voiceover says Jelly Roll Morton left shortly after this incident and took with him a tune “Wolverine Blues,” and it’s suggested Lestat actually wrote the song (which was first published in 1923).
Back in the present day, Daniel compares this interview with the interview he and Louis first had in 1973 (e.g., when the original book interview would have happened; only in this TV show, Daniel didn’t write his vampire book). He plays clips from the old tapes where Louis says Lestat was a crap teacher, frail and stupid, and then now Louis is saying Lestat is a showing him wonders and is his amazing beloved. Daniel psychoanalyzes Louis and Lestat’s relationship, proclaiming it, “some fucked up gothic romance,” and, well, he’s not wrong, but that’s what we love about it!
In turn, Louis critiques Daniel’s writing, pointing out that every person’s memories are fallible. So Daniel trashes the old tapes, and Louis torches them with a psychokinetic touch.
Back in 1917, Lestat fills in on the piano when Jelly Roll Morton leaves and cozies up to Antoinette. Louis has been eating rats, which isn’t very satisfying and he feels weak.
Lestat brings the singer home where she tells them of the gossip around the brothel, whether there’s “two beds or one” at Lestat and Louis’ home. But she’s cool, “I’m the same, I like all sorts,” Antoinette says as Lestat pours champagne on her and they canoodle.
Louis is miffed, asking Lestat later, “Aren’t I enough?” Lestat laughs and makes fun of Louis, telling to pace himself because they’ll be together 10,000 nights, and, from time to time, “I like a little variety.” Ah, so now we’re polyamorous, thinks Louis, “So I can fuck whoever I want?” To which Lestat replies, “Of course, as long as you come home to me.” Yeah, that’s what they all say.
Things are changing around New Orleans. The city has become the last stop before Europe for soldiers heading out for World War I, and city aldermen pass segregation ordinances. Specifically, they mandate that colored prostitutes move across Canal St. So Louis gives 5% of the Azalea Hotel to his girls, making them all owners, and they file a writ claiming that the ordinance deprives them of due process.
There’s some excellent dialog from one of said girls, Bricktop “Brix” Williams (Dana Gourrier), as she counts Louis’ money while he plays cards with those white city aldermen. Just because she’s a sex worker doesn’t mean she’s dumb, hell no, she’s smarter than anyone but the vampires.
Louis ditches the whiteys and finds an old friend out in the nightclub area. Jonah (Thomas Antony Olajide) is kitted up in a soldier’s uniform, but he knows Louis from the old days, knows his family. They were kids together … and then some.
Jonah hopes to find more “European sensibilities” abroad and asks if Louis has “someone.” Louis says “not a woman,” and Jonah guesses his partner has “one of those ‘you can drive out to the bayou’ agreements.” Well there’s a new term for poly. The two men kiss and strip, and Louis hears the blood pounding as he gets a blow job, so he has to bite his own wrist.
Back at home, Lestat is getting into PJs and inquires about Louis’s night out. Louis notices mud on Lestat’s boots and realizes that he followed and watched the tryst in the bayou.
Still trying to keep up appearances, Louis visits home for Grace’s twins’ belated birthday. Of course, the party was in the afternoon, not at night. He fights with his mother and Grace’s husband.
Mrs. Du Point Du Lac says, “The devil walks at night,” and sees that devil in her son’s eyes.
Mom is still wearing an early 1910s style dress, which makes sense as she’s older and more conservative. But she’s not totally out of fashion either because while there were new dress styles available, they were made right alongside this style.
Louis busts down the door, frightening his nieces. Grace screams at him to get out. He returns to Lestat’s where he has a battalion of soldiers playing piano, drinking everywhere. “You can fuck them, I can eat them,” Lestat says, “Now that I know you have a type.”
It’s not amusing to Louis, especially when he gets the notice that electricity has been cut at the Azalea Hall. He tells Lestat to make the soliders go, which he does telepathically, and they file out.
Lestat admits he was there at the bayou, and yeah, he’s jealous. But it’s different, because he doesn’t have feelings for Antoinette, so she doesn’t count. DUDE. WHAT EVER.
Louis complains he’s lost everything, and he’s about to lose his business. Off he goes to argue with the whiteys, who admit to a certain “clannish majority among the property holders” (wow, loaded phrase).
Louis blames one white guy for selling the property knowing this shit would happen, and the alderman says “You put a sir on the end of that.” Ouch.
So Louis rashly puts a “Coloreds Only” sign on the Azalea to contrast the “Whites Only” signs on the nearby establishments. Brix knows that is a bad idea.
He’s served a cease and desist order, meanwhile realizing that he’s been neglecting his thirst. Feeding on small animals is not enough. He’s hungry. He’s angry. That white alderman will be the obvious target. Louis gets into his head, even as whitey tries to shoot him. Louis kills him.
The next day, the public finds the alderman disemboweled with a “Whites Only” sign on his body outside Saint Louis Cathedral.
In retaliation, Storyville and the Azalea Hall are burned.
Lestat is pleased with Louis’ kill, thinking this makes him a true killer at last. Louis denies that, saying it’ll never work and Lestat will be alone. He staggers through the town on fire, until he finds a girl in need of saving: “I could not save the Azalea, I could not save Storyville, but I could save her, my light, my Claudia, my redemption.”
I rather enjoyed the build-up in this episode of Louis’ discontent and disillusionment with the vampiric life. This arc started at the end of episode 2 with killing the opera singer and that lead naturally into the theme of this episode. He wrestles philosophically with vampirism and emotionally with his feelings for Lestat — they’re entwined and mirror each other in good and bad aspects. The mortal-world actions finally drive him over the edge to despair, since he was clutching onto that last connection. And now, Claudia comes into the picture.
Episode 4, “…The Ruthless Pursuit of Blood With All a Child’s Demanding”
The story picks up in the modern day with Daniel on the phone, apparently selling this vampire book concept to his agent. Louis’ familiar, Rashid, tells him that they’ve arranged for medical treatment that Daniel is ignoring for his Parkinson’s disease to take place in Dubai.
While Louis sleeps in the day, Daniel has access to a special archive of materials that are a collection of books — diaries — that he first leafs through out of order. One is dated “Paris 1945” and another that he reads is from 1941 and tells of POWs with sickly blood that’s awful to drink. Then he reads them in the recommended order, starting in 1917.
Here, the voiceover is that of Claudia (Bailey Bass), who describes being trapped in a burning house with her aunt when a “black angel” rescued her. The switch to storytelling through Claudia’s eyes and voice is a nice touch, providing not just for variety but for a crucially missing view that expands the tale thoughtfully. The original novel was inspired by the death of Anne Rice’s young daughter, and Claudia became an obvious stand-in for that person. But her own voice isn’t heard because the novel is about Rice’s mourning and questioning the purpose of life and death through the character of Louis. The TV series gives Claudia her own fully realized voice and inner life so she stands not just as an idealized girl-who-never-grows-up but as a complex trapped-girl-vampire.
So Louis has taken the burned and dying girl back to their house and begs Lestat to do ‘something’ to help her. He complains that she’s too far gone, yet he acquiesces to his lover’s plea. Lestat turns the girl into a vampire.
Because Lestat is her maker, he can’t hear her thoughts, but Louis can, and they share a secret telepathic conversation. “We’re a family,” Claudia says, and she calls them her “uncles.”
She zooms off to a police officer and attacks viciously, but afterwards Louis warns her not to eat cops because they have leave a bad aftertaste, LOL. She complains that she’s still hungry, and Lestat ponders that she may have a child’s metabolism fixed in her as a vampire.
Claudia takes to killing immediately, commenting: “You suck ’em like frogs legs and burn ’em like trash.” She also plays tricks on her two daddies, hiding things from them and goofing around at sunrise. She giggles when they argue in French, and she writes in her journal like any normal human teenager.
They go to a mortuary to get a child-size coffin for her, trying to pretend she’s a dying girl with a heart condition. But she’s too lively and wild, so they have to kill the salesperson.
She’s glad to have her own bed because “a girl vampire needs her own space,” and she writes in her diary in her coffin. Though she does peek out and see Lestat joining Louis in his coffin one night.
Out on the bayou, Claudia and Louis talk while he fishes. She asks, “How does it work, love between two men?” So Louis talks a little about that and mentions he used to pretend to like girls, while Lestat still does sometimes.
Louis sucks the blood from a fish he catches, and Claudia is squeamish, saying she doesn’t like the taste. That’s when Louis tells her his ideas about killing — “You can kill quick and painless or you can get extravagant. Some killing has consequences …” He relates this back to her, “The fire in your house was a consequence. I used to get caught up in human affairs, before you…”
It’s Claudia’s birthday. She comments: “You wouldn’t believe how time flies when there’s people to eat and money to spend.” Lestat gives her a big jewel, and she wonders, “When am I going to grow into this?” She may be recklessly enjoying the vampiric life, but here’s the first hint that she’s becoming aware of time’s passage.
They go to a movie theater and watch the silent film of Nosferatu circa 1922, laughing the whole time, and later at home, they make fun of the depiction of vampires. It’s a particularly amusing self-aware bit, and I’m glad this was included. Then the phone rings and “all the easy times stopped.”
Louis’ mother has died, and they attend the wake. His sister Grace and her husband are judgmental about Louis and Lestat “adopting” an orphan Claudia. They want to talk about the house and finances, saying, “We can pay you in installments.” Louis is vaguely threatening, but says he’ll have papers drawn up. He doesn’t really want to give up his connections to the human world, for all his posturing to Claudia.
Lestat gives Claudia a driving lesson, taking her out to a nearby ‘lover’s lane’ type place. She ruminates that while naturally ‘Daddy Lou’ is her favorite, ‘Les’ and her have a lot in common. The thrill of the hunt, for example.
This is where Claudia watches a human couple making out, and she’s fascinated and aroused in a new way. She kills the man, and the woman runs right into Lestat’s arms to die. Claudia thinks: “I came away understanding something else tonight. Something opened up in my head, my body.” This is a more direct and clear way of showing Claudia’s growth than in the novel, where she her maturation is primarily mental and not expressed in physically. She’s eternally childlike and doll-like, with the dichotomy of a fully grown woman trapped in a little girl’s body only hinted at. Here, on TV, it looks like we’ll get a fuller exploration of this character’s depths.
She goes through her closet and picks a new outfit, “I’ve been 18 for 7 months (?) now, it’s time I started acting like it.”
Off she goes to the French Quarter, and Lestat wishes her “happy hunting.”
She’s feeling good until she overhears some white girls say / think, “Look who fell into her mama’s closet,” about her. She steps into the street in front of a horse-drawn carriage, and that’s how she meets a fellow named Charlie. He drives her home, and she gets the hots for him.
The next night, she watches for him, and he throws her flowers. She’s crushing HARD. Louis can hear her thoughts, and she tries to shut him out.
Claudia and Charlie go out for ice cream, which she can’t really eat. She alludes to this being their ‘first date,’ but he says she’s too young. She tells him she’s 19 and looks young for her age. Later, they fool around in the stables, and she’s way more aggressive than he is, saying “I’m tired of waiting.” So much so that she kills him. But she freaks out and takes him home. She begs Lestat to turn Charlie into a vampire, but he’s already dead.
Here’s where I think it works well that Claudia is older in the series than in the novel or movie. It’s actually easier to show how she feels different and distressed by growing older within a childish vampire body. Having a first crush go so disastrously vividly displays her dilemma. It’s not as theoretical, it’s not merely the concept of a woman trapped in a little girl’s body. This incident shows the disconnect between her advancing internal age with her outward physical appearance. She looks like a sweet, young, innocent teenager. But inside, she’s all raging hormones, physical desires, and pounding blood.
In the modern story, Daniel sums up Claudia’s diaries as, “Anne Frank meets Steven King,” and asks Louis where the books were in 1973 during the first interview. Louis explains that he loved Claudia unconditionally as a daughter, and would you share those diaries with a brash young reporter?
So Louis opines that Claudia’s date with Charlie in 1923 was when “the fantasy of happiness burst.” And he tells Lestat: “She was already brokenhearted, and you burned her first boyfriend.”
From that point, Claudia’s diary entries become angry and frenetic. She gets it now. However old she grows as a vampire, she’ll always be trapped in this 14-year-old body.
What do you think of the changes between Interview With the Vampire the novel and the series so far?