Interview with the Vampire has arrived on AMC, beginning the way it means to go on in a bloody rampage of love, lust and longing. Read on for our review of Interview with the Vampire episode 1 “In Throes of Increasing Wonder.”
This weekend, AMC unleashed the first of its forays into the works of Anne Rice, in what they hope will be a huge new franchise for the network. Executive producer Mark Johnson is overseeing each Rice adaptation in AMC’s Immortal Universe, and helming Interview with the Vampire is showrunner Rolin Jones, who has lavished praise on AMC for allowing them to do some “esoteric and strange” things in this adaptation of the first of Rice’s wildly popular Vampire Chronicles. Mayfair Witches, set in the same world and adapted by Esta Spalding, is not far behind, set to premiere in early 2023.
Starring Jacob Anderson as Louis, Sam Reid as Lestat, Bailey Bass as Claudia, and Eric Bogosian as Molloy, AMC’s Interview with the Vampire adaptation shifts the book’s timeline, with the interview portion now occurring in 2022 and the start of Louis’s life as a vampire set in the early 1900s. Each episode borrows its title from a phrase found in Rice’s work, and Interview with the Vampire episode 1 is “In Throes of Increasing Wonder.”
While I’ve already shared my advance review, including some general impressions on the episodes offered by AMC for review and reflections on comments made by the cast and creatives at the Interview with a Vampire press conference I attended in the summer, I can’t let episode 1 pass without spending some time delving into at least a few of the things that stood out.
Related: AMC’s ‘Interview with the Vampire’ adaptation captures the heart of Anne Rice’s immersive, emotionally-heightened, morally complex world
Interview with the Vampire episode 1 had a lot of work to do. It had to set up that time switch, renegotiate the idea of the first interview and introduce this second, more truthful interview, and establish all the major changes to Louis’ backstory. Honestly, the episode crams so much story into the first hour. I’ve watched it three times now and I’m still surprised at how much plot we get. Given unlimited time and mental fortitude I could probably write an essay on every scene, but instead, let’s talk about five things I loved about Interview with the Vampire episode 1, and one that I didn’t.
‘Interview with the Vampire’ episode 1: “In Throes of Increasing Wonder”
1) Angry or horny? Why not both?
Louis and Lestat begin the way they mean to go on: fighting while being horny at each other. The pair meet for the first time in a brothel — not one of Louis’ — where Louis goes to visit Miss Lily, a prostitute who indulges his desire to appear, to the world at large, and perhaps himself, to be a virile heterosexual. The scene is about a lot of things — Louis’ need to keep up appearances, his desire to be a respected part of “white” New Orleans society, his suppressed physical desires. Lestat doesn’t intrude on these things. Louis finds him ALREADY there, preemptively derailing any satisfaction Louis might get from his night out, subtly positioning himself as someone who KNOWS about Louis, someone who has and is ready give Louis what he wants, but also as someone who can just take what he wants — no gods, no masters.
For viewers new to this story, make no mistake, when Louis tells Daniel that when Lestat looked at him, he couldn’t move, that he was “seized with weakness,” that’s Louis as the unreliable narrator he was in the book, because my reaction to that scene was “The only reason you couldn’t move was because all your blood was rushing to your dick, sir.” He also tells Daniel “I wanted to murder the man and I wanted to be the man,” but the subtext of “I wanted to fuck the man” was loud.
The potential misinterpretation that Louis was somehow under Lestat’s supernatural thrall in that scene does a disservice to their relationship at large, because the rest of the narrative makes it clear that what Lestat wants is Louis’ voluntary capitulation. He is drawn to Louis’ cantankerous qualities. Where is the joy in success if he cheats to get what he wants? Lestat wants to win his seduction game fair and square. He riles Louis up and leaves him angry and horny and he also whisks away a crutch Louis uses to soothe the cognitive dissonances of his life. That’s very bad and not at all extremely sexy of you, Lestat, I say, trying really hard to mean it.
2) Jokes are only funny when they punch up
I’m not going to lie, some of the way they handle the race issue leaves me unsettled. Just generally speaking, I don’t like to hear white people say the n-word in media, even coming out of the bad guy’s mouth, and I worry that for a black viewer it might feel like an intermittent stream of microaggressions rather than a thoughtful portrayal of a Black Creole man at the turn of the century. In contrast, I can always appreciate a good dunking on white people. When Louis’ sister accuses Louis of going out “catting with some white man,” Louis defends himself saying he’s not white, he’s French. Her reply absolutely took me out, “Oh, that’s a new kind of white, is it? French white?” Anyway, Lestat has a lot of questionable qualities, so getting dunked on just for being white did make me laugh.
3) Reverse Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
The scene where Louis finally brings his new boyfrie—I mean business partner—home to meet the family packs a pretty important narrative wallop, dropping in a piece of humanizing, angsty backstory for Lestat while also hammering home how Louis’ own family doesn’t know or understand him, but my main takeaway was, “Please, Lestat, my perfect son, come sit at my dinner table and alternate being overly-solicitous with being an asshole to my family while I admire your cheekbones.” Do I have some shame about this? No. Have you seen Sam Reid’s cheekbones? I rest my case.
Louis’ brother Paul, played by Steven Norfleet, brings a different vibe to the role than the book, but he is no less intriguing. This Paul has a slightly more wholesome feel on the surface, but there are a few moments where something deeper and maybe angrier pops out. His confrontation with Lestat at the dinner table is one of those moments. He plays it off a bit like he’s a simpleton, but the directness of the question and his sharp gaze belies that idea. Of course, he’s no match for Lestat, who “has tricks,” but still I enjoyed seeing Paul lash out with his convictions rather than simply preach them.
4) Is it a threesome if only two people have sex?
I’m a sucker for a good trope, so my caveman brain did light up at the start of the “Let’s add a woman, so this gay sex isn’t gay,” scene. I also appreciated how quickly they dispense with the pretense that either one of them are there to have sex with Miss Lily. While I do understand the role of present-day Louis as the narrator, the “interview” part of this adaptation, I sometimes think it takes away from Anderson’s gifted acting. It externalizes some of the emotions that I think he is more than capable of giving us without the verbal overlay.
The end of this scene, when Louis is putting his armor back on to go back into the real world and realizing he’s had his mind blown open to such a degree that he’ll never be the same while also recognizing that it is a fantasy that is in direct opposition to the life he is striving for, is a perfect example, because it is, in itself, perfection. It’s one of the places where I feel like the narration is not overshadowing Anderson’s acting. Even without the voice-over, you can see all of that playing out on his face as he finishes dressing. I just want to grab his face and kiss it, like some kind of misplaced cute aggression — like, “I love you, you poor, sad man. Please be sad at me a little bit longer.” Honestly, this show brings out the absolute worst in me and I’m not sorry. Also, bonus points for sad Lestat standing on the stairs in his fancy robe wondering if he pushed things a little too far.
5) The End, The Beginning
Finally, the climatic scene where Lestat turns Louis offers us a little bit of everything that makes the series great — horror and gore, but also drama, sexual tension, emotional catharis, agony and love. I think it is significant that we learn that Lestat killed Lily and then we see him kill Father Mathias — the two people Louis has gone to for external support in order to prop up his internal struggle with the life he is leading. Both of them give him false assurances that everything is fine, everything is going to be ok. All he needs to do is keep pretending and everything is fine! For Lestat, anything that diminishes Louis is a crime, so he removes these props, hoping that he can sway Louis to let go of his small dreams to become bigger — to become the person Lestat sees when he looks at him.
Anderson and Reid are both magnetic in this scene. Lestat is utterly deranged and immoral — “Don’t you see I did this because I love you, baby girl???” But the problem is — or is it a problem? Need you ask for any further proof of Reid in this role? — it’s so convincing! I am absolutely rooting for Lestat here. This is a moment where I really do wish there was a little less external narration, because the scene is so visceral and immersive that I want to live only there for a little bit longer. Still, Louis’ closing lines, “And we sat there for some time in throes of increasing wonder. The end, the beginning.” *single blood tear* did leave me a little bit breathless, so I guess even I don’t know exactly what I want.
+1) Pobody’s Nerfect
There is small one issue I have with the series: I hate Daniel Molloy. This is not a dig at the actor, Eric Bogosian, who is great. I just… hate that kind of older, white, Aaron-Sorkin-meets-electric-kool-aid-acid-test kind of guy. Too smug, too cool, too bitter. I feel like I used to encounter this type of guy a lot in the nineties and early 2000s. My life has been blissfully free of them for a good long while, and I love that for me.
To be fair, I don’t think the show expects you to love him at this point. He clearly doesn’t like himself overly much either. But I think we are supposed to respect his “journalistic prowess” or whatever, and so far I… do not. I think my negative reaction to Daniel is very much a “your mileage may vary” situation. He just pushes a very specific button for me that makes it hard to let my guard down and relate to him, and in my advance review, I outlined a little about how the structure of cutting back to him in the present is extremely jarring. That Masterclass video cold open! However, to give the writers the benefit of the doubt, I do see that we are on a journey with Daniel — his Parkinson’s disease, his confirmed addiction, the state of his career and his personal life — and I could be persuaded to change my mind as we move along. If they manage to get me on his side, it will be an accomplishment of epic proportions and I will happily eat my words.
In spite of my one quibble (that is quite possibly being done on purpose and I’m just too emotionally reactive to enjoy in real time) this Interview with the Vampire adaptation is truly a gift. I hope that AMC’s announcement of a season 2 renewal ahead of the premiere bodes well for their dedication to continue this story. Rolin Jones and his crew have pulled off an amazing feat and I can’t wait to see how they move forward!