Thursday, December 8

Interview With the Vampire Series-Premiere Recap: Let the Story Seduce You

Photo: Michele K. Short/AMC

Oh my God, you guys. Strap in and hang onto your butts because we are only one episode in and Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire is already my very favorite thing on television, but not for its especially innovative premise or elegant storytelling. The pilot, at least, promises a silly show that combines the pacing of The Vampire Diaries with the production value and ~adult content~ of True Blood. High on camp and low on subtlety, Interview With the Vampire delivers literally everything I’ve ever wanted from a vampire show (Sex! Catholics! New Orleans! Mind control!) and asks nothing of me in return. I love it.

“In Throes of Increasing Wonder …” reintroduces audiences to the basic premise of the original — journalist interviews a vampire — before immediately peeling off into its own thing. We begin in the present day, where our grizzled, aging reporter Dan Molloy is watching his own journalism MasterClass, 50 years after he first interviewed Louis de Pointe du Lac. This portrait of a depressed man in the twilight of his career who leaps at the invitation to redo the interview of his life, pandemic be damned, did not prepare me for the tonal shift as soon as Louis (played with pitch-perfect precision by Game of Thrones’s Jacob Anderson), begins to tell his story.

“You have to let the story seduce you,” Louis tells Molloy at one point, a line whose melodrama is matched only by its delivery. I am ready to be seduced.

And we’re off! It’s 1910 in New Orleans, where Louis is the favored son of a wealthy man but makes his living as a brothel owner. No respectable business would have him, he explains, because wealthy family or not, he’s a Black man living in turn-of-the-century Louisiana. Human Louis’s working life is depicted through a rapid succession of increasingly wild crises in a single evening: He’s first called to deal with an N-word-using john who’s been whacked over the head and shat upon by a sex worker, then is interrupted to handle a Bible-wielding zealot harassing the employees, who turns out to be his brother, who refuses to leave and punches Louis in the face, compelling Louis to pull an absolutely enormous knife and hold it to his brother’s neck so as to not be emasculated on these mean streets of New Orleans. And we haven’t even gotten to the vampire part yet.

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Notably, Interview With the Vampire offers a refreshing depiction of an upper-class southern Black family that counteracts popular stereotypes of Black America at the time. Hopefully, future episode will further tap this vein (no pun intended), because the premiere doesn’t spend much time with Louis debating with his (actually quite beloved) brother Paul, sister Grace, and mother over issues like Catholicism, morality, or including slave traditions like jumping the broom at Grace’s upcoming wedding. There’s a lot for the show to explore, but we still have to get to the blood-sucking and the sex.

We are finally introduced to a very French and very blonde Lestat when Louis visits a rival brothel, where he’s enraged to find the man getting handsy over drinks with Louis’s girlfriend/sex worker Miss Lily. Present-day vampire Louis narrates that he is infuriated by Lestat but somehow has been rendered powerless to move. Louis is both repulsed by the stranger and drawn to him. You know where this is going. Lestat soon begins, to use Louis’s word, “hunting” him.

The following seduction sequence, in which Lestat ingratiates himself to Louis by bemoaning the racism of this country and taking him on dates to the opera, is also where we learn about the vampire tricks, as every vampire universe has its own take on what magic powers to endow the undead. In Interview With the Vampire, Lestat can communicate telepathically, can temporarily halt time to help Louis cheat at cards, and appears to have some kind of supernatural personal magnetism — all pretty standard vampire fare. But there is also one more vampire power that I am finally ready to talk about — the levitating orgasm.

Friends, we have reached the gay part, which unfortunately happens to coincide with the silliest part of the episode. If there was any remaining doubt about what kind of show this is, a moodily lit ecstatic sexual climax from a few feet in the air pretty much did me in. Two seconds ago this was a very hot threesome scene, featuring Miss Lily’s freshly rouged nipples stretched out on a sofa between our two male leads. Louis hits Lestat with the run-and-kiss, shirtless men are being thrown against the wall, even the gross blood-sucking part was kind of working for me until lift off. How am I expected not to laugh at this? Lestat is topping Louis standing up when suddenly we see their bare feet start to leave the carpet because this is an orgasm so good their bodies literally leave the earth. It was goofy when they did it on Buffy. It’s goofier than Edward Cullen breaking the headboard. It is so goofy. Still, I admire the commitment. This show gives even the hackiest of vampire tropes full indulgence.

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But we have to move on, because we still have a wedding, a tap-dance break, several mysterious deaths, a suicide, a funeral, and a transformation to get to.

So far, Lestat’s only character motivation appears to be Louis, which is fair enough. It is Louis telling the story, after all. Louis has a lot more going on, internally. Torn between his repressed homosexuality (or, as he pronounces it for some reason, “hamasexuality”), his position as a business leader of the underworld in a racist society, and his love for his family, he decides to quit Lestat full turkey. But Louis’s vampire-sobriety doesn’t last long after Grace’s wedding — where the whole family appears completely happy for the last time. Paul’s religiosity has been vaguely ascribed to some unspecific mental illness, and the morning after the wedding it reaches resolution in the penultimate WTF moment of this turducken of a pilot. The brothers are watching the sunrise from the roof of their mansion, and suddenly Paul tells Louis, “I love you” and jumps, landing dead on the pavement with blood pooling around his head.

Devastated, Louis is now unusually susceptible to Lestat’s psychic summons during Paul’s funeral, which has been conveniently scheduled for after-dark. Mama choosing to blame Louis for Paul’s suicide (a plot point I very much do not love) and disown him is the last straw. Louis first tries the brothel, where he learns Miss Lily has died of that “mysterious fever” — read: vampires — as Lestat’s face saying “come to me” in French temporarily appears. Next Louis runs to the priest, banging on the church doors in the middle of the night as rain pours down his face. In the confessional booth, the site of cinema’s most epic monologues, Louis confesses, “I lay down with a man! I lay down with the devil!” You think with the emoting and the thunder and the Catholicism it can’t get any more dramatic and then whoosh! The priest is yanked away and Louis races out to find him being eaten alive by Lestat, surrounded by pews suddenly engulfed in flame. (Looks like vampires are okay to enter churches in this universe!)

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Honestly, this scene is everything. Louis tries to kill Lestat with his big knife and/or small sword and Lestat rises up and starts monologuing. Did I need the classic horror movie score to hammer the tone home? Did I need Lestat chasing down a second priest in slow motion and punching straight through his skull? Absolutely not. Do I love it? With all of my heart. Lestat’s pitch to Louis boils down to, “This world sucks, don’t it? But I love you and your beautiful face so let’s do crimes.” Louis’s voiceover says he doesn’t know what was so compelling about this argument because he has not heard of love-bombing, but anyway, it works. They make out and then drink each other’s blood right there beneath the crucifix. Dun dun dun! This, this is a vampire show.

I’m so excited for next week, my friends.

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