Review: Interview With The Vampire delivers more sublime misery in season 2 premiere

Delainey Hayles commands as our new Claudia, Sam Reid is still dangerously sex as Lestat, and Interview With The Vampire explores exciting uncharted territory in its season 2 premiere.
Jacob Anderson as Louis De Point Du Lac and Delainey Hayles as Claudia - Interview with the Vampire _ Season 2, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Larry Horricks/AMC
Jacob Anderson as Louis De Point Du Lac and Delainey Hayles as Claudia - Interview with the Vampire _ Season 2, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Larry Horricks/AMC /

Interview With The Vampire is back, and it's just as sumptuous, atmospheric, and fun as it was last time. I did not expect much when I heard that AMC was adapting Anne Rice's 1976 horror novel for TV. Why now, years after the vampire craze was over? Why now, when the 1994 Interview With The Vampire movie still holds up so well? AMC shut me right up with a bold new interpretation of the book that stayed true to the source material even while making huge changes. This show clearly loves Anne Rice's melancholic bloodsuckers, but it's also confidently doing its own thing. Lucky us, we get to watch.

One of the most important things to get right with Interview With The Vampire is the mood, which is bleak and romantic. Remember: vampires are dead. They are pretty walking corpses wandering through a cloud of ennui, doomed to exist in a world where they no longer belong. Season 2 picks up with Louis (Jacob Anderson) and Claudia (Delainey Hayles, who's replacing Bailey Bass from season 1) as they search eastern Europe for others like them, having left their old companion Lestat (Sam Reid) for dead back in New Orleans. Louis is tortured by guilt and shame, always agonizing over the misery of the vampiric condition. World War II-era Europe is full of horrors; German and Soviet soldiers terrorize the population, graves yawn open everywhere you step, and there may even be a supernatural horror haunting the woods near a Romanian village. But the smoke that fills the air seems to dance as it curls, the costumes and period details are perfect, and always at the center are Louis and Claudia, suffering beautifully as they stumble through this un-life.

That's what Interview With The Vampire captures so well: an air of romantic sadness that feels very true to the book. And yet it also adds on new layers, mostly in the scenes set in the present, where Louis and his lover Armand (Assad Zaman) are narrating Louis' story to reporter Daniel Molloy (Eric Bogosian). It all adds up to something that feels classic and fresh at the same time.

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Less abstractly, I like Delainey Hayles as the new Claudia. It's her determination to find other vampires that drives she and Louis through countryside ravaged by World War II, which is wrapping up as they conduct their search. They end up in a small Romanian village — Romania being the home of the most famous vampire to ever live: Dracula — that still holds to old superstitions. Something in the woods is pretying on the people here, and the soldiers can do nothing about it.

Claudia is the first to see the creature: a vampire, yes, but one that seems more beast than man, with barely any features left that mark it as human. It attacks Claudia, who isn't so excited to find another of her kind that she won't defend herself and Louis. She tears out the creatures eyes during a scuffle. The creature's sire, a woman vampire, puts it out of its misery before stalking back to her crumbling mansion in the forest. Louis and Claudia follow. As Louis narrates, it feels very much like something out of a fairytale.

So Claudia and Louis have found what they've been looking for: another vampire, much older than they, who might be able to tell them something about who they are. But she is rotten inside. She's too old, too alone. She been drinking the blood of a people long poisoned by hopelessness and despair. We don't know this person well, but there's a depth of horrible age about her, of long marches without warmth or understanding. She offers Claudia a flicker of hope that she might join them on their lonely quest, but it's not surprising when she throws herself onto a fire instead.

This is what could become of Louis and Claudia if they become utterly disconnected from humanity. But they're not there yet. They still have something to look forward to, and they still have each other. Louis recommits to Claudia in a moving speech at the end of the episode; I give credit to screenwriter Hannah Moscovitch for constructing it a way that convinces us these two really do care for each other without sounding like an I-will-always-love-you monologue we've heard a million times before. At the end of the episode, they arrive in Paris, weatherbeaten but hopeful for better days ahead.

Memory is a monster, Daniel Molloy is a troll

Meanwhile, back in the present, Daniel Molloy is distrustful of Armand now that he's admitted who he really is after pretending to be one of Louis' servants for the whole of the first season. I love what Daniel brings to the show. The scenes in the past are all brooding drama, full of feelings so deep and dark they threaned to pull our characters down to hell. And then we cut to Louis' plush apartment in Dubai and Daniel Molloy basically says, 'That all sounds like bullshit to me. You're lying or you're remembering wrong.'

And sometimes he's right! Whenever the show is verging on becoming too self-serious, Daniel is here to puncture that bloat. Not only is this hilarious, but it gives the sscenes in the future a sense of weight and import. What Louis is telling us not be strictly speaking true, either because he's changing things round or because he's forgotten. We at home want the truth, the whole truth, but Louis may not be capable of giving it to us. Daniel will keep him honest. He's our ally.

I find myself as interested in the Dubai scenes as in the scenes set in the past. I want to know whether Louis and Claudia find other vampires, sure, but I also want to know whether Armand is hiding things from Louis, and whether Daniel can sniff them out. I wouldn't even say no to an episode entirely set in the present. I am invested on all fronts.

And of course I want to see if Sam Reid is going to show back up as Lestat. In the premiere episode, he only as a specter visible to Louis alone. But even as a shade he has crackling, dangerous chemistry with Louis, and I think I'll be nervous the whole season waiting him to leap out from around a corner and start slashing throats. This show has me in its grip and I don't think it's going to let go.

Episode Grade: A

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