Interview with the Vampire 1×02 “After The Phantoms Of Your Former Self” continues, and strengthens, the impression that this series is handling two of Anne Rice’s most well-known characters with the care — with the depth — they deserve. It’s fitting that a retelling, 50 years later, as set up by the series, would look back with more perspective. It’s a better understanding of a difficult, complicated, and oftentimes contradictory relationship.
Similarly, instead of a myopic view of Lestat de Lioncourt as a purely uncaring devil, we also see touches of more. Viewers see how, as Louis puts it three times in this episode, “he had a way about him.”
For Louis’ part, as this is his story — even with Anne Rice’s Brat Prince as such a central figure — we see a definitive portrait of the vampire who grappled with good and evil, the harms of taking a human life, and wanting to know so much more about who, and what, he was. All while his mentor and maker was both horribly lacking and someone with an immense power over him. Lestat was, after all, all Louis had. There was no one else to teach him about who, and what, he was.
And as Louis is retelling his story, of his struggles with killing humans back then, we see how he feeds now. The stark contrast between the lavish setup at his home — the way he unapologetically gluts himself on both animal and human blood alike in front of Daniel Molloy — and the vampire he once was speaks of a sort of growth, from a vampire’s perspective.
And yet, from a human perspective, it’s a loss. Has Louis suffered so much, he’s lost those “phantoms” after all? He certainly wants Molloy, and us, to think so.
All of this, and we haven’t even discussed how Louis’ race — and America’s racism, specifically in the early 1900s but really just…overall — plays into his story. This is, of course, where the series tells its own, new tale.
In just an hour of television, Interview with the Vampire 1×02 packs an extremely vivid portrait of the story we’ve always known, that new element, and everything that’s yet to come.
The reluctant killer
There is not a moment, whether in flashback or even more subtly during the modern-day scenes, where Jacob Anderson does not make all of Louis’ inner conflicts about who, and what, he is clear. As we mentioned above, there’s certainly plenty to be said for his unapologetic feeding during the interview. But even that comes with a certain purpose. A certain moment of reflection within Louis’ tale.
The most difficult moments for Louis, which wind up being some of the most powerful from Anderson, though, certainly take place in the past. There’s that terror written all over him as his mortal body dies. And the outright refusal to get in the coffin, which causes him to nearly burn up in the sun. The physical agony of the sun’s rays is just another layer for him. Inside, Anderson shows us, the pain is even worse.
And then, there’s that awful fight against his own nature as Louis tries to maintain his human connections to his family. He tries so hard. And yet, he can’t even stop himself from wanting — desperately — to feed on his sister’s infant son.
If it wasn’t plain enough in the series premiere, it certainly is in Interview with the Vampire 1×02: Louis is Rice’s depiction of the vampire as the outsider. He is the sum of words on the page, calling to all readers who’ve ever felt cast aside, left out, at war with their own desires, uncertain of who and what they are. And those words have always spoken to so many. They’ve had many messages, but chief among them is simply, “you are seen.”
Of course, where this series takes that a step further is in its depiction of race and racism. Instead of shying away, it dives in.
Particularly in Interview with the Vampire 1×02, there’s that stunning scene where Louis attempts to make a business deal, yet is disrespected by the white man at every turn. Even as Mr. Carlo is “praising” how “exceptional” and “clever” Louis is, he’s basically spitting on him. And he thinks he’s outsmarting Louis, who has heard and felt all this before…
But, of course, the vampire is not, in the least bit, outsmarted. The man never was either.
“‘Exceptional negro.’ ‘Thank you, Sir!’ It was the call and response of my entire life. I had let them talk to me like that so long, I stopped hearing it. “
The moment when Anderson lays it on thick with that “Sir” and grins along, as he’s expected, is full of so much restraint. It’s an excellent performance. But Anderson immediately does one better. The way the actor just lets his face morph into pure contempt when the man isn’t looking is pure genius.
Then, there’s the obvious pain and anger that lasts to this day as he recalls the story. Because it doesn’t matter how much time has passed. The scars of racism never fully heal.
“‘Yes, Sir. Of course, Sir.’ Subject verb agreement, Sir. Smile, nod. ‘Yes, Sir.’ They all came from the same organ inside me. An organ unknown to science at the time because what scientist would look for an organ, found only in Black men who used their weakness to rise. But I wasn’t a man anymore. I was something else. I had powers now. And decades of rage to process. And it was both random, and unfortunate, the man picked that night to dabble in fuckery. If not him, it would’ve been the next man.”
And as we see Anderson’s every line delivery, every movement of that head back and forth as Louis recounts that tale and that frustration to Daniel, it’s truly a spectacular thing to witness. It’s a performance that speaks — screams — volumes.
“Oh, that was so long ago; get over it” is a common enough response from people who happen to look like me. But that’s just…not how this works. It carries through generations. And if those generations happen to be lived by an immortal being like our Louis, it’s natural that he’d carry that with him.
Interview with the Vampire 1×02 illustrates that lasting effect of racism so brilliantly. And, well. Anyone who’s offended by that notion can die mad. This is probably not the series for you. Not even the original source material was, if you assume certain harms can ever, possibly, be undone.
It’s perfectly in character that this would be where Louis’ qualms about killing temporarily vanished. So, too, is it wildly true to form that Lestat would take much longer to understand. Initially, he’s simply frustrated and angry that hiding in plain sight is going to be more difficult. But he softens later, doesn’t want to go to bed angry, and vows he would’ve killed the man himself for disrespecting Louis.
It’s a constant push and pull between the two characters. And a constant struggle from Louis to recognize Lestat for more than just the weaknesses he might’ve described in that initial interview, years ago.
The unreliable mentor
What more can we say about Sam Reid’s performance as Lestat, other than to become a broken record? He is Lestat.
It doesn’t matter if he’s cursing back at Louis in French. Or if he sees Louis’ pain in the opening moments of Interview with the Vampire 1×02 as just something to get through. Nor does it matter if he’s showing that awful brutality with the tenor toward the end of the episode, after having just been so enraptured with the opera itself. Or that we see so much of Rice’s “mocking smile” and “stubborn ignorance” from Reid’s Lestat here.
No, it truly doesn’t matter which “side” of Lestat you pick. Reid is all of them, at all times, in all ways.
This is Lestat, in the flesh. And we’ll repeat it until the end of time: Reid hits every note. Louis’ updated retelling of their relationship gives us a much more full picture. Even the parts that Louis may not understand himself, Reid makes sure viewers — at least those who know the character well — get a glimpse.
He is frustrated and short with Louis in places where he doesn’t understand. It’s a coping mechanism, a way to mask his confusion. See also the back and forth about the racist disrespect. It’s a conversation they’ve clearly had constantly. But Lestat just can’t get it. Because he’s never had to. Even those of us who try will never fully get it because we haven’t lived it.
Lestat doesn’t even try. Why would he? Humans are food.
“They were your brothers and sisters once, but now they’re your savory inferiors.”
He just doesn’t feel the need to concern himself with understanding their world.
And yes, he is constantly lecturing Louis about letting his human connections go. But that’s because he knows how impossible holding on is. Also, it’s because he sees how it’s hurting Louis. Which, to be clear: Lestat doesn’t like to see that. Can’t stand it, even.
Because, sure. He may enjoy the hunt — may get a truly sick and twisted pleasure out of bringing terror to someone who botches a piece of music, for example — but Louis is something different to him. Someone different, who he will move Heaven and Hell for.
“I’m your family, Louis.”
That is nowhere more obvious than in Interview with the Vampire 1×02, following the baby debacle. All of Lestat’s detachment, and impatience, and judgment finally reveals itself as something else.
And no, it certainly doesn’t forgive the “he’s terrible to you because he loves you” aspect of any of this. But it provides context. It peels back the layers of this character, who Louis didn’t fully understand back then. When Louis is at his lowest (so far), Lestat is desperate enough to keep him that he finally shows his hand.
He is Louis’ family, and Louis is his. It’s all he’s got, and the thought of losing him is too much. It would be, as Lestat calls it, a waste for Louis to end it.
“I have two centuries walked this Earth and can report you have no twin. No one as angry, as stubborn, as unaccommodating, as maddening…”
“…as loving, as dedicated, as thoughtful, as imperfectly perfect as you’ve become. You’re a challenge every sunset, Saint Louis. And I’d have it no other way.”
Lestat is fascinated by Louis. And so, Lestat loves him even more than he ever thought possible. More than he loved his musician…As Lestat tells him, he is without equal. If you fully grasp the characterization of Lestat as someone obsessed with music and the theatre, it’s easy to put it this way: Louis is, to his maker, the ultimate work of art. Angsty and difficult art, sure. Confusing, even. But Lestat thrives on a challenge and thinks he can take this one on head-on.
So, Lestat detaches himself where he can. And he is soft and warm when he can still find that in himself. There is an insecurity, a weakness, behind all that bravado.
“There is one thing about being a vampire that I most fear, above all else. And that is loneliness. You can’t imagine the emptiness, the void…stretching out for decades at a time. You take this feeling away from me, Louis. We must stay together. And take precaution. And never part.”
Even when he’s pure seduction, it’s masking those feelings and trying to appeal to his companion the only way he seems to know how. Seduce him. Spoil and bribe him with opera tickets and business ventures. Do whatever it takes to keep the loneliness at bay.
It’s a complicated characterization that the film adaptation of this story never quite got right, even as it was fitting in so many other ways.
Phantom thoughts on Interview with the Vampire 1×02
- Y’all really put in a Marius de Romanus reference in the very first minute of this episode and expected literally any book readers to focus past that? A bold move.
- …and how did this “random new human servant character,” Rashid, know so much about Andrei/Amadeo/Armand’s maker? I’m going to need to fill in the gaps before my brain goes nuts on theorizing.
- “Little of his work survives. Mr. de Pointe du Lac covets the rare.” It’s literally a lie by omission? Louis doesn’t just “covet the rare” here; there is a direct link between that artist and so many key players in his own existence.
- “Memory is a monster. We forget; it doesn’t.”
- Even the conversation between Louis and Lestat about how fledgling “sounds a little like slave” is, in its way, pulled from the text. We certainly can’t have Lestat tell Louis he’s basically his slave in the series’ context, though. So, we get what we get instead of Lestat saying “that’s how vampires increase…through slavery” as he initially did.
- “You are a library of confusion.” Fitting from someone who, canonically, couldn’t read.
- “…suck you right down into death…” a direct book quote. Or, rather, the direct quote is: “He’ll suck you right down into death with him if you cling to him in death.”
- “Sometimes, restraint is your most powerful weapon.” And yet, when he’s offended, Lestat throws that advice right out the window.
- “Oh, yes! the perfect setting for a vampire home. A vampire romance.” Yes. And we see that “perfect setting” in such a rich fashion, yet again in this episode.
- “You can be on top.” And he’s stripped naked, just…seduction. Who needs the Dark Gift when you have that power over others?
- “In the quiet dark, we were equals.” “White master, Black student. But equal in the quiet dark.” The way Daniel taunts Louis with this…It’s like he’s begging to become lunch.
- “Vampires are killers. [Apex] predators. Whose all-seeing eyes were meant to give them detachment. The ability to see a human life in its entirety, not with any mawkish sorrow but with a thrilling satisfaction in being the end of that life, in having a hand in the divine plan.” Interview with the Vampire 1×02 takes a lot of dialogue like this from around pages 83-84 of (the Ballantine paperback edition of) the book. And, like. Why mess with perfection, right?
- “Don’t expect every reader to swallow that one.” Well, Daniel…you’re right. That’s why Lestat was interpreted as the villain after Louis’ book and had to write his own to clear up the misconceptions.
- “Every human thought boils down to three things: I want food, I want sex, I want to go home.”
- Louis’ family wanting nothing to do with Lestat and noticing, yet not understanding, his change…Again with just getting the meaning in the text and the many, many extra implications it has.
- “How could I say no to you?” They are in love. Messy, sometimes awful, sometimes toxic. But love.
- I may never get over the shot of Louis’ fangs coming out, against his will, in Interview with the Vampire 1×02. It’s horrifying on so many levels. But also so damned cool.
- I feel like I should know this “brute in Madagascar” talking about a Great Conversion. Mind’s drawing a blank. Going to kick myself when it stops, I’m sure.
- Daniel was really concerned with whether or not Louis ate the baby…He is all of us in that moment. Except, like, bitchier.
- The blood tears!
- The way Lestat gets wrapped up in his memories of attending Don Pasquale‘s premiere, all while Louis is like “ok but I almost ate my nephew, dude.” Perfection.
- Of course Lestat shares his vulnerabilities at the opera. He’s his most open and honest there because that is his place, where he feels safe.
- …which is, of course, why he morphs into pure hatred and becomes that demon when the tenor botches the score. He’s personally offended; his safety and his happy memories have been invaded.
- The pinky touch.
- “Music pierced his damned soul” indeed.
- And then, the sarcasm in Lestat’s applause. The disdain…Again. Personally offended and perfectly performed.
- “Well, I don’t say that you have to enjoy it!!! Kill them swiftly if you have to, but do it! Embrace what you are! You are a killer, Louis!” Aaaaand we’re back to page 84.
- “…you will be filled, Louis…You will see death in all its beauty. Life as it is only known on the very point of death…You alone of all creatures can see death that way with impugnity. You alone…under the rising moon…can strike like the hand of God.” (That’d be page 83.)
- “I was never going to savor the aftertaste. I was a shame ridden second, a fumbling, despondent killer. A botched vampire.” And yet…the way he seems to take pleasure in his meals in the present day scenes in Interview with the Vampire 1×02 just…screams of something else. Does he not see himself for all his changes? Or is it another act to “fit in” and tell a certain story? Hm.
- Weeeeeee bit surprised not to get “…for no creatures under God are as we are, none so like Him as ourselves” tacked on, though. Alas. Can’t just recite the book, I suppose.
- (I would absolutely listen to Anderson and Reid narrating the audiobook.)
Thoughts on Interview with the Vampire 1×02 “After The Phantoms Of Your Former Self”? Leave us a comment!
Interview with the Vampire airs Sundays at 10/9c on AMC, with episodes streaming on AMC+ the same day.