The highly anticipated debut of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire was well worth the wait. Gorgeous production design, rich writing, and the care shown to its source material easily make it one of the best book adaptations out there even in just one episode — and possibly the best new series this year. Gothic and sexy, it is anchored by stunning performances from Jacob Anderson and Sam Reid, who both dive into their roles with commitment and clear love for the original novels. “In Throes of Increasing Wonder” perfectly sets up the events to come while bringing to life a lush and deadly world.
The Story of a Lifetime
The series opens with Daniel Molloy going about his life as a world renowned reporter. On the phone with his source for a story, Daniel hangs up abruptly when he receives a package from someone named Louis, an interview subject from nearly 50 years before. As he listens to tapes from their first interaction, we hear the letter Louis wrote. He offers the chance to repeat their first interview, implying that something went wrong all those years ago. For Daniel, the story of the vampire is the story that got away.
Agreeing to Louis’ proposal, the two meet in a luxury apartment in Dubai. Louis immediately touches on a nerve by bringing up Daniel’s Parkinson’s diagnosis, which upsets him as no one but his family and doctor know about it. In retaliation, he plays the ending of their first interview from the 1970s, with Louis clearly attacking Daniel. Louis crosses the room in a flash and ends the tape as he notes Daniel provoked him and was unworthy of his story then. Daniel tries to pretend that he’s uninterested in the story now, and Louis calls his bluff.
Daniel admits that the interview is a source of shame for him as he’s clearly high in the tapes. He can’t remember the interview, and he is frustrated by his rookie mistakes. Louis admits he too is interested in “truth and reconciliation.” While this will clearly be a battle of wills, both seem to want the chance to correct the record. And the interview begins …
Man About Town
… taking us back to 1910 New Orleans. Louis runs several “sporting houses” for sex workers in Storyville, the red light district. His nights consist of dealing with fights between his employees and their customers, including one alderman who has no qualms about throwing around the n-word and assaulting one of the women. But soon he has bigger problems. His brother Paul, a so called “citizen priest,” is ranting against the sins on Liberty Street in front of a crowd. Needing to look tough, Louis pulls a knife on his brother and tells him to leave. As he stalks off, a besotted and unnoticed Lestat watches him go, taking off his hat in admiration.
At breakfast the next day, Paul and Louis continue to bicker (with a quick reference to the Mayfair household, which will play a much larger role in the upcoming series Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches in 2023). Their sister Grace just wants to focus on her upcoming wedding. Daniel cuts in to say that he thinks Paul sounds like a pain, but Louis pushes back. He says that when Paul’s “mind was right,” he was one of his favorite people in the world, revealing that Paul’s preaching is at least partially related to mental illness. He takes his brother to church, where he seems to derive comfort from confessing to the kindly Father Matthias who looks after him.
Louis, meanwhile, heads to his competition’s fancy brothel for a night on the town with his favorite sex worker, Lily. Lily is with Lestat, who starts off with a backhanded compliment to Louis for being able to “get through the door” at the majority white establishment. Louis is immediately on guard, which amuses Lestat. He flirts with Lily before revealing that he decided to move to New Orleans after seeing the dancing and beauty of the red light district — and Louis specifically. Louis barely pays attention to the story as he is entranced by Lestat and his flawless French. Lestat calls Louis his destiny before plunking down enough money to win Lily’s time for the evening, walking away with a wink. Louis admits to Daniel that in that moment, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to be Lestat or murder him. As he narrates, a lamplighter is murdered by an unseen enemy with supernatural strength.
A few nights later, Louis arrives at his usual card game with the upper class white men who tolerate his presence as “one of the good ones.” To his surprise, Lestat is there as well, charming the other players. As the others discuss letting Louis in on a deal at a measly amount of equity, time seems to slow as Lestat speaks in Louis’ mind. He whispers that Louis needs to learn his own value. He believes he can seize many opportunities in the city, but he’ll need Louis’ help. Lestat switches Louis’ cards to guarantee him a win, and the two become friends.
More Than Friends
Lestat begins to build his extravagant life with luxury clothes and goods while Louis slowly finds himself confiding in his new friend. Grace asks to meet Lestat, but their conversation is interrupted by Paul attempting to convert someone who doesn’t exist. She gently brings up the idea of finding an institution and psychiatric help for Paul, but Louis won’t have it after a prior experience that led to Paul deteriorating even further. He presents her with first class tickets to a European tour for her honeymoon.
Lestat comes for dinner at Louis’ home, where the family is charmed by his French stories. But Paul is instantly suspicious about the nature of their relationship, not to mention the fact that he appears to have decided to pay for Grace’s trip on a whim. He asks if Lestat knows Christ, and Lestat shares that as a young man he wanted to be a priest and even joined a monastery. But his father and brothers starved and beat him in order to force him to give up his calling. He grows angrier, telling Paul there is “an ocean” between him and Christ as the room begins to hum like it did during the card game. Louis steps in and calms Lestat, who apologizes for his outburst.
The two go for a walk, with Lestat calling Louis out on lying and saying he left early from an opera Lestat took him to when he really was weeping when the lights came up. Louis dismisses his dishonesty, drinking more as he tells Lestat that his family already judges him enough. In an iconic line, Lestat murmurs for him to keep drinking as “the Earth is a savage garden.” He invites Louis to enjoy the “gift” he bought for the two of them: a night with Lily.
In Lestat’s room, the trio listen to a music box containing a song Lestat composed for a violinist in France while Lily begins to caress Louis. Louis teases that Lestat clearly likes to watch, and Lestat takes it sincerely, saying that he has watched Louis for a long time looking for his “companion heart.” He joins in with Louis and Lily as they have a threesome. As Lestat pleasures Lily and gets her to sleep, Louis finally gives in to his feelings. Lestat and Louis have passionate, floating vampire sex as the music swells. In the present, Louis describes his night with Lestat as the the most addicting experience of his life. Lestat took “a little drink” from Louis, which is difficult for a vampire and also creates a new sense of closeness between the two that scares Louis away.
He leaves Lestat, focusing instead on Grace’s wedding. It’s a joyous event despite Paul’s disapproval, even featuring a tap dance from the brothers. In the early hours of the morning, Paul and Louis climb to the roof to watch the sun rise. It’s a sweet moment, but it all goes wrong as Paul jumps off the edge and dies by suicide after hearing that Louis and Lestat have ended their business relationship and Grace is happy in her new marriage.
Louis tells Daniel that “that was the last sunrise I ever saw” as we see the family deal with Paul’s death. Their mother puts the blame fully on Louis, believing that he must have said something to upset her fragile son. She’s especially angry because she believe the way he died will prevent Paul from going to heaven, despite Father Matthias’ attempts to reshape the story so it seems that he fell by accident.
Louis takes Paul’s death personally, calling it his “failure,” and Lestat moves in for the metaphorical kill by showing up at the funeral procession and saying that Paul “longed” for death. Louis pushes him away, but the damage is done and he is off balance the rest of the ceremony. Lestat mentally urges Louis to “come to me,” and when Louis’ mother rebuffs him again, it’s the last straw.
No Turning Back
Searching for oblivion, he goes to Lily’s place of work. But it’s revealed she died two weeks ago of the mysterious “fever” that’s been gripping New Orleans: Lestat. Finally realizing Lestat’s true nature, Louis rushes to the church to see Father Matthias, crying that the Devil is in his head. He confesses to all of his sins while building to his attraction to Lestat. He realizes the hold the man has on him and is terrified, with Jacob Anderson giving a truly moving performance. As a storm rattles the church, Father Matthias is dragged from the confession booth and drained by Lestat.
Louis tries to kill him, but Lestat only taunts him, asking if God really heard him through the pitiful vessel of Father Matthias. In a brilliantly shot display of power, Lestat also kills the remaining priest who saw it all. He turns to Louis and begs him to see that he is offering him a way out of a life in which he is respected by no one. He offers his “dark gift” and pleads for for him to simply “nod your beautiful head and say yes.” Sam Reid is hypnotizing, drawing the audience in as much as Lestat draws in Louis with his sincerity and charisma.
“I love you, Louis. You are loved. I send my love to you, and you send it back round to me. And this circle, this home we barely had a glimpse of … know that it frightens me as much as it does you. Be my companion, Louis. Be all the beautiful things you are, and be them without apology. For all eternity.”
As Louis puts it, “for the first time in my life, I was seen.” The two kiss, and Louis says yes. Lestat turns him into a vampire, and the first thing he sees when he opens his eyes is Lestat lying next to him. To Louis, he is “radiant.” In the present, a single blood tear runs down Louis’ cheek.
Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET, with the series also available on AMC+. AMC+ subscribers also get the subsequent week’s episode early, with episode two, “After the Phantoms of Your Former Self,” available now to stream.