On Nov. 6, the series finale for AMC’s “Interview with the Vampire” was released, ending the first part of the twisted saga of love and gothic horror. With the full story of the season released, it became much easier to understand the angle the writers were going for and how it would all end.
In modern-day Dubai, Louis du Pointe du Lac (Jacob Anderson) invites investigative journalist Daniel Molloy (Eric Bogosian) to hear the story of his life. The story begins with his life in early 20th century New Orleans as the wealthy owner of several brothels where he meets and is made a vampire by the charismatic Lestat de Lioncourt (Sam Reid), who then becomes Louis’ lover. Further complications arise when the duo takes in teenage vampire Claudia (Bailey Bass) into their home. Louis narrates the story of his turbulent and volatile affair with Lestat for thirty years, filled with love, jealousy, possessiveness, parenthood, domestic violence and murder.
Based on Anne Rice’s famous “Vampire Chronicles” books, the show does not hesitate to make radical changes. Chief among them concerning the character of Louis, who is transformed from a white slave plantation owner to a closeted Black Creole man whose wealth comes from the chain of brothels he owns. The period of the novel is also changed from the mid-1700s to the early 20th century. The series also embraces the queer elements of the novel, in particular with the relationship between Lestat and Louis, which the 1994 adaptation did not.
Changes of this magnitude in an adaptation can often go poorly because it’s often an ill-thought attempt on the part of the studio to put their spin on the work. In this case, the changes work because the writers understood the themes of the original novel intimately and served to reinforce those themes.
The series uses the changes made to lean further into Louis’ internal struggle over the morality of vampiric existence. In the very first episode, Louis, a relapsed Catholic, has a mental breakdown in a church over the morally dubious nature of being a brothel owner. Then, after confessing his sins in a box, he goes right back to it. He’s aware of the nature of the work, but he isn’t willing to do the work to change. Eventually, it does get taken away from him. It serves as a wonderful human parallel to his more vampiric struggle over the ethics of feeding on and killing humans. This aspect highlights how out of all the vampires we meet, Louis remains the most human. He is both self-aware and in denial, which gives him greater depth and complexity.
Other elements that deserve praise are the extensive costumery, which more than anything makes the period of the series. Some standouts are a shot of Claudia, clad in a girlish dress with flowers stained red with the blood of her victim and Lestat in the final episode clad in garish 18th-century drag.
But the series is not without its problems. Several critics have noted that there are much more scenes of gratuitous violence against the series’ Black characters that their white book counterparts never faced. Between a sexual assault attempt on Claudia and a particularly brutal domestic violence scene against Louis, it can feel like the show plays into the same gratuitous Black trauma countless other pieces of Hollywood media have in the past. It is also an example of the series’ need to be rather heavy-handed with its themes. Instead of Lestat remaining just emotionally and mentally abusive with Claudia and Louis like he was in the novels, the series makes him physically abusive as well, perhaps because they did not trust their audience to understand his abusive nature otherwise.
Ultimately, it depends on the direction the writer takes the show in, which has already been renewed for season 2. The novels end with Louis and Lestat as a couple, despite all of their past toxicity and backstabbing. If this is what the series intends, it will be more difficult to resolve the issues between Louis and Lestat, especially with the more extreme elements of domestic violence and the added racial dichotomy that exists between the two. In several interviews, the cast and showrunner have said that domestic violence will not be ignored or swept under the rug which we’ll have to wait until the next season to see.
Verdict: “Interview with the Vampire” is a gorgeously dark, gothic horror and romance that manages to stand on its own next to the novel. It is one of recent years’ best fantasy series that embraces the long-existing link between queerness and vampirism implicitly.