On Sunday, the world was reintroduced to Anne Rice’s vampires. The AMC pilot of the reconstructed Interview With the Vampire stars Jacob Anderson as Louis de Pointe du Lac, Sam Reid as Lestat, and Eric Bogosian as Daniel Molloy. (Also, Bailey Bass as Claudia, but she’s not going to show up for a few episodes.) In short, this pilot is an incredible testament to both Rice’s work and the reinvention of the series. Lush, provocative, gory, and seductive, “In the Throes of Increasing Wonder” gives you a little bit of everything, but only teases at what’s to come next, leaving you thirsty for more.
Much like the beginning of the Interview With the Vampire book, we don’t get thrown into the vampires immediately. We start with an introduction to Daniel Molloy, an investigative journalist who is just minding his own business, at home, during the coronavirus pandemic, when he gets a mysterious package. He receives a set of tapes. Not just any tapes; the tapes he made when he first interviewed Louis de Pointe du Lac in the ‘70s.
Nestled alongside these tapes is an invitation to interview Louis again. Daniel, of course, accepts. Already we’re working off a completely different framework than that of the original novel or the movie; by shifting the interview and its setting from the ‘70s to the 21st century, the show is signaling to the watcher who might be familiar with the source material that they should not expect to be given a slavish recreation of the original. Now, Interview With the Vampire says, it has had some time to reflect. It’s time to revisit Louis and Lestat.
Daniel heads to Dubai. Immediately the interaction between him and Louis is aggressive. They claw at each other like bad exes. Daniel immediately starts asking questions, Louis deflects by reveling in his knowledge that Daniel has Parkinson’s—it’s a classic lover’s quarrel. Then, Daniel pulls his collar down and plays the tape that recorded the violent final interaction between them in the ‘70s. After another round of verbal sparring, Daniel snaps, tells Louis, “I’m not your fucking boy,” and finally starts the interview… again.
Louis begins by setting the scene: it’s 1910, he’s the executor of his father’s fortune, which he’s invested in sporting houses (brothels) and he’s a rough, violent thing. As we get a view of the inside of Louis’ business with sex workers and clients, the fact that he’s a Black man in a position of relative wealth and power is deftly handled. The show immediately puts him at odds with Alderman Fenwick, a white man who wants to take his anger out on another, and Louis takes it by reminding him that he is not one to suffer disrespect.
Next, Louis is shown in the midst of a disagreement with Paul, his brother who is mentally ill and preaching to the women Louis employs. Louis pulls a blade out of his cane and threatens him. As soon as he lets go of Paul and stalks away we see Lestat staring after him. It’s love at first sight.
Next, after a tense family breakfast, Louis and Paul head to church, saying that his religion is at odds with his career. Afterwards, Louis heads to the Fairplay Saloon, and Louis’ eyes slide over a young man walking on the opposite side of the street; a gaze of appreciation, longing, knowledge. Without even breaking a sweat, the show reveals that this version of Louis is not only queer, but knows it, and has likely acted on those impulses before.
So, in the first 20 minutes we have established multiple sources of tension from various sources in Louis’ life. He’s wrestling with memory, money, family, religion, and desire; all the things that haunt someone well into the night. Daniel as well is an incredibly compelling character, the only person in Louis’ orbit who seems able to get answers out of him. Louis begins the show as a strong, ruthless, unflinching man, one who it would be easy to assume would take well to becoming a killer. It’s an incredible introduction to the character, one which shows him entirely at odds with his entire life, every part of himself contradicting another.
Then, Louis meets Lestat. They sit at a table with Lily, another sex worker; Louis speaks French, and Lestat is in his feels so deep it’s absolutely absurd. As they talk, as Louis speaks to Daniel nearly a century in the future, Lestat seduces Louis. It is so ridiculously sexy I’m surprised it happened at all. He mentions he was supposed to stop in St. Louis, further up the Mississippi, but now, Lestat says, the saint is a man, and he’s here to worship. Talk about religious fuckery! Talk about blasphemy! That must have fucked Louis up, being called a saint, considering his profession, his latent tendencies. That’s the kind of flirtation that will ruin anyone else for you. Louis says himself, he had come to the Fairplay for Lily but he left thinking only of Lestat.
Next, Louis heads into a poker game, full of white men, including Lestat and Fenwick. The men at the table are not particularly respectful, and when talk comes around to investing in a new sporting house, Fenwick suggests purchasing it himself and asking Louis to run it… for only 10% of the profit. The absolute disrespect and disregard for Louis’ intelligence, expertise, and understanding of the business aspect is not lost on Lestat, as he watches Louis’ face stiffen in a moment of barely-contained rage. (Jacob Anderson, it must be said, is phenomenal.)
Then, in a moment of undeniable seduction, Lestat speaks to Louis telepathically. He slows time and then stops it, flirting with Louis, telling him he’s so much better than this, smirking. Then, Lestat hands him a card from another man’s hand, the group none the wiser. If you don’t get a man who stops time in order to flirt with you and cheat at cards in order to unilaterally humiliate a whole table of racist fuckwads, then what is your man even doing??
Louis goes from “I hate him,” to “I’m going to fuck him,” in literally two minutes. Louis tells Daniel, as the reporter asks questions, to stop trying to point out what Louis missed. “Let the tale seduce you, as I was seduced.” This is almost what we, the viewer need to remember. This is going to be weird. It’s going to be strange and odd, and it’s going to be deeply uncomfortable. Either you roll with it, or you won’t really enjoy the show that much. This isn’t the time to try to explain what’s happening. Lestat literally drinks blood to live. It’s a bonkers premise, and Louis is telling us, the audience, and Daniel, don’t ask those kinds of questions. Those questions are not the right questions.
Then, after a few months of friendship, which Louis describes as “being hunted,” Grace—Louis’ sister—insists that he bring Lestat over for dinner. The tension rises fast. As Lestat mentions that he and Louis went to the opera, Paul asks Lestat, pointedly, what is the nature of his relationship with Louis. Literally everyone at the table exchanges looks. Everyone knows that Louis is gay! Everyone at the table is willing to accept that Louis fucks men and it’s Not A Big Deal, but Paul is making it a problem. And when Paul keeps pushing, keeps pressing, Lestat begins to perform one of his mind tricks. Louis interrupts, immediately reigning his man in.
As Louis walks Lestat home, the vampire remarks that the earth is a savage garden. A wonderful, horrible metaphor when Lestat is inviting him up for a nightcap and a fuck with Lily, whose time he has purchased for the evening. As Lily undresses and begins to take Louis’ clothes off, Lestat sits across from them and Louis asks if he likes to watch. It’s beyond incredible. It’s out of this world. It is an earth-shatteringly horny moment, and whatever Sam Reid is doing with his face in this scene should be outlawed. These men are so desperately into each other, it’s searing.
So when Lestat joins Lily and Louis on the couch for a ménage à trois, it takes maybe four seconds for her to fall magically asleep and for Louis and Lestat to start making out like teenagers. Absolutely incredible amounts of sex ooze off the screen as the two men claw at each other. In what might be the wildest moment of the entire episode, Louis and Lestat levitate, naked, as Lestat sucks Louis’ blood. If this sounds wild to you, I’m not going to tell you that it isn’t, but it’s also deeply, absurdly, wonderfully sexy, especially as the show embraces the sheer weirdness of Rice’s vampire lore.
And then! And then. In the bitchiest meanest move that a gay man could possibly ever make, Louis reminds Daniel that they met at a gay bar. Louis is, of course, still 33, beautiful, and a power top that would make even the butchest man say daddy, and Daniel Molloy is a man in his late 60s with Parkinsons. The cruelty behind Louis’ statement is clear, and it neatly lays out the dynamic these two have. Attraction, repulsion, anger, desire; all of it wrapped up in Louis’ smirk as he reminds Daniel just how close and how far he is from getting Louis into bed. Daniel might dismiss the question saying that he was looking for a score, but it’s clear that he’s got some kind of feelings under his veneer of aggression.
Despite enjoying himself, experiencing an intense feeling of intimacy, Louis promises that he won’t return to Lestat. He instead focuses on his family, and the next scene shows Louis and Paul celebrating Grace at her wedding. As Paul and Louis talk about love, family, and God, Paul walks to the edge of the rooftop and steps off, ending his life. As Louis and his family deal with Paul’s manner of death and their Catholicism, Lestat makes his move when Louis is weakest.
Louis is assaulted by Lestat’s thoughts. The vampire, having taken unkindly to being denied, gets into Louis’ head and draws him away from Paul’s wake. Lestat, obsessed, out of his mind, haunts Louis as he wanders the rainy streets, goes to the Fairplay Saloon, and finally ends up at the church. As Louis confesses, his guilt, shame, hurt, all of it comes spilling out. He does bad, and he does it easy. (It has to be said again, it bears repeating, Jacob Anderson is fantastic.)
And then, Lestat shows up. He rips apart the confessional, eats the priest, and–his mouth bloody, fangs bulging–punches a hole through a docent’s skull. It’s absolutely the wildest, goriest, weirdest part of this episode, because immediately afterwards he stalks towards Louis and tells him that this country has bound him to expectations of courtesy that are beneath him. Imagine hearing that, as a Black man in 1910, in the South, who has had to fight tooth, nail, blade, and claw for the barest scraps of respect. It’s mind-meltingly romantic and sorrowful. And Lestat, despite having killed two men, is demanding that Louis see himself, is forcing Louis to look in a mirror and see his rage and fury and sorrow. Lestat might be the first person to ever tell Louis to embrace those feelings, to command them, to keep them by his side, ready to feel and experience over and over again. And when Lestat calls him beautiful, despite the hurt and pain, and offers him power and darkness and love well… who could possibly resist that?
Certainly not Louis. At the end of the episode Louis reaches out to Lestat and kisses him. They consummate their commitment on the marble steps of the church, drinking each other’s blood under the watchful eyes of the crucifix. As Louis explains this to Daniel, the music crescendos, and this is the end, the beginning, the death of Louis de Pointe du Lac, and his rebirth.
This episode is fantastic. It’s a pulse-pounding proclamation of everything that the show is going to be; sexy and fucked up, angry and aggressive, full of gentle tension that slowly digs its hooks into its characters until it literally rips them apart. Anderson and Reid are a force in their scenes together, and Bogosian, even with significantly fewer scenes, doesn’t disappoint at all. What showrunner Rolin Jones has done with this first episode (which he also wrote) is, without a doubt, a triumph of a pilot. It demonstrates all that Interview With the Vampire will be, while still leaving room for the actors to show off. “In the Throes of Increasing Wonder” is just about a perfect episode of television, reveling in its sexy, horrific, absurd premise and delivering everything the fans want, and so much more than they were expecting.
New episodes of Interview With the Vampire arrive Sundays on AMC and AMC+.
Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel and Star Wars releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about House of the Dragon and Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.