Warning: The following contains spoilers for Interview With the Vampire through episode two as well as the Vampire Chronicles books. Read at your own risk.
AMC’s Interview With the Vampire “…After the Phantoms of Your Former Self” was a good episode. A really good episode, even.
Now in fairness I may be biased. This past week I was exposed to deep dives into two poor pieces of television (absolutely none of my regular readers will be surprised that one such example involved Loki). This means when I see good television I am now, more than ever, primed to cling to it like a golden monkey holding on to a zookeeper for dear life in order to survive a hurricane.
Look you make your mental images and I’ll make mine.
Point being much like watching me try to do a floor routine in the Olympics would make it incredibly obvious just how amazing Simone Biles is, me dealing with poor execution in TV shows has me sighing and petting my screen in bliss as I watch IWTV’s second episode.
In many ways I appreciate the show providing its own metaphor with the tenor and soprano, but in my case it’s the tenor making me appreciate the soprano all the more.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m still side eyeing all the racial issues that were brought up last week. Nor has the show convinced me it’s got the chops to handle turning Louis from an 18th century white slave owner to a 19th century Black man with all the historic and cultural nuance that entails. But purely looking at it in terms of is the show telling a good story, I am giving happy purrs at what AMC’s Interview With the Vampire is doing right what other shows do wrong.
As with last week, I’m going to break things down into story and history. I can’t say that’s going to be the pattern for every writeup on this show but when the show itself tees up a topic like how do cemeteries work in New Orleans who am I to say no?
We have visual aids this week, guys. Strap in.
Why Interview With the Vampire’s Second Episode Was Good
Now that we’re past the hurdle of introducing the series, and the awkward “we’re having an interview because we had an interview” of it all, we’re getting the advantage of the characters being their more normal selves and I’m loving it.
Lestat in particular is gaining the benefit of becoming more of a person. I will say Sam Reid is not fully selling me on Lestat. By which I mean the idea that he’s the hottest and most charismatic person in the room. Which I would be fine for as a change between the book version of Lestat and the show, but the show itself insists that Lestat’s sexy irresistibility is part of the narrative.
And look, there’s nothing wrong with Sam Reid. I’m not trying to say he’s the version you get when you order Lestat off Wish or your mom says we've got Lestat at home. He’s perfectly serviceable and attractive. If this was a CW show he’d be a great Lestat in a heartbeat, no pun intended. I mean look at the guy the CW cast for a role that effectively was Lestat in the Vampire Diaries universe. Sam would fit right in.
(I know, I know. Klaus is his own character. But he falls under the description of “Bad boy blond haired vampire living in New Orleans with cheekbones you could finely slice ham off of” so it’s effectively the same for casting purposes.)
The problem is that Sam’s acting opposite Jacob Anderson as Louis. Jacob raises the bar almost unfairly high for both looks and charisma but the bar is there. Sam may be the best McDonald’s fries we’ve ever had but he’s going to pair better with a Big Mac than he is a cut of waygu beef.
All that being said, I did like what Sam was doing this week. I love the interpretation of Lestat that we’re getting where he’s heaving long suffering sighs about dealing with Louis’ dead bodies in much the same way as if Louis had left dirty dishes in the sink. Does this tie with Lestat’s rebellious, devil may care personality from the novels? Not at all! Does it make for a great dynamic that’s fun to watch? Oh hell yes!
I have absolutely no need for Lestat to have any resemblance to his book self since Louis has pretty much zero resemblance to his. As I said last week I felt Lestat could use more changes so if what we’re seeing this week is a sign of that I’m all for it.
I also want to shout out something Sam Reid did this week which was great, and that’s his acting when he’s in the background of the shot. I realize this sounds like I’m saying he’s got a great face for radio but I mean this as a genuine compliment. Again and again Lestat is framed being just over Louis’ shoulder. Each time you can tell he’s being present in the moment. Lestat’s reading minds, he’s pretending to be interested in tractor salesmen, he’s keeping an eye on Louis.
I’m not saying it’s a full on Kate McKinnon-esque talent for making background face acting an entire movie in and of itself, but it’s still a talent. Sam did a great job with it. So much so that honestly if the show simply stopped having Louis insist that Lestat’s personality was so fascinating I’d not have any problems with Sam’s casting at all. He’s doing a perfect job as somebody who’s reasonably good looking and who can make himself a constant presence in Louis’ life, for good or ill. Make him a solid strength like earth instead of insisting that he’s bright like fire and we’re good to go.
(Yes, yes, I am desperately trying to avoid using the phrase “sparkling.” Moving on.)
Speaking of framing the shot, I want to also give a shout out to cinematographer David Tattersall for great work this week. He worked on last week’s episode too but, as I’ve already pointed out, that had some questionable, albeit earworming, face framing choices.
This week, though, we had beautiful framing and blocking work. For example, Louis in his club simply walking off camera so that Jacob could switch out a white coat for red and signify the passage of time. Lestat frequently being over Louis’ shoulder is another one.
The camera work also did a great job selling some of the humor. For example when Louis killed the salesman the shot put the rug perfectly in the screen so that just as you’re starting to think “Huh, I bet there’s blood all over that thing” it cuts to Lestat rolling up the dead body in it.
(Which is a shout out to editing as well, since bad editing can ruin a joke. But I already talked about that in the article for this week’s episode of She-Hulk so I won’t repeat it here.)
The humor this week was also so freaking good. And look nobody has been rooting for She-Hulk more than I have without actually being a member of the Maslany family, but I actually wrote in my notes that just under the half hour mark of this episode we had more well written, character and universe based humor than in the entirety of She-Hulk thus far and I’m including the good parts of The Retreat when I say that.
I will again give a shout out to Sam Reid here since most of the humor came from Lestat’s side. But things like him casually taking the glass from the salesman as Louis attacks, or commenting “For our next carpet I’m thinking Persian” were so good. Though we also had other things like Daniel’s “Can we turn down the music?” which was, again it kills me to have to say this, a better meta joke than anything She-Hulk has managed.
The writers for this week’s episode were Jonathan Ceniceroz and Dave Harris. Of the two Dave is the one with a comedy background so my guess is he’s the one who added the humor. Whoever it is I hope this is a sign of more of it to come. You can have humor in your horror and your drama without ruining the tone. Seriously, please, more of this.
Oh - and also shout out to props for helping to support the jokes. For example when we see the two coffins during Lestat’s “I don’t like sleeping angry” moment (which, again: ha!), there’s a pair of Louis’ shoes by his coffin. Thus subtly telling us that the momentum here isn’t building to a punchline of Lestat talking to himself but to something else. Properly managing audience expectations is how you sell a moment, no matter what the emotions of it are. It’s little details like the shoes which take the work on a show from good to great.
Another thing this show has been consistently good about, as much as we can say two episodes establish a pattern (long time readers know my trust issues), is using book references to support the character and world building. I want to take so many other properties (let’s face it, most of them Marvel) and force them to look at what this show is doing while saying “THIS! DO WHAT THEY DO!”
Louis casually mentioning that his painting is by Marius de Romanus helps make Marius feel like part of the world, as he should. If you don’t know the books the name is simply a detail and if you do it’s an added layer of information about what Louis has been doing with his time and who he has met.
It’s much like Lestat talking about being given a flintlock rifle last week. Book readers knew what it was a reference to, non book readers could notice that flintlock was a weird choice for a type of gun and wonder if it meant something. That was then paid off this week when Lestat confirmed that he’s been around for at least 200 years.
Whenever you’re doing references like this the important thing is that the references have to feel in the world not about the world. Far too often Marvel properties put them on the screen like dangling keys in front of an infant. “Do you know this reference? Here it is! On the screen! Not doing anything, just being there!”
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes an Easter egg can be just an Easter egg and that’s fine. The issue is when you put in repeated references to other properties. Do they serve the story or not? AMC’s Interview With the Vampire is providing great examples of how the references can be used to serve the story. I expect to be pointing to it frequently as the Gallant to other movie and TV shows’s Goofus.
Rounding out the general comments on quality, I will say that my personal jury is still out on the job Carol Cutshall is doing on costumes. To be clear, the clothes are good. Believe me, when I was treated this weekend to detailed photos of the TVA outfits from Loki I am weeping with gratitude to see how well made the clothes are in AMC’s Interview With the Vampire. Whether things are custom made or pulled from warehouses (I suspect both) it’s clear they are of good quality.
(Meanwhile “The browns don’t even match!” has now taken a place in the top five things I will likely yell when I finally turn into an evil villain.)
The thing that isn’t fully gelling for me, though, is that I suspect Carol Cutshall doesn’t have enough experience with historic projects to understand how to tell a story with historic clothing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking for historic accuracy. Clothing in visual media has to first and foremost tell a story. I would only subtract points on historic accuracy in clothing if the show patted itself on the back for having it. As far as I’m aware that hasn’t happened here so we’re good.
But what I’m not seeing is a story regardless of where Carol is taking her inspiration from. Yeah, we get some hints of a color story with Lestat’s green tie last week and Louis’ red coat this week but for the most part it’s drab greys and browns. And you can do drab colors as a story (that’s what Loki was attempting, in fact) but what you need to do in addition to that is take advantage of the other tools in the sewing box, so to speak. What are your silhouettes? What are the accessories?
Good costuming, whether it’s sewn from scratch or bought from a department store, should make it so that you can see a complete outfit hanging off a mannequin and immediately know who that character is. Not in the sense of the name, but in the sense of their story. Are they rich or poor? Young or old? Where are they from? What is the nature of their relationship to other characters?
And this is where historic knowledge would help. Again, not required. But it makes an excellent jumping off point. I have friends who are going to laugh at me bringing up this reference but if you want a great example of a show in a comparable time period which does costumes right I’ll point to Murdoch Mysteries. It is a Deeply Serious Detective Show (read: not at all) but every time I see a clip from it I am in raptures over the outfits. Who has lace inserts? Who has patterns in their clothes? What colors are being worn? What styles? How many times does a character repeat a garment? Who has shoes that look worn? I have yet to watch a single full episode of this series but every time I see a character I can correctly guess what their story is meant to be.
I can’t do any of that with Interview. For example, I think the brief period of Louis wearing a white coat and Lestat wearing a straw hat (which I loved, for the record) was meant to indicate that it was summertime. However, those constantly lit fireplaces put us firmly in winter. Now I’m willing to allow that maybe the fireplaces are a choice by a lighting department desperately trying to make things visible in a world of only just popular electric bulbs. And if so, bless them because there’s already enough shows out there lit by the light of a dying child’s hopes and dreams.
But if the fireplaces are a lighting compromise then other things need to pick up the slack. Clothing would be one way to do that. It should be clearer that Louis is in a light linen suit because it’s summertime and not because sure why not white for this scene? If Grace is in an outfit that looks like it has lace is that a sign of how the de Pointe du Lacs aren’t hurting for cash? Is it a hand me down from the glory days? Are we even supposed to notice it looks like lace or was the only costuming choice that it was a nice outfit?
You get what I mean.
Now again in fairness I will say it’s still too early to judge. I’d love for the quality to be so good I could judge, but I can’t stress enough it’s definitely nowhere near poor enough to judge it either. As we get the rest of the episodes of this season we may yet see a costume story emerge. I’m just saying as of this second in time the costumes are well made but otherwise just okay. They are the Sam Reid of costumes: perfectly serviceable but the high quality elsewhere makes you realize there’s a level or two above this one. I’ll be happy to adjust this rating upward if it lets me.
Now let’s talk about the New Orleans of it all.
The Real Life New Orleans Referenced In Interview With the Vampire Episode 2
The show did good this week. Slightly confusing but good. We’re nowhere near as cringey as last week’s yadda yadda-ing of the entire history of Black people in New Orleans. Instead this week it’s more like how last week’s episode acted like French was rare. Just odd.
So let’s get into it!
First up, let’s talk locations because those are relevant. Because I love you all, I actually made a map. Here:
Here, in New Orleans appropriate purple, green, and gold, I’ve marked the borders of the French Quarter (purple), Storyville (green), and Treme (gold). In that I’ve got symbols of a house for Louis and Lestat’s home at Rue Royale in the Quarter, the gold cross for St Augustine Church, and a little green cemetery marker for St Louis No 1 where the de Pointe du Lac family tomb probably is. I also included a generic XXX marker in the middle of Storyville because c’mon, how often do I get to use a symbol for porn on a map and have it be relevant?
Now I’ll caveat this by saying the show hasn’t flat out said that Louis’ family lives in Treme. However, their use of the St Augustine church, plus the history of New Orleans in terms of where Black people moved to after the Civil War, strongly suggests it.
So first up what you’re getting is where these all are in relationship to each other and to New Orleans landmarks. Which now, hopefully, has you right there with me every time I say “The Mississippi is RIGHT THERE.” I have no idea why we’re getting all this fuss and bother about how to get rid of bodies when it is an extremely short two block walk from the flat at Rue Royale to the waters where you could dump an entire Navy fleet in a canvas bag like a sack of kittens and nobody would ever find them again. Trust me, it wouldn’t be the grossest thing tumbling around that water.
Next up we’ve got Louis’ mother and sister guilting him about moving “Half a mile away.” Now maybe this was intended as a nudge. Like “You are only half a mile away and yet we never see you.” However, to my ear the both of them made it sound like this was a journey of a thousand years. To which I’m going to point out the distance from the flat at Rue Royale to St Augustine is a third of a mile. Going from the flat to the edge of Storybrooke, not even in it, just at the closest border, gets you just over half a mile. I’ll also reassure you that the distance meant by “half a mile” has not changed in the past hundred plus years. (Which, in fairness, some measurements have so it is worth noting.)
Point being, Louis is traveling these distances back and forth almost every day (St Augustine less frequently after he became a vampire, but still).
On top of that, other than the heat and humidity, New Orleans is extremely walkable. It is entirely flat. So, much like how I wonder why we’re ignoring the giant naturally formed body disposal landmark two blocks over, I’m scratching my head wondering why they’re making it sound like Louis may as well have moved to New Zealand.
Now for fun facts this is where it would’ve worked to use that animosity between the French Quarter and the Garden District that I mentioned last week. Throw in a “You moved half a mile uptown.” and there’d be no questions asked about why Louis’ mom and sister refused to go there.
(The Garden District is much further uptown than that but the dividing line between the two factions is Canal Street, so really all Louis would’ve had to do is move one block further uptown from there for it to count. But the flat at Rue Royale is so much a part of Louis and Lestat’s story I don’t question them keeping it, just why they’re acting like Louis may as well be on Mars.)
Speaking of the flat at Rue Royale, you’ll be interested to know it does in fact have skylights. It also had indoor plumbing well before any other private homes. So while the real version doesn’t have all the bells and whistles Lestat put in to hide his coffins, that somewhat advanced technology is not out of place for the location.
Related: I was amazed at how quickly Lestat was able to get that work done because you know home boy wasn’t ruining his manicure by doing it personally. You’d think that the time it took to get the work on Louis’ club started, let alone finished, was a continuity error in comparison. However, it’s actually a spot on detail if the show is reflecting the way corruption bogs down the ability to get things done in Louisiana. The timeline for Louis’ club is normal. The timeline for Lestat’s home suggests he probably used his supernatural abilities to force it to be done faster.
Speaking of spot on details, the building does have that iconic green ironwork in front of it including the metal door in front of the actual door to the inside. One could argue that it makes no sense for Lestat to not have both doors unlocked and ready for Louis to run through as soon as Louis regretted going out in the sun. However, I would argue being a petty little bitch is 100% in character for Lestat and thus as far as I’m concerned I have no notes regarding that moment.
Louisiana does grow cotton but only in the north east and not in any significant manner until after the 1920s when they were able to figure out where and how to grow it in a way that would be profitable (being in swampland meant the crop frequently rotted and was thus not worth bothering with except for small amounts for personal usage). I don’t mind the salesman being mistaken about this, however, because as a non local he’d have no reason to know better. (Okay yeah maybe you could argue a tractor salesman should have more knowledge about local crops before doing his pitch but meh. He’s one of those weird American Protestant types. He was asking for it hanging around downtown of Canal street in the first place.)
Another small detail I loved: they correctly identified the building structure facing the courtyard of Louis’ club as balconies. People often get balconies and galleries confused, so it’s the little things that make me happy. (Balcony: thing stuck to the side of the exterior wall. Gallery: extension of the internal architecture so that it’s effectively a room without the walls).
Which brings us to the final, bigger detail, which is how do you get rid of dead bodies in New Orleans if you’re not throwing them into the river?
Say hello to tombs!
The thing about New Orleans is that it’s six feet below sea level, which means concepts like “burying” do not happen. Burying things requires putting them underground. We do not have underground, we have water.
Now it’s worth noting that New Orleans did not invent the concept of the above ground tomb, or even this particular style of tomb. But boy did they have a great use for them!
Tombs come in many shapes but your standard one is like what you see by the number one in that picture. It’s a two chambered affair where normally you’ll have a marble slab covering the front with all the names of who was put in there after they died.
The way that it works is your family has one of these tombs. Somebody dies. Put them in a coffin as per usual, then put the coffin on that top shelf. You then seal the tomb up for a year and a day.
Now the year and a day is connected to a lot of cultural and religious rituals around the dead. But as an extra benefit it’s also about the amount of time the New Orleans heat needs to cook that body and coffin down into nothing. You crack the tomb open after a year and a day, go in there with a broom, basically, and bung all the dust and chunky bits down into the floor of the bottom half (note in the picture how that has no floor, it goes directly to the ground). Seal up the tomb again until you’ve got a new body and you’re done!
But wait! What if you have someone else who dies during that year and a day? What then?
Well you could be like Louis’ family and have a tomb with multiple chambers. If you go back to Paul’s funeral in episode one you’ll see how that’s a multi-chambered tomb where only one of the chambers is open. But bigger tombs cost money (as I said last week, it was a great bit of environmental storytelling to indicate the de Pointe du Lacs came from wealth).
If you’re not from money you use a temporary tomb space, typically located in the walls of that same cemetery (shown in picture two above). The walls can be used as spots for poorer people, but also as holding spaces if you’ve got a tomb that’s still in that year and a day block. You take your second body, put it in a wall tomb, leave it there for a year and a day, then come back and take all the bits leftover and chuck them into the bottom half of your family tomb.
What if you’re part of a religion where you have to be buried under earth? Or you just don’t like the shelves? No problem, that’s when we build the ground up to meet you (picture three). Small retaining walls are put in place at enough of a height that you can put a coffin in there. (If you’re wondering about how short those particular walls are, that’s because these photos are from Lafayette Cemetery which is a whopping three feet above sea level, which is why they don’t have to go too high to get enough dirt to put a coffin in.)
Bury the coffin, again wait a year and a day, then come back with a shovel and give that dirt a good stir to break up all the remaining bits. Boom, now your dirt is ready for the next dead person.
What you may notice that we don’t do in all this is have a giant tub that opens from the top that you can chuck multiple bodies in like it’s a marble box that reads Dead Priest Storage on the front. Yes, tombs come in all sorts of shapes and sizes (Nic Cage has one shaped like a pyramid because sure why not?) (Shout out to Suzette M for the reminder of that!) but the stick them in, wait a year and a day, deal with what’s leftover is basically how the cycle works.
I get that for the purpose of the show they’re not going to be too bothered about it. But it did amuse me because, well, again: river is right there. If you don’t want to be bothered chuck your priests into the water, grab a beignet on your way home and call it a night.
But since they did go for a cemetery - and in fairness Lestat is right, those things are everywhere - I don’t get why they went for a thing that doesn’t exist instead of what does. If I were a vampire trying to hide a dead body in a New Orleans cemetery the first place I’d look is a fresh tomb. Find somebody just starting their year and a day and toss my dead body on top of it. Nobody’s going to open that up until a year later at which point the evidence will be too cooked down to notice.
Barring that I’d chuck the body in the walls, ideally on a shelf that doesn’t get much usage (or one just used, though for those you’d have to squeeze your body in to make it fit). Again same deal that once it’s opened up after a year and a day nobody’s going to notice the difference.
Or you could use an incinerator but woof who wants that smell? Especially where you’re expecting people to hang out. Sheesh.
(River. Right there. Just saying.)
As always, things that didn’t fit anywhere else.
- Of all the details to keep from the books I cannot tell you how truly, genuinely, non-ironically thrilled I am that they kept the part where newborn vampires shit themselves. My note while watching, and I quote, was: “AHAHAHAHAHAHA AMAZING YES POOPING!!!!!”
- I have no idea why the show, like the movie, is going with the idea that blood taken from the dead is poison will kill you omg!!!! In the books it just tastes gross. I’m not saying they have to do things like the books - so many of their powers and abilities have changed (being awake during the day, smoking, eating even though it doesn’t taste like anything, etc) so it’s not that. I’m just saying this is an unnecessary headache they’ve given themselves because it immediately raises the question of what’s the difference between “dead blood” and blood that’s been sitting in a bag in the fridge for god knows how long.
- Said blood in a bag comes from a “farm.” I’m holding off judgement until we get more episodes but put me down as having a question mark by that because it’s the kind of detail which should resonate with Louis’ family history with slavery, whatever that history is.
- I gave Sam a lot of compliments so let me not neglect the great job Jacob did at conveying a Louis who was high as balls.
- “Amusing their relentless questions at that age” - why hello there, foreshadowing.
- The show did an amazing job of hiding the blood on Lestat’s shirt when they were at the bar with the salesman. I actually had to rewind to see how they did that trick when they got back to the flat and you saw his sleeve and collar were covered with it. The answer is Sam kept his right arm hidden in his cape and the shirt collar was tucked in. I do call slight shenanigans on none of the blood on the collar being visible but it was so nicely done I give it a pass. Especially since in the books vampires handle issues like this by telepathically telling mortals it’s “Perfectly normal, what you see.” So this was a great way of creating the same result for the audience, whether or not Lestat himself was doing a mental trick or just, yanno, keeping his collar tucked in.
- Another nice quiet bit of storytelling: Lestat’s hair is always the same length. They don’t need to make a point of telling us that it never changes because we can see it there, never changing.
- Given that Lestat has 200 years under his belt compared to his book self who was in the ground at this point, I'm interested to see what else they came up with for him to do in that time and how it affected his personality. The nice thing is at this stage I trust the show will actually do that.
- Of course Lestat would go full frontal the first time he shares a coffin with Louis.
- I like the dynamic where Louis gives pushback to Lestat. Frankly I am all for the two of them being one where in general Louis is the stronger and Lestat only stands out in the moments when he loses his temper. If that’s the case Sam’s casting makes much more sense. It’s just that the show keeps telling us this isn’t the case. Shh, stop saying it! Let the actual vibes happen!
- I like that the show isn’t ignoring dynamics like Lestat being white or how Louis, as a vampire, would feel having to still pretend to be subservient to white people. I just hope they’re going to make sure the people writing those particular parts have both historic knowledge and lived experience to do so well. You don’t want my white ass doing it, in other words.
- “You need to stop using that word right now” - fucking hell, please. Let the worst thing that happened to fanfic be Anne herself, not the show encouraging writers to use the word “fledgling” every two seconds. Bad enough we have to fight the White Wolf-ization of all vampire fics with “childe” and the like.
- (Don’t get me wrong, love me some Vampire the Masquerade, just saying you shouldn’t cross the vocabulary streams.)
- Daniel being bored and going back to his meal while Louis yammers on about being an apex predator is the most I have ever identified with Daniel in over two decades of knowing his character existed.
- I appreciate Lestat at the opera house giving me the opportunity to say one of my favorite Simpsons quotes.
- On the topic of blood, Louis, c’mon now. Did any of that even get in your mouth?
- Seriously, though, if it’s not winter there is no reason for all those fires to be going. Especially in a vampire’s house while they’re asleep in flammable wooden coffins (to say nothing of how vampires tend to be vulnerable to fire personally, though we don’t know if these vampires are). Like what in the Stede Bonnet was that?
- I mentioned this last week but it’s worth repeating: I have not read the books past Vittorio. To that end if the show makes any references to the later stuff it’s going to fly right over my head. If you spot anything like that please let us know in the comments!
- Related: We have comments now! I’ve been soft rolling them out as we work out the kinks (still doing that last bit, actually) but they are open! The only requirement is you do have to sign up with the site so that we’re not inundated with spam and trolls. But a free signup gets you the ability to comment same as a paid one. I don’t do anything with the email addresses other than mail out the newsletter (and you can even say no to having it mailed and still keep the ability to comment if that’s your preference.)
- So yeah, if you noticed stuff I didn’t or have thoughts or whatever feel free to share!
And that’s all for this week. See you next time!