Episode Analysis Interview With the Vampire: Don't Be Afraid, Just Start the Tape

Episode twelve of AMC's Interview With the Vampire proves how good the show can be at crafting its own story while honoring the source material.

Episode Analysis Interview With the Vampire: Don't Be Afraid, Just Start the Tape
Image courtesy AMC

Warning: The following contains spoilers for Interview With the Vampire through episode twelve. Read at your own risk.

Content Warning: This article also includes references to rape.


Oh my GOD that was so much better.

AMC’s Interview With the Vampire episode twelve, Don’t Be Afraid, Just Start the Tape, was so good. Guys. GUYS. Do this! Just do this all the time! All the things you did here, keep doing that. All the stuff you didn’t do, keep not doing it. It’s just that simple. Stop taking the truly high quality stuff you do and then smearing poop all over it by attempting to do the stuff you really really can’t! Less is more! Seriously! Do much less of the shitty stuff!

Ahem. Here, let me elevate the discourse of why the episode was good above “Did not poop on itself.” Let’s get into it.

Why AMC’s Interview With the Vampire Episode Twelve Is One of the Best of the Series

Don’t worry, I haven’t lost my deep seated trust issues. I’m fully aware this statement may come around to bite me on the butt. But if nothing else this episode is an excellent example of what this show does so well and, by being an episode almost entirely full of that, makes it one of the more standout eps of the series.

First up we have the little things. Book references galore but nothing that feels forced. This show continues to be a master class in remembering that the point of references is that they are part of the world and should thus feel part of the world. This isn’t like the MCU where we’re left going - wait? Did the characters in the movies watch the movies? (Allowable when it’s characters like Deadpool or She-Hulk, not so much for anybody else.)

No, if characters say things directly from the books it’s because the dialogue still makes sense. If we get specific references like the location of the interview being Divisadero Street it comes up as a natural thing to specify and not a “Eh? EH??? Did you notice we said the thing????”

To be honest there was even one reference I wouldn’t have hated and even kind of felt they should put in which they didn’t. Namely the first line of the novel (”I see,” said the vampire…). But at the same time I can see (heh) that without the leadup to why he says that it’s not an easy line to work in. I’m not going to fault them if they erred on the side of making sure things felt natural.

Plus they did keep other things, like the way Louis stood by the window when he was talking. So again, perfect balance of pulling from the books but having it feel like it was a story in and of itself and not a reference checklist.

Then they had the challenge of working in their multiple changes. And here I’ll repeat what I said last season which is that I am not only fine for most of the changes from the books (with the very notable exception of how they’re handling Claudia) but I feel they should lean into those changes more. A lot of places can’t handle going off book - Game of Thrones, we’re looking right at you - but for the most part AMC’s Interview with the Vampire is able to handle it.

(Again, the most part. But I’ve already ranted about the handling of Claudia so I’m not going to retread old ground. Except in a second when I promise it’ll be relevant.)

So things like the different setup of Daniel, the fight with Armand and Louis (and how much fun did Jacob Anderson and Assad Zaman have filming that? Because it must have been a ball.), the aftermath - all of it were expertly folded in with the original material and came out as a stronger story because of it. I’m not going to go so far as to say this is full on Spider-Verse level quality of taking a known source and using it to craft something new, because nothing could be. But it certainly makes AMC’s Interview With the Vampire one of the better examples of how.

And part of the how is another thing this show does best, which is payoffs. Hints and clues from even multiple episodes prior - even last season - come back tenfold to show the true story that’s unfolding. Everything from Armand’s brief look of irritation in the flashback to the bar where Louis met Daniel last season turning out to be a hint of the much deeper strain in his and Louis’ relationship all the way to in this very episode where a phrase Louis rattles off naturally turns out to have been not natural at all.

Much like the book references, part of what makes all these things so great is that the show doesn’t linger on them. There’s no sting in the soundtrack (perhaps ironically, ahem), there’s no zoomed in closeup, no DUN DUN DUNNNNN to tell you to pay attention. Instead you experience it as the characters do, as part of the world, and thus when realizations come you’re having those realizations at the exact same time.

Finally, there was the horror. This episode was so good in understanding how to show the horror of Anne Rice style vampires. And here is when I briefly have to touch on Claudia again because last season we discussed how making her the victim of rape at all, let alone by another vampire, not only was unnecessary on every level but it was also a violation of genre.

The Vampire Chronicles are Gothic horror. That means we’re not doing Saw-style torture porn. The horror is meant to come from things like atmosphere, symbolism, the danger of the supernatural, and the feeling you cannot escape the horrors of your past (Gosh does that sound like our protagonist, maybe?).

Now, granted, Armand flinging Daniel around like a rag doll is straight up pain. No question. However, the situation fits the genre. Daniel took the interview because he has his own issues with ego and curiosity. He gets trapped by something much bigger than him which is a supernatural power he couldn’t have imagined.

So when Armand does things like use his power to freeze Daniel’s body in a sitting position it’s not just the physical pain but the existential. Daniel has no more agency. He is at the mercy of forces much larger than him. Armand isn’t simply keeping Daniel there, he’s reminding Daniel that he is merely a bug for godlike beings to play with.

The same for the way Armand manipulates Daniel’s memory and, as we finally have confirmation, Louis’. Armand doesn’t affect their memories by cracking their skulls open. He does it by whispering to their minds and reshaping reality as they both know it. The horror of this then compounds when we return to the present day and Daniel and Louis both realize how much the past decades of their lives have been influenced by this - again, supernatural events making it impossible to escape the horrors of your past.

Take all of this together and you can see why this shows Anne’s vampires as so much more terrifying and creepy than “Oh yeah Lestat found some fucking rando and told him to rape Claudia.” There’s no symbolism there. The best we have is that it reminds Claudia she couldn’t escape Lestat but rape was wholly unnecessary for that to happen. How much more creepy would i have been for random vampires to come up to Claudia while she was searching for more like her, pretend to befriend her, then when she lets her guard down say “By the way, Lestat says hi”?

Rape is just rape. It’s out of place in this genre - again head over to stuff like The Last House on the Left if you want that kind of horror - it doesn’t serve the story. You don’t need a vampire to rape somebody. You need a vampire to do something only a vampire can do. Armand in this episode did things only a vampire can do and it was horrifying.

To that end, I’d like to take a brief detour to talk about what it means that Armand did this. Because I suspect for folks new to the story there might be the urge to say okay, at first I thought Lestat was an asshole but then we’re repeatedly told Louis skewed his version of events because of his broken heart. Then Louis seems to be kind of a dick to Armand with the way he didn’t care if he was putting Armand in danger with the Paris coven and then in the interview flashback where he got in Armand’s face about not being enough for him. Then it seems like Armand is the asshole because he was manipulating Louis’ memories and maybe doing that the whole time so - who’s the good guy?

So let me assure you, with pun fully intended, they all suck.

Seriously. None of them are the good guy. They’re all horrible. That’s part of the point. They’re horrible in different ways, but they are awful, awful people. Each one of them takes the trauma and fuckedupness of their mortal lives with them into their immortality and they can’t escape it. Louis was depressed in life and being turned into a vampire changed none of that. It’s decades later and he’s still desperately looking for something he can hang on to in order to feel like life is worth living. Lestat can’t stop doing things for the lols which means he leaves a trail of destruction behind him and he always ends up alone even though what he wants most is company. Armand was a victim in life controlled by powers he couldn’t fight against and he turned around and became that authoritarian power to victimize others. It goes on and on and on.

So don’t worry about who is the “good” one. None of them are. They’re all fucked up. The story’s interesting because we get to see what happens when they all come together.

Finally, in terms of good stuff in this episode, fucking shout out to the makeup team for those burn scars. Sadly the behind the scenes didn’t get into who to give proper credit for that so I don’t want to guess and guess wrong. But damn. Not only did that look nasty but it looked nasty that you could see (in other words, no putting Louis in dim light to try to hide the flaws) and that Jacob Anderson was still able to move and emote while covered in it. Top notch. A+, no notes.


As always, things that don’t fit anywhere else:

  • This episode was written by Jonathan Ceniceroz and Hannah Moscovitch. I’m mentioning that in particular because it was a strongly written episode and we’ve talked before about how Hannah’s got a history of weak writing, particularly when it comes to things like the handling of Claudia. I’ve been meaning to mention this for a while but I want to acknowledge that the weakness of Claudia in those eps might not be Hannah’s fault. It could be that decisions like having Claudia be raped and acting like an idiot around a feral vampire were things Hannah was told had to happen and she was simply trying to make the best of it. To be honest, I wouldn’t fault her if this was even a malicious compliance situation of “Oh, so you want this to happen even though it makes no sense for somebody with even half a brain? I GUESS THAT’S HOW I’M GOING TO HAVE TO WRITE HER THEN.”
  • That being said, I don’t know whose fault it is but “He’ll be paid in enough crypto” is a clunky line that somebody should’ve edited out. Especially since references to things like crypto are a great way to rapidly age your dialogue like milk. “He’ll be paid enough” would’ve covered the same sentiment without the problems.
  • Once again we’re getting Daniel’s hand shakes whenever he’s thinking about Armand fucking with his mind. I appreciate how consistent that’s been.
  • Among the great things about the reveal that Armand has implanted phrases in Louis’ mind is that it makes you want to go back and see all the other times Armand has stated the truth or reason for why things happened and wonder if those are just as fake. As I pointed out in the first episode of this season, he does it a lot, particularly when it came to stating Louis’ emotions about something.
  • I do have to point out that once again the show tries to bring up issues of racism with Daniel’s comment about worth being overlooked by “hue.” And just - no. Guys, no. Stop. You’ve proven again and again you cannot handle this. Let me borrow a phrase from your script here and say rest. Just rest. Let it go. Stop trying to address issues of racism and history when you are woefully underqualified. Just focus on the pretty vampires and their drama, okay?
  • I was fascinated by the various changes in everyone’s demeanor in the flashback. For example, Louis acted much more outwardly fey than we’ve seen him do in the past or the future. Almost as though he was trying out being able to be more openly into men than he’d previously been allowed, thanks to being in San Francisco in the 1970s.
  • Shout out to Luke Brandon Field who not only had to figure out how to do a believable and not parody version of a young Eric Bogosian but to do so over a gauntlet of situations ranging from high on different kinds of drugs to curiosity to arrogance to scared shitless. I do not envy the feelings he must have had when he realized the challenge he was being given.
  • Related, I loved his expression when he was clearly humoring Louis during a long rant of Louis shit talking his ex.
  • Given that Daniel is now established as bisexual and aware of it all the way back to his youth, it makes no sense that he was mocking Louis for needing to go to parks to find men to hook up with.
  • I had such a visceral reaction to seeing Daniel unwrap the cellophane around a cassette tape. Man I didn’t even remember they had those.
  • I loved Armand being such a petty bitch he didn’t pass on Lestat’s “I love you.”
  • In the books the events of how things ultimately turned out in Paris and things like when Louis and Armand saw Lestat again are canonically something nobody can agree on. So knowing what happened in the books doesn’t tell you what actually happened. To that end, it thus makes it interesting to wonder what, if anything, the show is going to keep. Armand still being with Louis when the interview took place is already a huge departure so there’s no way to guess.
  • I’m not saying another thing that made this episode one of quality was that Claudia appeared in name only but I’m not not saying it. This is no shade on either actress who played her. This is straight up the show handles her character poorly more often than not. At this stage of things we should absolutely be feeling the dawning horror of the “was” that’s looming, not longing for the sweet release of never having to put up with her scenes again.
  • I absolutely adored how they repeated the scenes with new pieces of memory being filled in. Expertly handled. Well edited too, so kudos Yuka Shirasuna.
  • I do not envy Jacob Anderson having to record enough pain sounds to last the entirety of Armand and Daniel's conversation. Hopefully somebody got him some throat coat after.

And that’s all she wrote! We have three episodes left for this season, so let’s see if they manage to keep it up. See you next week!

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