Episode Analysis Interview With the Vampire: Like the Light by Which God Made the World Before He Made Light

Episode thirteen of AMC's Interview With the Vampire ramps up the tension leading into the final two episodes, but not entirely successfully.

Episode Analysis Interview With the Vampire: Like the Light by Which God Made the World Before He Made Light
Image courtesy AMC

Warning: The following contains spoilers for Interview With the Vampire through episode thirteen as well as for Interview With the Vampire the book. Read at your own risk.

Content Warning for discussion of rape


Episode thirteen of AMC’s Interview With the Vampire, Like the Light by Which God Made the World Before He Made Light, is, in addition to being one of the most obnoxiously long of the long titles, a continued example of how this show is so good when it deals with vampires and their drama, and super not so much when it comes to the handling of history and Claudia.

I know, I know, I’ve said it so much I could probably cut and paste this from previous articles. But it continues to be true. And to that end we may as well just get into it. We’ll start with the bad and move on to the good.

The Ongoing Problems of Claudia’s Story in AMC’s Interview With the Vampire

I hate saying this but at this stage of the game I think the show has proven that it’s Claudia’s storyline specifically that it can’t handle. It’s not the actress. They’ve had two now and the problem has been there with both. It’s also not the actress because the episodes grind to a halt when other characters are simply talking about Claudia and she’s not in the scene.

Jacob Anderson can occasionally wring emotions out of talking about Louis’ broken heart when the subject of Claudia comes up. And I’m not saying Claudia never has a good scene. But the treatment and writing of her is so ridiculously oblivious to the things the show itself sets up that it’s driving me insane.

I talked about this in episode eleven when I mentioned the The Last of Us problem. AMC’s Interview With the Vampire made significant changes to the world building without any thought to the actual impact that had to their world. Claudia is Black and was turned when she was fourteen years old. That makes some very huge differences to the story! The show itself says these are things we need to be aware of - she’s forever in the body of a child! That’s why she plays a child at the theater! Don’t forget, body of a child!

Okay cool, but then don’t tell me I’m supposed to root for the romance between Claudia and a woman who, until five hot seconds ago, thought Claudia was fourteen years old. That’s not romance! That’s fucking creepy!

And the thing is I think everyone involved with the show is somehow completely unaware of this. In the behind the scenes after the episode Jacob talks about how he, Jacob, thinks Madeleine and Claudia are the two characters most deserving of a happy immortality.

Now I’ll grant you Claudia, who is a victim of Louis wanting her to be turned with no thought of what impact that would have on her, is someone who the universe owes some happiness to. As Claudia herself said last season even if she had had a short and awful mortal life it would’ve still been a life. So as horrible a vampire as Claudia has become - and all vampires are horrible, so that’s no reflection (…heh) on her - you can and should feel sympathy for the fact that she’s doing the best she can with a situation that was forced upon her.

But Madeleine? First up this implies we’re supposed to be happy for their relationship. Which, again, Madeleine thought Claudia was underage! Like fucking hell throw in a line somewhere, anywhere, where Claudia says something like “And she thought I was 18!” to Louis or something like that so we have slightly more reason to support this.

Also, cannot stress this enough, Madeleine fucked a Nazi. For no other reason than she was horny! And yet somehow we’re supposed to feel sorry for her that she experienced blowback on that!

Now look, I’m not saying characters need to be flawless. Ever and especially in a vampire story. As I talked about last week they all suck. But for the most part the show is on the page that yes, they all suck. But for some reason Madelene we’re supposed to feel sorry for.

She. Fucked. A. NAZI.

Which hell, you can do. To be honest when I was watching this episode I was actually wondering if the show was going to draw some kind of parallel between Madeleine’s handling of Nazis and vampires. Sadly no, but think about how much stronger this would have been if Madeleine, instead of being all “Yeah I wanted somebody to feel up my tits, deal with it” had seen herself in a life or death survival situation, saw the powerful evil that was the German occupiers, and figured fuck it she’ll do whatever it takes to make sure she lives even if that means throwing her lot in with the worst of the worst.

Now it’s a story! Now it’s interesting! Now you can tie that directly to her “Fuck you” attitude to Armand when he’s debating whether he’ll turn her. I may not like the fact that Madeleine has no problem fucking a Nazi but at least now her overall life philosophy and reason for why is interesting.

But the show isn’t presenting it like that. The show is saying we should feel sorry for her and it’s oh so unfair that her neighbors want to punish her when she herself is saying her neighbors were shot and starved by the guy she fucked. And even offering having to see them starving and being murdered as a reason why we should feel sorry for her! This is straight up asking for mercy as an orphan when you’re on trial for killing your parents!

And what gets me is making this the text would work so much better. In the book, Madeleine is a dollmaker. The reason why she is drawn to Claudia is because, as a vampire in a five year old’s body, Claudia is effectively a living doll. It is part of the tragedy of Claudia’s life that this is the best she can hope for in the body she is trapped in. She’s still not being treated like the adult she is mentally but at least Madelene’s unhealthy devotion to her means she’ll do whatever it takes to take care of Claudia and provide her with the things Claudia can’t do for herself.

When you age Claudia up to fourteen you lose some of the vulnerability that five year old Claudia had. Particularly when the audience has eyes and can see that Delainey Hayles can easily pass for someone in her 20s. Its the show itself insisting that no, no, for realsies Claudia looks like a child. To which we’re back on okay then, in which case Madeleine is a pedophile.

Which again you could do! Make that the tragedy! Tie it in with the desperation for connection we’ve seen from Claudia this season! Say she thinks this is a sweet and wonderful romance while Louis is there realizing that nope, it really isn’t but, like book Madeleine, it’s the best Claudia can hope for.

Or hell, do the easiest fix of all and say Madeleine was raped by a Nazi but her neighbors treated her like she consented to it! Like god damn, the one time they don’t use rape as a shortcut. It wouldn’t fix the part where Madeleine was hot for a fourteen year old but at least the rest of her life would be more sympathetic.

I could go on but you get the idea. Which frankly as I’m looking over at it also kinda suggests it’s not so much Claudia specifically but female characters the show struggles with. Because, much like Claudia when the plot demands, Madeleine is also written like a dumbass. She’s copping ‘tude with Armand when she’s asking him for a favor? Seriously??

Don’t get me wrong, I’m aware Lestat copped ‘tude with Armand when he met him too. It’s not that I think Armand is particularly deserving of honor or courtesy. But the difference was even though Lestat was on the back foot - he was a baby vampire surrounded by more powerful ones who knew how to use that power - Lestat was smart enough to know he had to present himself as having something to offer. First he did it by showing the coven they didn’t have to live in filth and shame the way that they did. Then by making Armand think Lestat loved him so that Lestat could learn how to use some of his powers. When Lestat got what he wanted out of the deal, he bounced.

Total asshole moves on every possible level. But smart. On the other hand Madeleine is a mortal who, as far as she knows, has one vampire in the world who can give her the thing she wants and she’s acting like he’s beneath her. That’s just stupid! That scene was especially when I was like okay, perfect opportunity to show how her experience in the war shaped her as a survivor and a manipulator. Give me a Madelene who’s clever enough and experienced enough with human monsters to now be able to read Armand in an instant and know how to push his buttons to get what she wants.

But nope. Just acting like he’s lesser than her then surprised Pikachu face when that didn’t work out in her favor. While claiming the thing she most wants is to make Claudia happy. Sure! Why not!

So yeah. Here we are in clearly the home stretch of their story and I feel no sympathy whatsoever for what’s about to happen. Our hearts are supposed to be breaking. Instead I’m like do you need me to help you take curtains down to let the sun in? Because once we’re past this plot point we never have to deal with it again and I frankly can’t wait.

But it’s not all bad! Let’s talk about the good.

The Good Parts of AMC’s Interview With the Vampire, Episode Thirteen

Look the subheadings aren’t always going to be sexy, what can I tell ya?

As always, when we move away from the things the show handles almost comically poorly there’s the stuff it does really really well. There’s the things the show handles so deftly I could weep with joy. Which again goes back to how I wish we could cut out every scene that even remotely relates to Claudia because once you do that the show is firing on all cylinders.

For example, the power plays being done by Santiago and the others. We’re getting a season long payoff to the initial suspicion that there was more to Santiago than his over the top “I am an ac-TOR” persona. (Though, yanno, the fact that he hides it so well proves just how good of an actor he is.) We’re also starting to see the payoff to Lestat’s warning from last season that the vampires of Europe are dangerous. Claudia assumed it was Lestat manipulating them. Instead it’s worse: he was telling the truth. Which even Armand is being reminded of as his coven out maneuvers him.

There’s also those subtle reminders of who is more adaptable and thus suited for immortality. As I talked about in episode eleven, Armand has a harder time adjusting to the modern age. Contrary to what he says in tonight's ep, Louis isn’t the first vampire to understand the concept of compound interest. Lestat did. (And probably other vampires besides Lestat, to be fair, but in terms of the vampires we’ve met so far). It’s even in the text, because that was the whole point of Lestat’s lawyer. Roget is the one who manages the money Lestat left to the theater so that they would always have enough to keep running. Do you think Lestat, president and founding member of the Lestat Is Awesome fanclub, would leave himself out of benefitting from the concept of investments? Fuck no!

But Armand doesn’t get those things. Even in the modern day we see he’s only capable of the type of investing Louis told him about - buying and selling art. To adapt to the times Armand needs to be told what to do. Arguably even at the end of the episode Armand was still being told. Just it started with Louis and became the coven.

Of course that assumes we can trust this version of the story is the real one. Which also goes back to how another thing the show does well is the way that manipulation is one of the greatest tools in a vampire’s arsenal. Lestat manipulates with his charm. Claudia, when she’s written well, with her cleverness. Louis by inflicting passive desires on others until they feel forced to make him happy or, occasionally, by being motivated enough to dominate people into giving him what he wants (which is an invention of the show’s for his personality, but it does work with the way he’s been characterized since episode one).

And Armand by finding ways to slip into people’s lives and thoughts and make himself indispensable. It’s not for nothing that the guy who claims he doesn’t want to lead keeps finding ways to take the position of leader. He may not want it but he knows it’s a way to make sure he can survive by making others need him.

The same with how he’s been manipulating Louis. And here I have to pause to mention I read a review of last week’s episode where my jaw hit the floor it was so bad. I won’t name names to call anybody out. But suffice it to say it was a known publication and the reviewer claimed that Louis and Armand were the healthiest and most loving couple on the show. And like… sir, have you watched the show??

They’re manipulative! They both manipulate each other! Yeah, sure, they were physically snuggly on the couch when this season began (and peep how in tonight’s ep they were on separate chairs angled away from each other. When this show actually gives a shit about the details it doesn’t miss) but it has been constant manipulation by Louis and Armand both! In what freaking world do you look at that relationship and say it’s healthy?

Mind you, this reviewer also watched last week’s episode and proclaimed Daniel is straight so clearly actually paying attention to the thing he’s paid to review is not his strong suit. But still. Seriously?

Anyway, point being that we’re seeing the benefit of the consistent characterization of everybody but Claudia in that everyone is trying to out manipulate everyone else in the way we know they love to do best. In Armand’s case it’s watching him quickly try to adapt to the changing moods of the coven in the past, and the realization that Louis and Daniel have figured out the events of San Francisco in the present.

I also want to give a shout out to Eric Bogosian who’s been doing a great job of showing Daniel’s attempts to manipulate the situation while maintaining an undercurrent of pants shitting fear for how much danger he knows he’s in.

Also I absolutely loved the twist that real Rashid is connected to the Talamasca. Though has the show itself introduced that word? I’ve been holding off on using it because I’m pretty sure it hasn’t. But in the behind the scenes videos after the episode the producers have been all “Yep! Talamasca! Boy howdy, is it them!” so I guess it’s not a spoiler regardless?

So yeah. The stuff the show does well it does so well. And maybe by the end of this season we’ll be fully past the things it does poorly. Fingers crossed?


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

  • I wonder if real Rashid dropping the food was scripted or a blooper they kept in
  • Speaking of Raglan James, he’s a hard one to talk about because of who that name is connected to in the books. For those who haven’t read the Vampire Chronicles, suffice it to say this is like when earlier this season I pointed out that Madeleine the dressmaker shared a name with someone from the book and thus something might be going on with her. Same thing here. So I won’t remotely touch on anything possibly spoilery. I’ll just say that for those who do know the books, yes I’m aware of the potential here and I’ve been keeping my eye out for it.
  • I loved how we’re seeing more of Louis’ bitchy and dangerous side in the past just as Daniel’s getting that warning that he’s the more dangerous one in the present.
  • I liked the way that Santiago’s use of telepathy while acting was a direct tie to the way Lestat did the same thing, both with the intent of manipulating Armand for their own benefit. (Dare we say… parallel?)
  • I also loved how just as I was noticing that Armand in the past was way too calm and declarative when updating Louis on what happened with the coven, Louis in the present also pointed out that had the hallmarks of being bullshit. The show has done a really great job with both filming and editing these moments together so that the audience can be right there with the characters reacting to the story.
  • Not to go back to the Claudia well again, but another glaring problem with her story is that Claudia being Black while Madeleine is white creates difficulties for them in terms of Madeleine’s ability to be useful for Claudia other than being able to reach for items on the top shelf. In the book Claudia and Madeleine were both white so Claudia looked like she could be Madeleine’s daughter. In contrast, there’s families today who get accused of kidnapping if the children don’t look to be the same race as their parents. And if they’re not going the mother/daughter route, what were they planning on doing for their cover? It’s not like interracial couplings had a lot of doors opening to them even before you throw the same sex part into the mix. Was Claudia going to go around pretending to be Madeleine’s servant the same way Louis had to when he went to the opera with Lestat?
  • Again on poor writing: why were Claudia and Madeleine still close enough to Paris to join Louis and Armand for that friendly drinks session? I know why the plot said it, but from a character point of view this again paints Madeleine and Claudia as stupid.
  • In related news, there’s this interview with Carol Cutshall about the costumes of season two. On the one hand, I love her talking about color story for this season. On the other hand I sigh over how this season yet again she’s copying someone else’s homework instead of having her own ideas. Don’t get me wrong, it takes skill to go back to those historic looks and figure out how to recreate them. Even if you can find patterns you still need to make adjustments for the needs of the actor and the script. I am by no means saying this is a lazy option. But it’s just… like I say I sigh. Carol and her team clearly have the intelligence and the skills. Tell your story with the costumes! Hell, even pick existing historic looks that relate to each other in interesting ways! Other shows manage to do this while pulling outfits directly from stores or costume warehouses! You can too, I know you can!
  • (Cannot stress enough this is me being very picky and that asshole parent who sees their kid come home with an A and wants to know why it wasn’t an A+. Carol does great work, I just die because I really feel like if she stepped away from the copying crutch she’d be freaking amazing.)

And that’s all she wrote for this week. Thanks for reading, and see you after the next ep. Two more to go!

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