Episode Analysis Interview With the Vampire: No Pain

Episode ten of AMC's Interview With the Vampire shows how good it is at storytelling but how bad it is at issues of race and gender.

Episode Analysis Interview With the Vampire: No Pain
Picture courtesy AMC.

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

Trigger Warning: This article discusses the rape and torture of one of the characters.


AMC’s Interview With the Vampire episode ten, No Pain, makes me frustrated. Because it shows how good this show can be while at the exact same time showing how much better it could be if it paid attention to the things it really needs to pay attention to.

Specifically, the show is great at telling a story. It’s great at trusting the audience to have a brain. It’s great at translating the books in a way that leaves book fans satisfied if they recognize a reference without making the series feel as though it’s nothing but references.

However, what the show is not great at is remembering that if you take a white plantation owner and turn him into a Black man you can’t make that a superficial change. Same for a changing a tiny five year old white girl until a fourteen year old Black girl. These changes have impact. They have meaning. And it drives me absolutely nuts that time and again AMC’s Interview With the Vampire proves they put barely any thought into this.

But let’s get into it. First the good, then the frustrating.

The Good Parts of AMC’s Interview With the Vampire Episode Ten: No Pain

First up let’s acknowledge the beauty of the title which is only two words long. Some of us don’t want to do all this typing every time we talk about an episode, Anne.

Anyway, as I said above, one of the things AMC’s Interview With the Vampire does really well is trust that its audience has a brain. There were so many beautiful subtle storytelling touches. For example, after Daniel’s humbling moment last week of having his mind fucked with, we start out this week’s episode seeing him easily using chopsticks with no issues whatsoever. No more hand tremor, which was the hint that something was off with him.

Another thing I absolutely adored was both follow through and foreshadowing. I mentioned last week that Santiago in the books was much more sinister. This week we’re starting to see hints of that side show. Sure, he may come off as a preening popinjay only concerned about his acting, but there’s a layer of menace underneath.

Likewise, the way the show reminded us that Lestat told Louis and Claudia that old world vampires were vicious. When Claudia says that to Louis it comes off as a sign of Lestat’s manipulations. Claudia clearly thinks it was, since she considers the Paris coven to be her dreams come true. Obviously this was Lestat lying to her and Louis to keep them close.

But then we see how the coven reacts to Louis not wanting to join and him breaking the rules and we start to think wait a minute, what if Lestat was right? And, possibly worse, what if we haven't yet seen just how right he was?

On that note, shout out to how Lestat was presented in this episode. I talked a lot last season about how frustrating it was that we were told Lestat was the hottest, most charismatic, irresistible guy in the room without being shown that. To the point that even when Louis waxed rhapsodic about how charming Lestat’s words were Lestat’s actual words were muffled and we in the audience never get to hear them.

I’m hoping - perhaps with naïve optimism - that maybe that shoving of Lestat into the background will be revealed to be a POV issue. That perhaps we didn’t hear what he said because something had interfered with Louis’ ability to remember what he said. And more on POV in a moment. But what tonight’s episode did was actually let us see Lestat being, well, Lestat.

In the books, part of Lestat’s charm was that he considered himself amazing and capable of doing whatever he wanted so if you couldn’t get on board too bad for you.

(Yes, yes, I know about his childhood and all that. I’m not ignoring it, I’m talking more about what he grew into.)

Now the issue is that “too bad for you” doesn’t work so great when it’s Lestat doing it to anyone who can’t really fight back. As for example, Louis who was highly dependent on him (by Lestat’s own design). On the other hand, when it’s Lestat punching up, looking around at pretentious stereotypical vampires and pointing out how stupid it is that they live like this, we love him. These types of vampires should have the hot air knocked out of them.

So getting to see this version of Lestat, the one who will confidently swagger into a den of vampires older than him while casually carrying a close to life size crucifix over one shoulder both to make a point and make sure he’s accessorized well enough for the Met Gala, is such a relief. Even his words being muted earlier are fine because it’s not important for us to hear the dialogue of the play he’s in, it’s important for us to see that he’s got the crowd eating out of his hand and he’s clever enough to multitask performing and telling Armand to fuck off.

What helps this, of course, is POV. Which as I talked about last week was part of the books as well. In the previous season we were in Louis’ POV, and Louis had ample reason to remember Lestat as a horrible monster (and, in the case of this show, possibly even more reason if his memories have been messed with).

Armand, on the other hand, remembers a different version of Lestat. Both because Lestat acted differently around him and because Armand has his own bias towards events - as everyone does. And I very much like that the show is acknowledging that and leaning into it. We’re supposed to pay attention to who is telling the story. We’re supposed to ask ourselves how accurate is this version? We’re supposed to wonder if someone has a vested interest in hiding things or making themselves look better while someone else looks worse.

Finally, shout out to editor Mike Phillips. Tonight’s episode had a lot of editing moves that seem like no big deal because they’re done well but which perfectly enhance and advance the storytelling. For example, cutting to a shot of Armand simply sitting there while Lestat monologues at the coven which gets the audience realizing oh wait, Armand’s not doing anything just as Daniel himself realizes that Armand let it all happen.

So yes. Good stuff. Excellent storytelling. Now let’s talk about what makes me scream with frustration.

How AMC’s Interview With the Vampire Keeps Punching Above Its Weight

Time and again it is painfully obvious that producers Mark Johnson and Adam O’Byrne, who the behind the scenes videos have presented as the top spokespeople for the show, have given zero thought to the fact that their show has a Black lead and that means something.

First of all, not for nothing but it is hugely uncomfortable that it’s two white guys who keep being the main voice of the show. Yeah, Jacob Andersen, Delainey Hayles, and Assad Zaman have talking heads as well, but it’s Mark and Adam who are the ones talking about the story and highlighting what’s important.

And look, I get that some of this might be scheduling of when the behind the scenes footage was done and maybe other people behind the cameras who aren’t a couple of white dudes weren’t available. But in which case it becomes that much more important for Mark and Adam to prove that they and the show did their homework. And they don’t.

Louis is not just a Black man, he’s a Black man not that far removed from slavery. Louis’ own great grandfather was a slaveowner. And this is why, back in episode one, I was screaming that you cannot “yadda yadda” slavery first up at all, second if you have a Black lead, third if your Black lead is a free man of color living in New Orleans.

For example, nothing gives away the screamingly white point of view of the show like having Louis talk about what he saw during World War Two as the thing that suddenly gave him insight into man’s inhumanity to man. He’s descended from enslaved people for FUCK’S SAKE.

Louis is not only descended from enslaved people but he LIVED IN NEW ORLEANS. Let me assure you, if you go to New Orleans today you will see reminders of slavery. It’s built into the architecture. It’s the reason Congo Square exists. It’s the reason jazz exists. The sign for the original slave exchange is still visible right this very second.

I could go on and on and ON, believe me. But the point is for Louis this isn’t an abstract concept. It’s not a story he read in a history book. It is his family. It is people he would have known personally who were enslaved. It was a reminder in his face every second he lived in that city.

And if you still want to argue oh, well, Louis himself wasn’t enslaved, let me remind you the other thing the show yadda yaddaed was Jim Crow, which Louis lived under. And oh hey, you know who didn’t think Jim Crow was something to gloss over? Who used it in their own version of the “Yeah you can copy my homework but don’t make it obvious” meme?


So to have Louis, someone whose grandparents might have been enslaved (sure would’ve been nice for the show to make that clearer, but I already did that rant during season one) sit there all “Gosh this World War II thing really opened my eyes about humanity’s darker impulses” is just a weetiny bit like a Japanese person at the next table leaning over to add “Yeah I had no opinions about nuclear bombs until Nagasaki. Literally nothing before then brought that issue up for me.”

Look, I’m happy to meet shows where they want to be met. I’ve never watched Bridgerton but based on the fashion I’m happy to guess that it’s meant to be a stylized version of a period of time that completely elides a huge chunk of reality, particularly when it comes to uncomfortable historic elements that would get in the way of it being a romance show. (Like, yanno, slavery.)

But AMC’s Interview With the Vampire did not want to do that. It brought up things like how racism was so rampant that Louis had to pretend to be Lestat’s servant when they went to the opera. Which is why I keep saying this show is punching above its weight. It can’t be there patting itself on the back for addressing racism at all, let alone how it affects the lead character, when it’s at best doing a first grader’s book report on school segregation. Don’t bring this shit up if you’re not prepared to do the legwork to make sure it’s handled properly.

And the thing that gets me is that this isn’t even hard. A halfway descent French Quarter tour guide could’ve given you enough bullet points to at least fake your way around it and introduced you to some great bars along the way. Or, I dunno, maybe talk to an actual Black person? Maybe even a Black historian? It’s super great that the show put the work in to try to honor the books but it’s not a good look that in doing so the show put more work into the fictional vampires than they did to its Black characters. And in case you need the reminder, Black people actually exist. Two of them star on the show, even!

All of this is made worse when it comes to the show’s handling of Claudia. Because Claudia is not only Black but a girl. So welcome to intersectionality 101, kids, because the show sure didn’t bother taking that class!

We already saw that in season one with how the show turned Claudia into a literal sexually hungry man eater with zero awareness of how this directly plays into the Jezebel stereotype. The show then raped Claudia for no damn reason with zero awareness or acknowledgement that things like the Jezebel stereotype contribute directly to why Black women are disproportionately victims of sexual violence.

All of which was bad as it was. I won’t get in to all the reasons the rape never needed to happen because I already covered that when the episode aired. But No Pain compounds this by getting into the details of Claudia’s rape and, it turns out, week long torture while making sure to give us the gory play by play.

If we take it as a given that Claudia’s rape had to happen - and let me be clear I personally take no such fucking thing at ALL. This NEVER should have been written - but for the sake of argument if we had to have this story beat of it both happening and Claudia revisiting it, it would’ve been possibly allowable as some kind of insight into Claudia’s character. And yes, the show makes some vague gestures in that direction by having her say that the shitty treatment then means she’s that much happier to have found the Paris coven. However, a week of being raped and tortured should not be held up as a bar for quality that isn’t presented as fundamentally different than Claudia saying she loves the smell of popcorn from the concession stand.

And if you doubt me on how much the show treated the concept of doing this horrific thing to a young, Black, female character as completely irrelevant and unimportant, look no further than how in the behind the scenes video after the show this doesn’t even rate a mention. We hear about Claudia’s feelings about a dress but no acknowledgement that the rape in the first place was a significant thing that happened to her, let alone how she feels about the fact that Louis kept hounding information about her rapist out of her in the effort to shore up their alibi.

(Also not for nothing but last season - which in the timeline of the interview taking place was merely days ago - Louis made an express point of saying he wouldn’t get into details about Claudia’s rape out of respect for her. So in addition to the details being gratuitous, they’re also a continuity error.)

Because of all this I’m side eyeing how the show is going to handle the concept of Claudia only finding her place with the Paris coven if she literally acts the part of a child. But I’ll wait and see how it goes when those scenes air. But in the meanwhile when it comes to issues of race and gender this show needs to either stop pretending it is remotely involved with anything resembling real history or it needs to do much much better.


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

  • I loved Daniel’s “What did I do that suggested talking to me?” look to the guy at the bar. I feel you, Daniel.
  • I also loved how Daniel came off as intelligent in the conversation with Raglan James. It was a great way to show and not tell that he does have a sharp mind under all that snark. (Again, I feel you, Daniel.)
  • “Lestat de Lioncourt?” no, the other Lestat Armand and Louis have been talking about. That was such a dumb line.
  • Things like Raglan James and Lestat’s cloak add to the ever growing list of examples of how this show sets the standard for how to include references to the source material without making them feel forced
  • Fingers crossed this is not the last we’ve seen of Nicolas in flashbacks.
  • For the record, when the books came out there were many people who insisted that Lestat and Nicolas were not lovers even though the books specified that they kissed and slept in the same bed together. This is how far we’ve come in our queer media, children.
  • I spoke too soon, we got another “du Lac” this week. Not a thing! Say the whole name!
  • Was not a huge fan of Stereotype O’Shaughnessy at the theater, but did like how the disposal of bodies was treated the same as telling the new kid how to clean the espresso machine.
  • “Sounds German” - get it? It’s funny because the Nazis used incinerators to - oh wait, that’s not actually funny.
  • I get that to a vampire that might be funny. But the show treated it like a punchline we the audience should find funny. And like… no. C’mon.
  • Not to ding the set designers but if Louis is going to reference his photos hiding cracks in the walls it would’ve been nice to actually see a crack revealed when Armand picked up one of the pictures.
  • Raglan James knows vampires can read minds and just aggressively slides into Daniel’s DMs anyway? Why not make make his screen flash while a siren sounds just in case Louis and Armand didn’t pick up on it?
  • I don’t know about his plays but I sure appreciated Santiago giving us two tickets to the gun show. Damn.
  • Fun fact: “No pain” is not my favorite two word sentence in all of The Vampire Chronicles. Bonus points to any of you who know or can figure out what it is!

And that’s all for now. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next week!

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