‘Interview with the Vampire’ Season 1 Episode 3: Rigged to Burn (RECAP)

Alright, I have some words for Daniel Malloy (Eric Bogosian): Stop doing my job, man!

Last week, I wrote an in-depth breakdown of Interview with the Vampire Episode 2’s sensitive handling of Louis’s (Jacob Anderson) knotty recollections of an abusive relationship. Then, in the first ten minutes of Interview with the Vampire Season 1 Episode 3, Daniel confronts Louis about completely changing his story from the 1973 interview. The exchange that follows spells out, to an almost laughably blunt degree, what was implicit in the previous episode.

I worked on that recap for a week…and…Daniel just…tweeted it out

So far, I have mixed feelings about Daniel’s repeated, intrusive thematic underlining of Louis’ story. On the one hand, Daniel’s summary judgements don’t appear to be the final word. Often, Louis himself pushes back, or what we see in the flashback scenes re-complicates what Daniel has flattened. Given the show’s sharp sense of humor, Daniel’s heavy-handed attempts to summarize what Louis’s story is about could be read as satirical. It’s all the rage on TV right now to put the subtext right in the characters’ mouths. I want to believe that the writers are poking fun at things like the She-Hulk female rage monologue; and Interview has, so far, earned my trust. On the other hand, I’ve been burned too many times. For now, I’m waiting patiently to see if anything worthwhile comes of Daniel’s annoyingly on-the-nose dialogue.

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Jacob Anderson as Louis De Point Du Lac and Sam Reid as Lestat De Lioncourt in Interview with the Vampire. (COURTESY: AMC)

In a change of pace, Episode 3 doesn’t actually open with Daniel in the present day. We begin with Louis and Lestat (Sam Reid) in 1917, sharing a rare moment of relative peace. They sit on a park bench, bickering amicably rather than fighting. Louis is still searching for a way to live as a vampire without feeling guilty about it. He believes that, as a rational being, he can figure out how to control his blood lust. In addition to this, Louis starts wondering if vampires exist to serve some higher purpose. Lestat puts his companion off this line of questioning by telling Louis, “Your purpose is to enjoy yourself.”

Louis has been trying to find a way to feed that doesn’t make him feel evil. In the opening sequence, he lights upon a new idea. (Well, new for him. Anyone who’s watched Dexter isn’t too surprised.) Louis asks Lestat to consider killing only immoral humans. Lestat gives it a half-hearted try. He hopes that Louis will finally drink human blood if the two of them find an appropriately reprobate victim. After reading the thoughts of a few passers-by, Louis settles on one to kill. Lestat corners the unfortunate man in an alleyway, but Louis loses his nerve at the last minute. He impulsively grabs an unlucky cat and sucks it dry instead. Lestat gives Louis a look of disdain, and everything goes downhill from there.

As in the novel, Louis spends his early years as a vampire legally alive. He continues to conduct business and interact with humans from his past as usual. This is not ultimately sustainable, and the façade comes crumbling down in Interview with the Vampire Season 1 Episode 3. Unlike Episode 2, which spanned entire years, this week’s installment covers a handful of weeks. Over the course of those weeks, Louis and Lestat’s existence becomes destabilized.

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Sam Reid as Lestat De Lioncourt and Maura Grace Athari as Antoinette Browne in Interview with the Vampire. (COURTESY: AMC)

The pressure mounts from within their relationship as well as from without. Louis has begun to resist Lestat’s charms; the pupil stops taking the teacher at his word. The student is convinced that he can find a different path for himself than the one his mentor lays out. Louis insists on drinking only from animals, and Lestat makes his kills away from Louis out of respect. The vampiric and the sexual are closely linked in Anne Rice’s universe, so this naturally has implications for Louis and Lestat’s love life. 

Subsisting on non-human blood leaves Louis weak, irritable, and less interested in sex. In turn, Lestat temporarily seeks carnal pleasure elsewhere – specifically, in the arms of a singer named Antoinette (Maura Grace Athari). In an act of provocation, Lestat seduces the singer right in front of Louis. Louis tells Daniel that he “allowed it to happen,” but he doesn’t seem happy about watching it. Later, Louis asks Lestat why he needs to have sex with other people. Lestat answers, honestly, that he needs variety if he and Louis are to stay together for the rest of time. Then, in a challenge, Louis asks if this means that he can get busy with other people, too. Lestat answers, dishonestly, with a falsely cheerful, “Of course!”

Louis and Lestat’s forays into non-monogamy play out quite differently. Lestat, whose self-described sexuality is “non-discriminating,” brings Antoinette straight up to his chambers and has his way with her. It’s easy, in other words, for Lestat to pick up a woman. Louis, who only desires men, must rely on chance and carefully coded language to arrange his assignation.

Luckily for Louis, an old flame reenters his life at just the right moment. Jonah (Thomas Olajide), about to ship out to Europe, makes a visit to the Azalea. He calls on Louis as an old friend. It quickly becomes clear, though, that Louis and Jonah’s past involves more than friendship. Nothing is explicit, but the history’s obvious in the way Anderson looks at Olajide. Initially, Jonah and Louis play coy with each other, unable to express their inclinations within earshot of others. Then, Louis offers to take Jonah for a ride in his car. It’s fun to see Louis play the pursuer this week, turning on the easy charm and taking the reins.

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Jacob Anderson as Louis De Point Du Lac and Thomas Olajide as Jonah Macon in Interview with the Vampire. (Courtesy: AMC)

Louis drives Jonah out to the bayou, where they can speak freely and take each other’s clothes off. As Jonah pleasures Louis, the vampire bites his own arm, presumably to keep himself from sinking his teeth into Jonah. Louis, even in seeking certain gratification, still denies himself total satisfaction. 

Lestat, for his part, goes into full petulant brat mode. He can feel Louis pulling away, so he misbehaves for attention, all in the name of love. Red flag number…I’ve lost count. First, Lestat embarrasses Louis in his place of business. He insults and upstages “American icon Jelly Roll Morton” (in Daniel’s incredulous words) while the musician plays onstage at the Azalea; at another point, Lestat hangs Louis out to dry during a business meeting. Later, in a burst of mania, Lestat arranges an impromptu, passive-aggressive orgy in retaliation for Louis’s encounter with Jonah.

Eventually, at Louis’s request, Lestat shuts down the party. In a quiet display of power, he hypnotizes the carousing men en masse and files them out the door. After the townhouse empties out, Lestat confirms Louis’s suspicions that Lestat spied on him in the bayou. Their shouting match escalates until Louis finally snaps. 

Alongside the relationship drama, Louis is dealing with outside forces at work against him. The Azalea, the only thing Louis appears to care about, is under threat. The city passes an act to segregate its red light district, in effect forcing Louis to shut down and move his business. He refuses to comply and seeks help from his (white) friends in high places, including Alderman Fenwick (John DiMaggio), who sold Louis the club. 

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Jacob Anderson as Louis De Point Du Lac, John DiMaggio as Alderman Fenwick, and Chris Stack as Tom Anderson in Interview with the Vampire. (Courtesy: AMC)

Comparing the poker game in Interview with the Vampire Season 1 Episode 3 to the one in the pilot illustrates Louis’ improved self-confidence. But in his quest for help, Louis once again faces the entrenched racism of his peers: despite his success, they still don’t truly respect him. Mr. Fenwick in particular has some nasty thoughts that Louis overhears, psychically. He then develops a hunch that Mr. Fenwick only sold him the club because the politician knew what was coming.

Also in this episode, Louis’ untenable relations with his human family come to a head. In a canny change from the novel, it’s Louis’ own mother who calls him the devil. His sister, nieces, and nephews are clearly freaked out by him and don’t want to see him. The scene drives it home: no matter how he sees himself, Louis is not human any longer.

After this painful reminder, Louis stumbles directly into Lestat’s tantrum orgy and the ensuing blow-out fight. Lestat tells Louis that the city shut off the power at the Azalea, and Louis is furious. The following day, Louis slaps a “Colored Only” sign on the Azalea’s front door as a deliberate “up yours” to the segregationists. When the police show up in response and shut down the club on a B.S. charge, a starving Louis knows just who to blame. Unable to withstand the myriad difficulties of pretending to be human any longer, he resolves to use his vampire powers for retribution.

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Jacob Anderson as Louis De Point Du Lac in Interview with the Vampire. (Courtesy: AMC)

Following the pattern previous episodes have set, Episode 3 installment saves its most brutal kill for last. Louis shows up at Mr. Fenwick’s house in the middle of the night, terrorizes him, and eviscerates him. He then hangs Fenwick’s disemboweled corpse up outside of City Hall, complete with a “Whites Only” sign. 

Louis’s actions start a riot in Storyville, and racist thugs burn down the Azalea. It’s the adaptation’s thoughtful interpretation of the events of Interview with the Vampire the novel, in which Louis literally burns down the Pointe du Lac plantation. Here, Louis acts out of rage and hunger – and he does, metaphorically, burn it all down. But he also assures himself that he’s acting on behalf of the oppressed. The twist, at once an act of despair and defiance, lends an interesting wrinkle to Louis’s decision to vamp out a true moral complexity, whereas in the novel Louis descended into total misery.

Characteristically, Lestat misunderstands Louis’ frame of mind. He congratulates Louis for finally embracing the Dark Gift; Louis reacts with disgust. Lestat then suggests that Louis’s stated altruistic motives are just a front to make Louis feel better about enjoying a kill. He still refuses to see the fundamental difference between himself and Louis. Louis points this out, telling Lestat, “You and me ain’t never gonna work.”

Louis flees their townhouse to wander the streets of Storyville, witnessing the violence he’s unleashed and feeling guilty about it. In Episode 3’s final moments, he hears a heartbeat. It’s an opportunity to save a life, to correct – if only a little bit – what he’s made so wrong. Louis rushes into a burning building, where he finds a girl who will alter the course of his vampiric existence: Claudia.

Rating: 8/10

Interview Notes:

  • As much as some of Daniel’s dialogue frustrates me, he does get the best zingers. (He and Lestat can duke it out for the title of King of the Sarcastic One-Liners.) My favorite one this week comes after Louis claims that Lestat wrote “Wolverine Blues.” [Editor’s note: On this Halloween publication, a gratuitous shoutout to Entombed’s version of “Wolverine Blues” – John] Daniel, unconcerned with the veracity of this claim, tells Louis that “Ken Burns can choke on the footnotes.”
  • I am not the first person to ask this, but how did the late Anne Rice approve this series? Daniel actually throws the original interview/Interview in a trash can, and Louis sets it on fire with his mind. Rice used to threaten legal action against sites that hosted Vampire Chronicles fanfics, but she was cool with this? It’s a cheeky scene, and the series displays a fundamental respect for Rice’s thematic preoccupations, but still. Rice didn’t seem to have much of a sense of humor about transformative fandom.
  • The moment where Lestat pours champagne down Antoinette’s blouse and calls himself “bad daddy” erased everything from my brain. Once I regained my wits, however, I wondered if this sexy talk counts as ironic foreshadowing.
  • Sam Reid’s line reading of “and a German on their bayonets” deserves a spot in the Gonzo Acting Hall of Fame.
  • In Rice’s novel, Louis nearly kills Claudia and leaves her for dead in a moment of desperation and moral crisis. It’s Claudia who Louis vamps out on after he burns Pointe du Lac. Lestat “saves” Claudia’s life—first by retrieving her from the plague hospital where she’s been left to die and then by turning her into a vampire. In this version, what will prompt Lestat to turn Claudia into a vampire? And how damaging will it be to poor Louis?

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