In Interview with the Vampire Episode 4, we finally get a different view of Louis (Jacob Anderson) and Lestat’s (Sam Reid) “fucked-up Gothic romance.” So far, we’ve been inside of it, tied mainly to Louis’s perspective. But this week, Claudia, the third main character of the first Vampire Chronicles book, makes her proper entrance – and suddenly we’re on the outside, looking in at a new side of Louis.
In Rice’s novel, Louis paints a picture of Claudia as deeply inscrutable. Lestat turns the little girl Louis had previously attacked and left for dead in a moment of weakness as a poisoned gift. Louis, fed up with Lestat and no longer under his sway, has threatened to leave his maker’s side. In response, Lestat makes a daughter against Louis’s wishes to compel him to stay. Claudia is a five-year-old child with (eventually) the mind and knowledge of an adult. Experiencing this is disorienting, to say the least, for Louis.
But AMC’s Interview with the Vampire adaptation brings Claudia into sharper focus by departing from its source material in a few key ways. Most obviously, this version of Claudia (Bailey Bass) is fourteen. Certainly, there are practical and legal reasons for aging Claudia up for this adaptation; the new version, however, also takes advantage of the age difference narratively. For one thing, it’s plausible that a 14-year-old would be in the habit of keeping a journal.
And it’s through her diaries that we get to hear Claudia’s story in her own words. Interview with the Vampire, the only book in which she appears, is told entirely from Louis’ perspective. The television adaptation has already taken cues from the later Vampire Chronicles books and destabilized the centrality of Louis’s point of view. Interview with the Vampire Episode 4, though, marks the first time we’ve gotten any voiceover from a character other than Louis. In present-day Dubai, Daniel (Eric Bogosian) reads Claudia’s diaries, and Bass narrates the episode.
Claudia’s voice instantly feels different from Louis’. Notably, because Claudia wrote the journals over decades, her voice changes as the years progress. She relates her story through her diaries without the distance of hindsight. In the Episode 4, Daniel makes his way through approximately six years’ worth of diaries, from 1917 to around 1923. Claudia matures from a fledgling teenage girl into a full-grown vampire: an adult forever stuck in a fourteen-year-old’s body. The horror of this existence slowly dawns on her. By the end of the episode, Claudia’s gone a bit off the deep end – a sharp contrast with the excitable, exuberant tone of her early entries.
Once Daniel settles in for Claudia’s account, Interview with the Vampire Episode 4 picks up almost exactly where Episode 3 left off. Louis saves Claudia from her burning house and brings her back to his place. As she goes in and out of consciousness, Claudia catches snippets of Louis and Lestat’s conversation. In a major change from the novel, Louis begs Lestat to save Claudia from death by turning her. Although Louis can’t quite articulate it, he seems to feel that saving Claudia might somehow redeem him for setting off the violence in Storyville.
Lestat initially refuses to comply with Louis’s request, insisting that Claudia is too young: “She’ll be what? A lapdog?” But before Louis can figure out what he does want Claudia to be, Lestat shares another interpretation. “A daughter?” he asks, thawing and perking up at the same moment. Louis was poised to leave Lestat at the end of Episode 3. Here, as in the novel, Lestat turns Claudia to keep Louis with him.
Claudia reacts to being turned into a vampire with a juvenile, blithe positivity. While she does call Louis and Lestat “hell demons,” she also quickly pivots, chirping “I decided to make the best of it,” in her diary. And Claudia blows right through her first months as a vampire, killing with an insatiable appetite and causing chaos around the house.
Louis and Lestat come together to raise their “daughter,” and the endeavor does appear to bring them closer for a while; the warmth returns to their relationship even as they bicker about Claudia in French so she can’t understand them. Louis and Lestat also rekindle their sexual relationship in an irresistibly cute scene. Once Claudia gets her own coffin and no longer sleeps with Louis, Lestat pays his lover a little visit. Claudia spies on them, witnessing this intimacy and furthering her own understanding of what Louis and Lestat are to each other.
For a handful of years, the three of them make a happy family. It helps the household equilibrium that Claudia has a different connection to each of her vampire dads. Much to Lestat’s chagrin, she and Louis can speak to one another via telepathy – as both Louis’s and Claudia’s maker, Lestat cannot hear their thoughts. In The Vampire Lestat, Lestat’s inability to read his vampire progeny’s minds is one of his great tragedies. Lestat habitually turns people into vampires to bring them close to him. By turning them, though, he inadvertently achieves the opposite effect. Without the benefit of literally peeking into their thoughts, Lestat can’t manage to understand them at all, and heartbreak ensues. Sound familiar?
“Daddy Lou” takes Claudia under his wing and tries to nurture the softer parts of her. Louis patiently answers her questions, sidestepping the more pointed ones about how “love between two men” works, and explains his animals-only diet to her. He shelters Claudia and tries to protect her from the harsher realities vampire life. This less fiery side of Louis comes as a new development. The Louis we see in flashbacks has begun inching closer to the supremely detached version we see in Dubai.
But despite Louis’ best efforts, Claudia never develops much compunction about taking human life. “There ain’t no doubt Daddy Lou is my favorite,” Claudia confesses. “But, sometimes, Uncle Les and I have much in common.” She shares Lestat’s affinity for murder, writing gleefully in her earliest days as a vampire, “You suck ’em like frog legs and burn ’em like trash.” So, each pair in the household has a secret language indecipherable to the third.
Elsewhere in Episode 4, Louis receives news of his mother’s death. To the dismay of his sister, Grace (Kalyne Coleman), Louis brings Lestat and Claudia to the wake. Louis treats Grace and her husband with shocking coldness. It’s clear that Louis’s retreat from the mortal world has commenced. He has turned inward, focusing almost exclusively on Claudia and his domestic life.
To bond with her, Lestat takes Claudia on a hunting trip. He brings her to a lover’s lane, where two parked cars contain two copulating couples. Lestat tells Claudia that humans “swollen with passion” have the sweetest blood. Each vampire takes a car, and baroque violence ensues. But seeing her victims engaged in hanky panky before she kills them awakens something in Claudia.
After this adventure, Claudia feels the first stirrings of sexual yearning and understands that she doesn’t want to be denied the experience of romance. But she also realizes that her sex life as a forever-fourteen-year-old will be…complicated. So, acting on an impulse, Claudia dresses up in the fancy clothes she stole from a victim, then hits the town in search of an adult encounter.
Her night doesn’t begin well. Psychically, she picks up the condescending thoughts of everyone she passes. A gaggle of white girls project some especially humiliating judgments. As Claudia is about to vamp out on them, a young Black man, Charlie (Xavier Mills) stops his horse and buggy to ask if she is okay. Charlie strikes Claudia’s fancy immediately. “He’s got veins like rivers,” she rhapsodizes in her journal. “They flow right down his arms.”
Smitten, Claudia initiates a romance with Charlie. On their first date, though, Charlie voices concern about Claudia’s age. She convinces him that she’s not as young as she looks, and the two of them get busy in his buggy. Then things go south when Claudia, still a fairly young and inexperienced vampire, gets carried away. She confuses regular lust and blood lust and accidentally kills Charlie in the heat of desire.
Horrified by what she’s done, Claudia runs home for help. Louis tries to shield her, but Lestat uses the accident as an opportunity for some extremely tough love. He forces Claudia to watch as Charlie’s body burns in their home incinerator. “This is why we never get close to mortals,” Lestat tells her bitterly. “Because sooner or later, they end up dead.”
In present-day Dubai, Louis at last makes his entrance. He asks Daniel what he thinks of Claudia’s diaries; the journalist quips that her style is like “Anne Frank meets Stephen King.” (Zing.) When Louis begins describing Claudia, contextualizing her story within his own, Daniel interrupts. “Claudia was…” Louis says, before Daniel interjects, “… a Band-Aid on a shitty marriage?” The look on Louis’s face hints that this is one of those moments where Daniel has simplified too much, and he answers, “I was going to say… something else.”
Episode 4 ends with a brief return to Claudia in the past. Charlie’s death appears to be sending her slightly mad. The gravity of the situation has hit her full-on, and her giddy enthusiasm is now a reckless mania. Book-Claudia is one of the most terrifying vampires in all of literature, so I think we’d better buckle up.
- I have some serious questions about the protocol in Louis’s reading room. First, Louis makes Daniel wear white gloves to handle Claudia’s diaries. I’m trained as a special collections librarian, so I can tell you with certainty that cotton gloves do more damage to old books than clean, dry hands. Okay, Louis and/or Rashid haven’t consulted the literature. That’s fine. But I absolutely cannot forgive the half-eaten sandwich allowed on the table mere inches away from the rare materials. No food and drink in the reading room! That’s just common sense. Louis should hire me to run his library. A librarian for a vampire would be my dream job.
- This episode prompted me to once again say, “Daniel, stop doing my job!” But this time, I laughed while I said it. When Daniel pulled up his notes on Rashid and they looked nearly identical to mine, I felt a tiny bit owned.
- Louis, Lestat, and Claudia laughing their heads off at a screening of F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu is a nice, irreverent touch.
- As Claudia processes her sexual awakening, we get a superimposed glimpse of a page in her diary. The first time I watched the episode, I thought the text matched the narration, but a second viewing corrected my mistake. The text reads, “Am I gonna be a virgin every single time I do it?” Big Jessica from True Blood energy.
- With the hard POV shift this week, I wondered if we’ll actually get episodes narrated by Lestat, à la The Vampire Lestat. Canonically, after all, he is alive at the time Louis gives his interview. Lestat’s bound to show up in the present day at some point.