Content Warning: domestic abuse
From its first frame, Interview with the Vampire Season 1 Episode 6 focuses on Louis (Jacob Anderson) in the most straightforward way possible. Following the assault that closed Episode 5, this episode begins with extreme close-ups of Louis’s injuries. In addition to the visual survey, present-day Louis dully lists the damages in voice over. This opening signals viscerally and unmistakably that Episode 6 will face Louis dealing with the fallout of Lestat’s brutality.
Lestat (Sam Reid) has left the townhouse – “vanished, out of a profound sense of shame,” as Louis explains to Daniel. This leaves Claudia alone to oversee Louis’s recovery. She nurses Louis back to health, bringing animals into the house and encouraging her companion to eat. In one scene, Claudia makes a hungry Louis chase a goat around the house as a creative form of physical therapy. Louis and Claudia seem happy together, finally having reached a peace after their years of separation.
It helps, of course, that Lestat stays mostly gone. He appears every so often with extravagant gifts — a rare book here, a new Rolls-Royce there — to beg for Louis’s forgiveness. But when Lestat does show up at the house, Claudia answers the door and refuses to let him see Louis at all. (When Lestat insinuates that Claudia keeps Louis away against his will, Louis throws Lestat’s coffin out of an upper-story window.) Louis and Claudia weather “these raw and desperate mea culpas” of Lestat’s for six years, otherwise living contentedly without him.
After his seemingly sincere apologies fail to stir any tender feeling in Louis, Lestat resorts to more passive-aggressive measures. He composes a love song for Louis and he sends his former lover a recording of the melody. Cute, except that Louis recognizes the female vocals on the record: it’s Antoinette (Maura Grace Athari), Lestat’s mistress, singing Louis’ love song.
As Lestat surely hoped, Louis takes the bait. He storms over to Lestat and Antoinette’s love nest, dripping wet, having taken the most direct route by swimming across the river. Lestat dismisses Antoinette from the bed. “You swam the Mississippi to find me,” Lestat says, enraptured by the sight of Louis. “I hate you,” Louis replies. “As you should,” Lestat confirms.
From his perch in the present, Daniel (Eric Bogosian) drily observes, “You took him back.” And Louis does take Lestat back – after making out with him violently. And I do mean violently, as Louis roughs up Lestat between kisses. Perhaps Louis thinks this makes him and Lestat even.
Like he has from the beginning, present-day Louis seems hesitant to outright condemn Lestat for his abuse. “Are we the sum of our worst moments?” Louis asks Daniel at the start of the episode. “Can we be forgiven if we do not forgive others ourselves?” Louis seems to believe that his own reactionary behavior somehow makes him as responsible as Lestat. Louis also places some of the blame for the situation on himself; he often mentions, in his voiceover, that he liked to “provoke” Lestat. For all the ways he’s trying to reckon with what happened to him, Louis would probably call his relationship with Lestat “toxic” rather than abusive.
But labeling their dynamic a “toxic relationship” implies that the problem is somehow mutual and perhaps inevitable, as if Louis and Lestat are two chemicals harmless on their own and poisonous when combined. This understanding allows Louis to say he’s not a victim and lets him wallow in guilt over his own less-than-stellar conduct. It also – clearly – lets Lestat a little bit off the hook in Louis’ mind. As Louis wearily explains to Claudia in Episode 6, Lestat’s just “all kinds of fucked up.”
Life’s not simple, and interpersonal relationships are always a two-way street. But in abusive relationships, one person shoulders more of the blame. There is always an abuser and a victim — even if the victim isn’t perfect, and even if the abuser has some redeeming qualities. To suggest otherwise is to play into the abuser’s narrative. Although Louis cannot see it this way, Interview with the Vampire makes Lestat’s pattern of abuse obvious. The show has threaded the needle all season long on this. The writers leave room for the emotional truth of Louis’s (and Lestat’s) justifications without letting Louis (or Lestat) be the final word.
When Lestat returns to the townhouse, a skeptical Claudia sets down ground rules immediately. Notably, she demands that Lestat kill Antoinette and stop keeping secrets. She also insists that she be treated as a sister and an equal, not a daughter and a subordinate. In a show of good faith, Lestat answers Claudia’s questions about who made him, sharing a snippet of his rather gruesome vampire origin story that follows the events laid out in The Vampire Lestat to the letter.
Louis runs interference between Claudia and Lestat, asking each – separately – to try harder to get along with the other. Lestat makes some inroads with Claudia when he brings home smug news of Antoinette’s death (along with one of Antoinette’s severed fingers). Claudia, however, remains unconvinced that Lestat is capable of change. And she’s proven right when she discovers that Lestat lied about disposing of Antoinette.
Yes, Lestat keeps Antoinette alive, but he certainly doesn’t treat her well. He tells her what she wants to hear, makes promises he doesn’t keep, and gets irritable when she doesn’t magically solve all of his emotional issues. Lestat only uses her as a pawn in his games with Louis. What we see of his relationship with Antoinette in Episode 6 reinforces what we already know: Lestat is the problem. All of his personal relationships fail; his horrible behavior is the common denominator.
By this point, Louis can’t even muster up the energy to be angry at Lestat. He’s resigned to an eternity of numb existence. When Claudia makes a plan to travel to Europe to find other vampires, Louis tells her to go without him. “You don’t need me,” Louis tells her, the words landing like a knife in the heart. She reluctantly leaves him behind, unwilling to give up her chance at freedom when Louis can’t be shaken out of his stupor. Louis knows it’s the right thing for Claudia to leave, but he’s still devastated when she goes. As he makes his way back to the townhouse, he considers suicide.
But if Louis was devastated to see Claudia depart, he’s even more devastated to find Claudia waiting for him at home. Lestat, as it turns out, followed Claudia and thwarted her escape plans, beheading a train porter and bursting into the luggage car where Claudia has stowed away. As usual, Lestat frames his most monstrous actions as gestures of love. In this case, Lestat intimidates Claudia into coming home with him for Louis’ sake. First comes the guilt trip: Lestat tells Claudia that Louis can’t withstand another period of separation from her, and that he won’t tolerate seeing Louis suffer so much in her absence.
And then come the threats. Lestat might not be able to hear his progeny’s thoughts, but he can still hear the thoughts of other vampires, so he listens far and wide until he finds the vampire Claudia encountered on her seven-year-sojourn. He pieces together what happened between Claudia and Bruce, using this knowledge as leverage to keep Claudia scared. (This perhaps recontextualizes Louis’ reaction to Daniel’s request for the missing diary pages.)
After her near-escape, Claudia becomes more resolved than ever to get out from under Lestat’s thumb. This time, though, she won’t leave Louis. During one of her chess matches with Lestat, Claudia communicates her plan to Louis: because she knows that the solution to their predicament must be permanent, she proposes that the two of them kill Lestat. Claudia believes that she can think enough like Lestat that he’ll never see her coming; when she at last beats Lestat at chess after years of losing, the victory underscores her point.
Episode 6 concludes with an intriguing present-day coda. Earlier in the episode, Louis asks Daniel if he’s still having dreams about their first meeting in San Francisco. By the end of the day, Daniel has drifted off, presumably worn out from the medical treatment he’s received. (“We were going to kill Lestat,” Louis dramatically pronounces, twice, before realizing that the journalist is out like a light.) Daniel’s dream / flashback comprises the episode’s final minutes.
In a dreamscape 1973, Louis — sporting a period-tastic little afro — hits on Young Daniel (Luke Brandon Field, a nicely cast physical match for Bogosian) at Mary’s. As Daniel dreams / remembers the encounter that initiated his first interview with the vampire, one detail snags his attention. Louis consults with a friend (or perhaps more than a friend) before leaving the bar with Young Daniel. The friend looks like Rashid (Assad Zaman). Exactly like Rashid. Daniel bolts awake, now certain that he’s been dealing with not one but two vampires in Dubai.
- When narrating their reconciliation, Louis describes Lestat as “freedom and chastity all wrapped in one person.” For a show as sexy as Interview with the Vampire, you might be wondering how chastity comes into the equation at all. Anne Rice repeatedly called her vampires “asexual,” though, and this line could be a nod to that. Her vampires don’t feel sexual passion or have sex. In her novels, Rice used the language of sexual desire and pleasure as an approximation of the feelings of euphoria and intimacy that vampires experience when drinking blood. I would argue that the AMC adaptation suggests a more conventional connection between sexual desire and blood lust. The show establishes sexual feeling between Louis and Lestat, even if that feeling ultimately expresses itself as something vampiric. Louis’ line makes the most sense in this context: one can interpret it to mean that, with Lestat, Louis allows himself to feel homosexual desire. The consummation of that desire, however, may not be a human sex act about which Louis might still feel some shame in 1937.* (I should clarify that I believe Interview with the Vampire, at the beginning, purposefully leads viewers to assume that Louis and Lestat have sex like humans. Later episodes complicate that assumption without necessarily disproving it.)
- Louis finally calls Lestat a “brat” in an apparent reference to Lestat’s famous “Brat Prince” moniker from the novels.
- I love seeing Louis in flirty mode. Jacob Anderson shows an impressively immense range in this series. While he doesn’t get to flex the muscle as much as Sam Reid as Lestat, Anderson turns on Louis’ powers of seduction just as smoothly. We get a glimpse of this side of Louis in Episode 3, when he trysts with Jonah. And we get another taste at the end of Episode 6 during Daniel’s dream / flashback.
- Sam Reid can sing, too?! The re-recorded version of Lestat’s love song for Louis – the version with Lestat singing – plays over the end credits. The vocals are unmistakably Reid’s, and he sounds lovely.