“Can an immortal meet mortality?” Daniel Malloy (Eric Bogosian) asks Louis (Jacob Anderson) at the beginning of Interview with the Vampire’s season one finale. “Technically, yes,” Louis answers, setting the stage for the tale of his betrayal of Lestat (Sam Reid). At the end of episode six, Claudia (Bailey Bass) and her companion resolve to kill their maker. The finale follows them as they see that plan through.
Claudia seizes an opportunity to put her plan in motion when Lestat announces that the three of them must leave New Orleans. After nearly thirty years in the city, he fears that they have finally attracted too much attention. Strangers have been leaving creepy things on the doorstep of the townhouse; after a dying man shows up with a letter “seeking help,” Lestat suspects that their supernatural secret isn’t so secret anymore.
In anticipation of their exit, Claudia suggests to Lestat that they throw a lavish Mardi Gras party as a fitting send-off. She proposes a grisly finale for the shindig—a little mass bloodshed for the road. “Shouldn’t we mock the city like we mock our victims?” she asks. She treads carefully, letting Lestat come around on the idea without arousing his suspicion. When Claudia first floats the idea at Christmas, Lestat dismisses it. By New Year’s Eve, he’s decided they will throw a legendary bash.
Lestat, of course, is not content to merely host the biggest Mardi Gras celebration in the city. He wants to be the king of Mardi Gras, a prestigious and coveted title. Louis, Lestat, and Claudia pay a visit to good old Tom Anderson (Chris Stack), a respected businessman and one of Louis’s few remaining contacts from his human life. Mr. Anderson sits on the Committee of the Raj, the body that names the Mardi Gras king, and the vampires have come to offer him a bribe. Tom protests, insisting that it’s too close to Mardi Gras to change the committee’s decision. Ultimately, though, bribes work. Lestat gets the letter announcing his kingship and starts planning the event earnestly. He picks a theme befitting his roots: the court of Louis XVI.
While Lestat prepares for the party and the parade, Claudia plots an assassination. Louis, despite everything, still finds himself unable to hate his murderer/mentor/lover/maker simply. Claudia, to her credit, knows that Louis cannot be relied upon to resist their enemy’s charms. She withholds key points of information from Louis, the better to insulate their potential success from the risk of his treacherous heart. By her design, Louis’s role in the plot is to ultimately lower Lestat’s defenses by giving in to him. Louis expresses understandable trepidation at the prospect of doing this. He’s terrified that he’ll forget himself for good if he lets Lestat back in. Claudia promises that she’ll pull Louis out at the final minute of their escape.
The vampires purposefully invite all of the most interested members of New Orleans society to the ball. Anyone who’s ever wondered what’s up with Louis and Lestat gets an envelope. As Louis explains to Daniel, “The Weird Brothers and their doll-like sister were coming out. The paper ticket to the event was a gold brick to the insatiably curious.” Each vampire will welcome a select few of these guests to a private afterparty. “Do you want to know the secret of immortality?” each vampire will ask their victim before pinning a flower on their lapel. The chosen guests will find themselves on the wrong end of some fangs by sunrise.
After three days of fasting in expectation of the feast they’ve arranged for themselves, the vampires are finally ready for Mardi Gras. Lestat presides over the parade, dressed as Marie Antoinette. (“Let them eat king cake,” reads a banner behind him.) After swapping his skirts for breeches, he joins the party. He, Louis, and Claudia make the rounds, singling out their victims for later. Lestat pins flowers on a pair of handsome twin brothers, introduced to him by Claudia. Louis marks Mr. Anderson for death after putting up with decades of his belittling behavior. The vampires also need Tom dead so they can smuggle themselves out of Louisiana on one of his cargo ships, but I don’t think Louis is sad to see him go.
Before the carnage starts, Louis and Lestat share a pair of dream-like, intimate moments. Louis finds Lestat on the balcony, his jettisoned powdered wig in a heap on the floor. “The king’s hair has betrayed the king,” Louis jokes. “Was that witticism from the Duke of Gloom himself?” Lestat incredulously replies. The lovers pass a cigarette back and forth as Lestat waxes poetic about the sublime fragility of humans. He and Louis are both woozy from lack of blood, and Louis’s defenses are way down.
Once he’s finished the cigarette, Lestat asks Louis to dance. The pair make their way downstairs to the ballroom and dance as a couple in front of the entire assembly. The camera stays close to Louis and Lestat, bringing us into the private world that they’ve decided to display. In the voice-over, Louis describes how he lost himself in Lestat again as they danced. They kiss, totally absorbed with each other.
Throughout Interview’s first season, the human citizens of New Orleans gossip about Louis and Lestat for two reasons. Equally important in these gossips’ minds are the concerns about dark supernatural activity and homosexual activity. People like Mr. Anderson, Mr. Fenwick, or the police who raid the townhouse make no bones about it. They threaten Louis and Lestat on the basis of their presumed sexuality and throw out homophobic slurs. These humans always single out the assumed gay sex, as if that offense might be the worst of all of Louis and Lestat’s rumored evils.
This thread of the show works as an indictment of small-minded bigotry, and the dance scene serves as the apotheosis of this embedded argument. “So much would be written about that grim night in New Orleans,” Louis explains to Daniel in the present day. “But not a single mention of our last hour at [the ball], as if the only crime not fit to print took place on that dance floor.”
After the bewitching dance, the freshly ensorcelled Louis asks Claudia to call off the assassination. Claudia refuses, saying it’s too late. She’s already poisoned one of the twins Lestat plans to drink at the after-party. When an unsuspecting Lestat drinks the as-good-as-dead man’s blood, Lestat will die, too. (Drinking the blood of the dead is one way to kill a vampire in Anne Rice’s universe.)
At last, the ball is over, and the hour of the planned massacre is at hand. The vampires lead their marks back to the Rue Royale, where Lestat conducts a sham ceremony. He discloses the actual ages of himself and his companions to their shocked—and thoroughly drunk—guests. He gestures to a covered silver bowl in the center of the ceremonial table, promising that the secret to their immortality lies within. The guests, temporarily taken, believe Lestat for all of thirty seconds before he reveals the bowl to be empty. The vampires leap over the table at this cue and begin hunting down their guests. The townhouse turns into a house of horrors as Louis, Lestat, and Claudia let themselves loose. The vampire trio, dressed all in white, quickly dyes their clothes red with blood. It’s gloriously gruesome.
Eventually, only the drugged twin remains. Claudia gently urges Lestat to drink from the man, who’s clearly out of it. Lestat becomes suspicious of Claudia’s motives as he smells something unusual on the victim. At this critical moment, Antoinette (Maura Grace Athari) shows up like a cockroach that won’t die. Lestat has turned her into a vampire for espionage purposes so that she can listen in on Louis and Claudia’s silent conversations “like one of those girls at the telephone switchboard.” Lestat and Antoinette know all about Claudia’s plan. Or so they think.
Claudia remains one step ahead of her enemies. To Louis’ surprise, she knew about Antoinette and so purposefully set a trail of false breadcrumbs. Claudia misled Louis and Lestat in order to pull off her scheme. In addition to poisoning the twin, she declared, she also slipped Tom Anderson some of the same stuff. Claudia knew that Lestat would personally kill Tom as retribution for a petty insult she witnessed when the three of them visited the businessman’s office. She was right.
After this revelation, Lestat begins vomiting blood and falling to his knees. Claudia quickly stakes Antoinette with a fire poker. Louis rushes to Lestat’s side. He holds Lestat in his arms as Lestat swears that his love for Louis has always been honest. Although visibly anguished, Louis manages to slit Lestat’s throat to seal the deal. Claudia records Lestat’s final words in his own blood: “Put me in my coffin, Louis. Louis.” Louis says that he and Claudia incinerated Antoinette for good measure but couldn’t bring themselves to burn Lestat. Instead, he says, they left their tormentor’s coffin outside to be taken to the dump.
Daniel immediately questions Louis’ account of these events. The journalist can’t believe that Claudia would have any hesitations about burning Lestat on the spot. Daniel confronts Louis, challenging him to remember what really happened. The reporter puts it all together. By sending Lestat’s coffin to the dump, Louis spared Lestat. Louis would have known that there were enough rats to nourish Lestat to vitality eventually. “Was it raining, Louis?” he shouts, calling back to another moment in their sessions when Louis resurfaced a repressed memory. Louis protests but can’t stop the real memories from peeking through. Memories of himself physically harming Claudia to keep her from burning Lestat’s body.
Rashid (Assad Zaman) appears to intercede, clearly alarmed by Daniel’s verbal aggression and Louis’ growing distress. While Daniel lays Louis about as low as he can lay him, Rashid reprimands the journalist for judging before he knows the whole story. Behind Daniel, slightly out of focus, Rashid removes his contact lenses and begins levitating. Uh oh. Daniel turns around and takes in Rashid’s vampiric aspects. Daniel has suspected that Rashid is a vampire, and the reporter dreamed/remembered seeing Rashid in San Francisco before the first interview. But Daniel still hasn’t quite figured out how Louis’ manservant fits into the picture. “You don’t remember, do you?” Louis asks.
Rashid procures a scrapbook from a high-up shelf, returning to show Daniel. Inside are bits of ephemera that tease the second half of the story yet to come, including a bill for Les Theatre des Vampires. Rashid lands next to Louis. “Daniel Malloy, I’d like you to meet the vampire, Armand,” Louis announces. He and Armand (Armand !!) clasp hands. “The love of my life.”
With that jaw-dropping bombshell, the season ends. Excuse me while I scream until season two gets here. While Armand is a significant player in the Vampire Chronicles and an essential character in the second half of Interview with the Vampire, he and Louis have parted ways by the time of the interview in the books. I cannot wait to see how this show reimagines Armand.
- Adaptation check: season one has taken us about halfway through the novel’s events, so it stands to reason that season two will cover the book’s second half. I love this choice because the book’s two halves have distinct arcs and moods. You feel slight disjunction if you’ve ever seen Neil Jordan’s 1994 film adaptation.
- When Louis suggests spending some time in Greece, Lestat rejects this proposal. He murmurs something about “those who must be kept.” In The Vampire Lestat, set before Interview, the title character has a fateful encounter with two ancient, original vampires. Marius, an old vampire whom Lestat seeks out for information, takes care of the immobilized originals secluded on a Mediterranean island. He calls them “Those Who Must Be Kept.”
- The manner of Lestat’s survival is a significant change from the novel. In Rice’s telling, Lestat lives because Louis and Claudia don’t have enough knowledge to do the job right. It’s pure, unwelcome accident that he doesn’t stay dead after they poison him, dump him in a swamp, and burn him.
- In an interview with Collider, Jacob Anderson said that the primary reference point showrunner Rolin Jones gave the actor for playing the Rashid/Armand reveal was the ending of The Graduate. Yikes.
- [Potential spoilers follow if you don’t want to know what happens post-Interview in the books.] As related in The Queen of the Damned, the third Vampire Chronicles book, Armand and Daniel have an affair of their own. Daniel is still young in the novel when he and Armand first meet. They spend ten years playing sadomasochistic games with each other. Armand’s feelings for Daniel are so intense that when he sees Daniel dying, he breaks his own rule about never making another vampire. (Daniel remains Armand’s only vampire progeny.) Obviously, the circumstances of their meeting differ in the show and the novels. However, I wonder if the TV adaptation will somehow keep this detail. What else might Daniel not remember about his first encounter with Armand?