Here we are fledglings, nearing the end of our time together with AMC’s adaptation of Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire, and I have to say, it’s been a ride. I’ve said as much elsewhere, but this show constantly surprised me with its intricate storytelling, nuanced characters, and unyielding dedication to the drama of messy queer vampires.
And now, the season one finale, “The Thing Lay Still.”
We open on Daniel Molloy’s computer as he begins a new session. Rashid walks by, holding a bowl of blood for Louis. Rashid, if we recall the cliffhanger ending of episode six, appeared in Polynesian Mary’s alongside Louis, looking much the same as he does now, in the Dubai apartment. It’s no wonder that Daniel is watching him much more carefully now.
As Louis explains how to kill a vampire, we slide back into New Orleans. Lestat is drinking blood from a crystal glass. We immediately dive into an existential, paranoia-fueled version of what life used to be like for the three vampires. A time of enduring, where Claudia plots Lestat’s death and Louis waits, a distraction for Lestat.
Lestat drains a traveling encyclopedia salesman, pouring blood from a decanter for his progeny. And then, a dying man comes to their door and asks for the gift of immortal life. Lestat, true to form, kills him. This is the death knell for our vampire family—letters, Lestat says, become torches and pitchforks. It’s time to leave New Orleans. Daniel interrupts, but he’s distracted again by Rashid. Louis only just caches it. He continues.
Claudia, Louis, and Lestat travel by tram through New Orleans, the Black vampires still Black enough to be forced to sit in the back of the car while Lestat sits three rows ahead of them. As Claudia and Louis scheme, Louis attempts to convince Claudia that he has the nerves to go through with it. Claudia says that the plan will only work if Louis “gives in” to the love he has for Lestat, the overwhelming passion of their vampire bond.
Louis worries that he will lose himself in Lestat, but truly, Louis has never been himself since the moment he met Lestat. Regardless, he and Lestat plan for a trip to Europe, and as Louis hangs ornaments, Lestat mutters under his breath about “those that must be kept” in Greece. He moves on quickly, and Claudia enters, sniping about the Bach that Lestat has chosen to play.
They sit and play together, and as Claudia performs a duet with Lestat she lays the seed of her seditious plan. Let the vampires make a killing on their way out of the city. A party to end all parties, a massacre to end their time in New Orleans. Then they’re in a theater, listening to a news report on the war, and Claudia explains the rest of her vision. It’s like they’re playing chess, and Claudia is slowing moving her pawn to queen, manipulating Lestat into agreeing to her vision, into finding a way to make this freakish massacre his idea, his plotting, his vision. Bailey Bass has moved Claudia from child to predator, and her performance is absolutely devastating. Lestat eventually becomes amenable to the ludicrous plan, and they move forward with hosting a Mardi Gras ball.
One last stop before they can make the ball a reality; the family goes to see Thomas Anderson, local politician, sometime ally, and ask for help with a Mardi Gras party. Anderson scoffs, says he’s not in the party planning business, they’re late, and—as a bit of a kicker—pulls out a picture of himself, Louis, and Lestat from 1910. Of course the vampires look unchanged, as as Anderson hasn’t seen them in 17 years, he calls their appearance “suffiecently creepy,” and look, we agree! Maybe! Some self-preservation would be in order!! Mister Anderson!
And then, the vampires name a price, and Anderson can’t say no. But he doesn’t do so without a bit of snark, and he asks, obliquely, about how they have stayed young forever. The trap, for all of New Orleans, has been set. They make their plans, and Louis seduces Lestat all over again.
Back in Dubai, every interruption in the New Orleans narrative comes as Rashid moves through the apartment. Now, he stands in the sunlight, on the balcony, and takes a phone call. Daniel stares, Louis notices, but no questions are asked. Back to New Orleans.
The vampires plot the massacre. They will starve themselves, pick out their favorites, and bring them back to the Rue Royale for their grim death. As Claudia continues to plot on her own, Louis slips back into old feelings. Eventually she reveals the plan: she will poison a human on the night of the massacre, and present him to Lestat. Weakened, they will then kill Lestat themselves.
And then, Mardi Gras. In a clear homage to the incredible wedding gown that Eiko Ishioka created for Lucy Westenra in 1992’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Lestat appears as Queen Antoinette on the float for the Krewe of Raj. He is camp incarnate, dressed in drag as he picks up a baby doll and bites into its neck, ribbons flying up in the air. And then… the ball.
First, Carol Cutshall, Interview With the Vampire’s costume designer, needs an Emmy for this episode alone. The camp! The drama! Louis and Claudia walk in with matching white costumes and powdered wigs and they are stunning. Louis relates how hunger is affecting him, and we get looks at all the masks at the event; cats, dragons, rams, boars, flowers, all prey for the vampires.
Then, the first hint that something is wrong. The sound of Antoinette’s voice murmuring as Louis watches Lestat walk through the party. He’s confused, but he doesn’t question it. And then, Thomas Anderson arrives. He does not mince words, and within seconds calls the vampire a family a “fag, pederast, satanic trio,” which, while not wrong, is probably not the smartest thing to say out loud. Louis gives him a boutonniere–the mark of the dead.
Louis finds Lestat smoking on the balcony and what we get is an incredible moment of genuine emotion from Lestat. He leans over and says, quietly, he’s going to miss this city. He describes its weather, its light, its life. But really, he’s talking about Louis. Louis is New Orleans to Lestat, the whole reason he’s never moved on from the city, the reason he’s stayed through Louis’ depression, his true north even as Louis rejected him over and over again. They are planning to leave New Orleans, but both of them know that this is a different kind of goodbye.
Louis and Lestat head to the dance floor and they begin to waltz. It’s a coming out of sorts, an admission of their relationship, and there, in sight of everyone; society, friends, family, they kiss. It’s a romantic gesture, a final romantic gesture, and Louis laments that for all that for all the press lapped up the murders, they didn’t think to mention the two queers making out on the dance floor. Well, Louis, it is New Orleans.
We’re back at the Rue Royale; the victims are chosen, and Lestat is hamming it up for the audience, talking about a book, a draught, the alchemy of eternal life. It’s all a lie, of course, and as soon as the cloche is pulled away to reveal no elixir at all, the bloody feast begins in earnest. Lestat immediately takes down Anderson, and Louis and Claudia find their own victims. With a flair for the violent, the show revels in this, the final murders of human prey. Eyeballs roll, jaws are ripped off, blood spatters the walls. The vampires, for all their pomp and circumstance, are reduced to bloody beasts, fangs and claws tearing at fragile flesh.
And then, the final sacrifice: twins, secretly poisoned earlier in the evening. As Lestat inspects his prey, the front door opens, and the dynamic shifts again. Lestat leans forward, says that there’s another smell in the blood. He turns and asks, “what is it, my love?” Louis answers, plaintive. Then, Lestat, in what has to be one of the most supremely bitchy moves in the entire season, sneers up at Louis: “I wasn’t talking to you.”
Enter Antoinette, in a gold mask, with mirror eyes, a vampire. Lestat reveals she’s been listening in as Claudia and Louis communicate telepathically, and the fight between the four of them begins in earnest. But it’s not seconds after Lestat gets Louis in a headlock that he retches, confused. Claudia stabs Antoinette through the heart, and she reveals that she’s been playing 3D chess while Lestat has been playing checkers. She knew Antoinette had been there the whole time, she knew that Lestat would go for Anderson first; Lestat might have been thinking three moves ahead but Claudia’s on another level of conspiracy.
Claudia looks up at Louis, tells him to have his goodbye, and as Lestat writhes, Louis fetches the blade hidden in his cane, the same one he used to threaten Paul in episode one, the very moment Lestat first noticed him. The object that spawned this horrible 30-year affair. He kneels down and pulls Lestat’s head back, holds him tight, draws the blade across his lover’s throat, and Lestat says his final words. “ I am happy it was you, here with me. Au revoir.”
The words that Claudia records, in Lestat’s own blood, of course, read “Mets-moi dans mon cercueil, Louis, Louis” (“Put me in my coffin, Louis, Louis”), and are notably different than the last words that we hear Lestat speak. We’re back in Dubai as Daniel reads from Claudia’s diary, just for a second, and it’s Rashid again. He’s standing next to Louis protectively, watching Daniel carefully.
Back at the massacre, Louis and Claudia burn the bodies, starting with Antoinette. They destroy the human remains, their clothes, all the evidence they can burn. But still, Lestat’s body remains, bloodless and bloody, on the floor of their home. Louis and Claudia seem unable to drag him back to the incinerator. They put him in a trunk and leave him by the side of the road, and head to Europe.
What a neat little ending. Daniel Molloy, obviously, hates it. Not to mention there are pages of Claudia’s diary that have been excised, as if with a ruler and knife. Louis becomes defensive, fast. It was a traumatic escape, and remember his brother’s suicide, Grace’s abandonment, Lestat’s death? Louis wants Daniel to remember, he’s been traumatized. Daniel doesn’t fucking buy it. After all, Lestat’s not dead. Daniel leans in, he’s disbelieving, angry, a little frustrated. He asks where the trash goes. Louis doesn’t answer, but Daniel does. It goes to the dump. Where rats live. And Louis, having survived on rats for years, should know that Lestat, if he did go to the dump, is not dead. We get a single frame of a hand, slipping out of a coffin to grab a rat.
Louis looks pained, upset, and Daniel doesn’t let up. Rashid steps in, demanding that Daniel end the session, and Daniel looks up. He’s not done. He’s not done! My man, best boy, Daniel Molloy goes after Rashid. He knows something’s up, and he interrogates Rashid without mercy. Louis leaves, and slowly, as Daniel follows, as he latches on like a bloodhound to scent, dragging the messy, complicated truth from Louis’ memory. He didn’t allow Lestat to be burned. He prevented Claudia from tossing him in the incinerator, instead relaying a sentimental half-truth to Daniel, protecting himself.
As Daniel lays into Louis, as he demands the truth, Louis goes to a sand-covered zen garden in the back of the penthouse, digs his feet into the pebbles, focuses ahead. Behind him Rashid attempts to stop Daniel, but this is Daniel’s moment. He’s so close to the truth, to getting Louis to admit that he’s been pretending this entire time, maybe even pretending his entire life.
Behind Daniel, blurry, in the background. Rashid takes off his gloves and contacts. And then… Rashid begins to rise into the air.
As Rashid floats up to the bookshelves hanging from the ceiling, memory is brought up again. Rashid drops a book full of memorabilia at Daniel’s feet and stands next to Louis, taking his hand. The last words of the season haunt me. As Louis introduces Armand, he calls him “the love of my life,” and seconds later the episode ends. Fellow vampire enthusiasts, blood and gore collectors, and other members of the Daniel Molloy polloi: What the fuck just happened? Sure, we knew Rashid was Armand-coded, but this is next-level gay drama. Talk about hard launching your relationship, Louis, what the hell?
This reveals so much, and I’m still reeling from what this show has done with Louis. He goes from performance to performance, partner to partner, and he’s never been fully his own man, his own creature, the entire show! Who is Louis de Pointe du Lac? Has he ever been wholly himself?
We know season two will follow Louis and Claudia to Europe, but what will happen to Lestat? Will we ever see Sam Reid prance on screen again? Will Armand show up in Paris, rebuilding from the war? We know that 30 years after Louis and Claudia make their escape, Louis returns to the United States and meets Daniel Molloy for the first time, but what happens in between those two moments?
Memory, we are reminded, is a fleeting thing. How much more has Daniel forgotten? How much more will Louis reveal? Will Armand ever become the vampire community’s newsboy by way of a self-produced podcast? (An actual plot point in the Vampire Chronicles, don’t ask.) I’m not sure what answers we’ll get in season two, but I’m along for the wild, wild ride.
All episodes of Interview With the Vampire are now streaming on AMC+.
Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water.