‘Interview With the Vampire’ Season 2 Review: AMC Series Makes an Alluringly Toxic Return

Delainey Hayes amply replaces Bailey Bass as Claudia, the Anne Rice show’s raw beating heart

interview-with-the-vampire-jacob-anderson-delainey-hayes-amc-lance-horricks
Jacob Anderson and Delainey Hayles in "Interview With the Vampire." (Larry Horricks/AMC)

Season 2 of AMC’s “Interview With the Vampire” kicks off with Louis de Pointe du Lac’s story already in progress. The long-awaited TV adaptation of Anne Rice’s beloved Vampire Chronicles was a critical smash in its first season, although some die-hard fans had concerns about how much the plot deviated from the novels.

As the tortured vampire Louis (Jacob Anderson) continues to tell his life story to the human journalist Daniel Molloy (Eric Bogosian), a few secrets have been revealed. His human assistant is actually Armand (Assad Zaman), a 514-year-old vampire and Louis’ current lover. How he fits into Louis’ story, with he and Claudia (Delainey Hayles, amply replacing Bailey Bass) traveling through Europe in search of more of their kind, and Lestat’s (Sam Reid) fate in America, shall be revealed.

Jumping straight into the next chapter of the story, AMC makes it clear that there’s no time for catch-up. You’re either engrossed in this sumptuous reimagining or you’re not. For those who are committed, Season 2 will be a welcome continuation of the prior season’s strengths. The difficulty curve has greatly increased, with the scene-stealing Lestat out of the picture for the vast majority of the six episodes that were available to critics. Reid makes a few appearances as infrequent hallucinogenic intrusions onto Louis’ life, there to berate him for his poor choices but remind him of their torrid and addictive love. It’s a testament to the magnetism of Jacob Anderson and those around him that, while we miss his chemistry with Reid, the show does not crumble without Lestat’s presence.

interview-with-the-vampire-sam-reid-amc-lance-horricks
Sam Reid in “Interview with the Vampire.” (Larry Horricks/AMC)

Making up for that is the alluring Zaman, who spent most of the first season disguised as a human. Book fans will know Armand as a petty perennial teen who obsesses over and is infuriated by Lestat in equal measure. In the series, he is debonair, malicious and far more powerful. The new dynamic it creates with him and Louis makes for a nourishing reinvention of the novels. The head of the Parisian acting troupe Théâtre des Vampires, who perform cabaret-style shows for human audiences they plan to feast upon, Armand welcomes in Louis and Claudia, whose search for a community, we are all too aware, will lead to one of their destruction. The aesthetic peak of the season comes with the troupe’s performances, a blend of German expressionism, Parisian cabaret and high camp. Headed by Santiago (Ben Daniels, who is having the time of his life here), the theater is an alluring home for our American vampires, who have spent years looking for others like them. if only the portrait of Lestat hanging backstage didn’t remind them of the terrible mess they made back home.

Claudia’s inevitable death has hung over the series from the first episode, and seeing Hayles torn between eagerness for a vampiric family and frustration with how she is infantilized by them sets the tone for her tragic future. While profanity feels a little too try-hard in conveying her agony at being a woman trapped in an adolescent body, it’s still Claudia who provides the series with its raw beating heart. With Louis still haunted by Lestat’s memory and a new boyfriend on the horizon, wouldn’t you too be annoyed and go hunting for a new companion?

One of the major hooks of Rice’s novels is the multiple and often conflicting narratives by the various vampires as they jostle to have their story heard and be considered the absolute truth. The first book, “Interview With the Vampire”, is Louis’ perspective, which is undercut by Lestat’s version of their relationship in “The Vampire Lestat”; and Armand’s own novel then adds new layers to what became familiar territory for fans. The finale of the first season lay fertile ground for this mish-mash of unreliability, thanks to Daniel’s savvy journalism, and it’s more evident than ever here. When Daniel isn’t interjecting with sardonic asides (Bogosian’s unamused side-eye continues to provide some of the best laugh-out-loud moments), Louis and Armand’s saccharine reflections of their supposedly pristine romance are undercut by over-dramatic music that practically begs the audience to roll their eyes at this nonsense.

interview-with-the-vampire-jacob-anderson-delainey-hayes-assad-zaman-amc-larry-horricks
Jacob Anderson, Delainey Hayles and Assad Zaman in “Interview with the Vampire.” (Larry Horricks/AMC)

Now that we know not to trust any of these people, where does that leave the truth? Daniel’s own drug-addled memory starts to revive some deeply buried flashbacks to his original meeting with Louis, and the revelation of how their first interview truly ended makes for the most gripping episode of the season. Daniel might be the most radically different character from book to screen. He’s older, more pessimistic and utterly allergic to the allure of vampire life. Only now he is able to confront the deep-seated scars left behind after his night with Louis (although book fans might be disappointed to know that the show doesn’t tease out more of the romance he has with Armand in the books. Theirs is strictly an adversarial relationship in the series.)

Given the major character changes, it’s notable how much Season 2 remains faithful to the novel’s plot with its Paris arc. There’s much joy to be found in seeing Louis, better dressed than ever, finding satiation in a new city and in watching his relationship with Armand be fleshed out beyond the page. It’s still one of the best-looking shows on TV, whether it’s lurking through the theater’s catacombs with frustrated vampiric actors or sleekly flowing across the impersonal stone surfaces of Louis’ Dubai haven/prison. As a devotee of the novels, I must admit that, even with the timeline change, everything looks and feels as I thought it should. Yet the most enthralling aspects of this season are the details not in the books, like Daniel and Louis’ first meeting and Louis and Armand’s modern-day situation, a different kind of toxic love to what he had with Lestat. The entanglements of love and eternal devotion have always been at the center of Rice’s world, and finding new angles to that theme is where “Interview with the Vampire” feels on the surest ground.

interview-with-the-vampire-eric-bogosian-amc-larry-horricks
Eric Bogosian in “Interview With the Vampire.” (Larry Horricks/AMC)

Better still, there is so much territory yet to explore. There are 14 more books, after all, plus elements that will cross over with the other Rice series on AMC, “Mayfair Witches.” This season also sets up the Talamasca, the secret society found across the Vampire Chronicles who act as supernatural investigators (via a welcome appearance by Justin Kirk.)

The intense and oft-unwieldy ambition of Rice’s saga has never gotten the room to expand that it deserved, but Season 2 of “Interview with the Vampire” is the best evidence we have yet that it will be possible to make that future happen.

“Interview With the Vampire” Season 2 premieres Sunday, May 12, on AMC and AMC+.

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.