Photo: Larry Horricks/AMC

We are so back, we are soooooo back, we are SO back, we are so so so so BAAAACK, x10. Interview with the Vampire has woken from its immortal slumby-of-the-damned to bestow upon us the dark gift of a second season, brimming with even more lore, more gore, and more man-whores. Based on vibes solely, it seems like in the eighteen months since the show premiered on AMC in late 2022, many have caught on to its delights, thanks in part to a brief interlude on Max. Few series currently airing take bigger swings, and boy, am I grateful for that, even if/when those swings occasionally miss the mark so hard that the bat goes flying in the opposite direction and kills a guy. This is a show that very much knows what it is and what it’s doing, and is committed to finding the grandeur in its serialized camp. These frisky vamps and their bloody hijinks are good-ass romance, good-ass drama, and good-ass horror. Rotten Tomatoes should probably be put out to pasture, but it’s worth noting that, going into this season, the show has a near-perfect critics’ rating, and a 69 percent audience score, which may not be perfect, but is certainly an apt number for this glorious depravity. So strap in, strap on, and let’s see what our favorite creatures of the night have been up to.

The premiere begins with the usual title card and audio sting of an orchestra tuning up and crescendoing into something dissonant and foreboding. It’s like a bespoke THX noise, the perfect cue to establish the show as something scary, but theater-scary. Sweeney Todd, not The Descent. There’s also a title card, letting us know, like a Playbill insert, that “the role of Claudia will now be played by Delainey Hayles.” The re-cast was revealed in March of last year, when season one Claudia Bailey Bass released a statement a week before production was meant to begin in Prague, saying she was unable to return “due to a variety of unforeseen circumstances.” It seems likely those circumstances involve her role in the Avatar films (her character, Tsireya, was introduced in The Way of Water, making Q4 2022 a huge era for Bass). James Cameron has numerous more slated, and his shoots are famously demanding, requiring Kate Winslet to essentially teach herself not to breathe, etc. Bass had tiny shoes to fill as Claudia, following Kirsten Dunst’s haunted-doll version in the 1994 film adaptation, and she was excellent, using her wide-eyed cherubic features to really sell the performance of an aging vampire trapped in a tween body.

From what I’ve seen, the fandom mostly seems supportive and excited for Hayles, and “What Can The Damned Really Say To The Damned” does a great job of introducing her. The new season launches right into Louis reading from Claudia’s diary, getting us up to speed on what we missed last season, which Daniel Molloy (Eric Bogosian) summarizes as, “eight hours on how to avoid the sun and torpedoes while cruising the Mediterranean war theater,” and “two hours and counting on chasing Old World vamps who never materialize.” To be honest, “U-Boat Vampires” is an incredible premise for a B-movie, but we sail right past that and land midway through Claudia and Louis’s grand tour of Eastern Europe, which has been complicated by a teensy weensy “ideological rift between humans,” which is that it’s full-on World War II. They’re sleeping in ditches by day and tomb raiding by night, and within the first five minutes of the episode, they’ve already ripped out a guy’s heart and slaughtered and eaten a battalion of Nazis.

But the pair is probably the most miserable we’ve seen them on the show so far, which is saying something, considering how long they were putting up with Lestat’s bullshit. Claudia is icing Louis out because she’s pissed he didn’t burn Lestat when he had the chance to make him dead for good. To fill the silence, Louis’s subconscious conjures an imaginary friend: Ghost-Lestat, in the bloodied shirt and gnarly slit throat from when Louis tried to dispose of him for good.

Ghost-Lestat is absolutely tormenting Louis. His vibe can only be described as “kid annoying another kid on a road trip by going, Why are you hitting yourself? Why are you hitting yourself? Why are you hitting yourself? The only thing that shuts him up is when a bat materializes from his neck-hole and he sort of spits it into the sky. It’s repulsive and awesome, made hilarious by Lestat doing a little sort of ah, oui gesture and droning on about how he’s composing new music in purgatory. Does that mean this isn’t Louis’s imagination, but Lestat’s actual spirit visiting Louis? Does it matter?

It does, I think. Watching this the first time, I realized, Oh no, this is going to be all season. I haven’t read much of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, so I genuinely don’t know where the story is going. But I know that Lestat has to be alive, because at one point in Queen of the Damned Lestat canonically starts a rock band called Satan’s Night Out with a punk girl who goes by the name Tough Cookie. If the show does not grace us with metal-Lestat for season three, genuinely what are we doing here?

Anyway, Louis and Claudia make it to Romania, which is now under Soviet occupation, and Claudia finally finds a vampire in the woods. It’s more of a vampire-adjacent thing, like a Pan’s Labyrinth character crossed with the ancient one from What We Do in the Shadows. It breaks her arm and she’s thrilled about it, but when she goes to tell Louis, he basically argues there’s no such thing as vampires, which is a hilarious argument for him, specifically, to be making. This leads to a great, lively, bitchy fight between the two of them, wherein he says she probably just saw a baboon (“baboons got fangs”) and she claps back with, “So if he can’t take you ballroom dancing or tell you you’re pretty, to hell with him, is that it?” They’re both so sick of each other after four years of bad blood, literally and figuratively, but this fight feels like peeling off a Band-Aid.

The next night, Louis and Claudia go back to the woods and battle the thing, ripping its eyes out. Just when you think the squelchy gore has hit its peak, an old crone looking like the Into the Woods witch appears, shrieking in grief over the monster. She says in Romanian that he was “A child. You took a child’s eyes,” and bashes the thing’s head in with a rock. Thank god the lighting in these nighttime scenes is way too dark for me to clearly see the action. I was going to complain about it, but in this case, it’s a small mercy.

They follow her to her lair, which is full of men in various stages of dying. She sings one of them a lullaby while feeding him blood from her wrist, clearly trying to make another “child.” In a completely haunting scene, she reveals that she’s the last of the Old World vampires, confirms that the blood in Europe has indeed gone bad, making it hard to create new vamps, and self-immolates before Louis and Claudia’s eyes by throwing herself into a fireplace. This episode is probably the best, most hard-H horror the show has done so far, and Claudia and Louis are sufficiently horrified into getting the fuck out of Soviet territory, working their way to Paris. Over swelling violins, Louis makes up with Claudia, saying, “if you were the last vampire on earth, it would be enough.” Cut to Ghost-Lestat, looking dead-eyed back at him.

All throughout the episode, we’ve been cutting back to Daniel interjecting with snarky comments. He clearly feels punked by Armand, who posed as a human servant all of season one, and who is now sitting at the table exerting pressure on Louis like an overbearing publicist. Daniel keeps calling their actual server “real Rashid,” which is funny the first time, but is going to get old really quickly. Daniel calling out how ridiculous all of the action is undercuts the drama of it, in my opinion. These moments feel like the show being insecure about its own genre, trying to get ahead of the joke instead of going along for the ride. Bogosian is such a good actor that he pulls off these interjections as best he can, but I do think the show sabotages itself in moments where Louis is whispering with intensity as he comments on the story and Daniel pops the balloon. The present-day segment ends with the two of them in bed, sealed in their multi-million dollar tomb of a penthouse, their decades-old relationship so passionless compared to the tumult of season one Loustat. It will be interesting to see how, or even if, Louis pushes back at all against Armand this season.

That was a lot, and I didn’t even get into the subplot where Louis and Claudia befriend a brassy Romanian huntress who gets bitten by the woods-vamp and executed, military-style, or the subplot where Armand and Louis are selling an original Francis Bacon!  There’s just too much packed into 50 minutes to get to all of it. Too many glances between Armand and Louis to analyze, too many tiny, funny choices these actors make. Thankfully, we’re only getting started, and from this point on, it seems like the show is swapping deep, dark woods for Klieg lights and greasepaint. You all have one week to hash out theories and gird your loins for Santiago, because…

… Next week: gay Paree!

• Louis reveals that he had taken 7,000 souls by 1945. Babe, that’s a lotta souls!

• Before some passionate ghost-necking, Lestat tells Louis, “I’m going to fucking kill you.” This is an incredible thing to hear in a French accent.

• The one-off characters this ep were great, especially Amelia, who was one of those sort of funny-tragic figures who alternates between bawdy dick jokes and yelling curses like, “Your flesh will feed our soil! Your bones will whiten on our land!”

• Her British bf is played by the failson from The Gilded Age, who at one point cheers Louis by saying “Up your bum!” to which Louis says “okay!” Need the gifset of this

• Should I try to read the books? Would it be fun to get a little book club going in here where people can compare and contrast? LMK!

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