Interview with the Vampire Is Bolder, Messier, and More Complicated Than Ever in Season 2

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Interview with the Vampire Is Bolder, Messier, and More Complicated Than Ever in Season 2

The first season of AMC’s Interview with the Vampire felt like lightning in a bottle:  an adaptation of Anne Rice’s bestselling novel that managed to not only incorporate the book’s most important emotional and narrative elements but gleefully expanded upon the queer subtext only hinted at in the original. AMC’s version of Rice’s story is bloody, over-the-top, and not particularly true to the letter of its source material. But it gets much of its spirit exactly right, even as it shifts details and reframes character dynamics in ways that say something new about both the original novel and the ways a modern audience might interact with its story now. That first season is a genuinely fantastic achievement; one so good that you’d be forgiven for being more than a little bit anxious about its second, which is set to arrive this May. Can any Season 2, no matter how entertaining, equal the heights of the show’s first?

Thankfully, the answer to that question is (for the most part at least), a resounding yes. Interview with the Vampire’s second outing is ambitious, layered, and feels like nothing so much as a natural extension of its first—which may explain why the show insistently labels itself “Part 2”—but on something like undead steroids. The world of the show expands beyond New Orleans, new characters are introduced, multiple lies and betrayals are revealed, and the story becomes more morally complex than ever. The AMC series, in ways that Rice’s original books are often not, is hyper-aware that it is, at its heart, a story being told, conveyed by competing, frequently unreliable narrators, and shaped by hazy memories, hidden agendas, and long-lasting griefs and grudges. Questions of truth, memory, and reality run throughout the six episodes available to screen for critics (out of a total of eight) and issues of trust (between both the characters within the world of the series and the audience watching its story unfold) abound. 

Season 2 picks up where the first left off. Vampire Louis de Pont du Lac (Jacob Anderson) is still attempting to tell his life story (for the second time) to reporter Daniel Molloy (Eric Bogosian). Now joined by his longtime vampire lover Armand (Assad Zaman)—who spent most of last season pretending to be Louis’ manservant—he recounts his journey to Europe alongside Claudia (Delainey Hayles, admirably taking over the role from Bailey Bass) on a search for other vampires like them. Having (sort of) killed and abandoned their maker Lestat de Lioncourt (Sam Reid), the pair fear they only have each other in the world, and their initial trek across a continent torn apart by the horrors of war and human cruelty is a bleak one. The pair ultimately arrives in 1940s Paris, where they meet Armand and are drawn into his coven, a group of theater nerds who have turned hunting humans into a spectacle of camp. Called the Theater des Vampires, they lure unsuspecting audience members to their shows and convince them the all-too-real gore and death they see unfold on stage is just another kind of illusion. 

Claudia instantly takes to coven life after years of playing an uncomfortable third wheel to Louis and Lestat’s dramatic and often toxic relationship. But Louis struggles to feel at home among the group’s restrictive rules and unspoken hierarchies, while they, in turn, resent him for his independence and open flouting of the rules they’ve vowed to live by. As Claudia and Louis begin to explore what lives for themselves outside of the influence of the other might look like, Claudia finds herself taken under the wing of Santiago (a delightfully extra Ben Daniels), Armand’s dramatic second-in-command who longs for power of his own, and questions the truth of the story she and Louis have been telling about where they came from. Louis, for his part, grows closer to Armand, torn between his obvious attraction to him and the lingering specter of Lestat in his life and heart. 

Anderson remains a compelling presence, playing multiple versions of his character across several time periods. The Louis of the present day seems settled, grounded, and often performatively happy, with a clear agenda about the story he’s telling (at least, until the cracks in his accepted narrative of his own life begin to reveal themselves.) In the Paris of the past, Louis wrestles with his guilt and grief over his attempt to kill Lestat as well as his own loneliness, even as he tentatively begins a new romance whose shape he can better control. We even get a glimpse of Louis’ original disastrous interview with Daniel back in 1973, when both men were more reckless, desperate, and fond of drugs. The most remarkable thing about all this is how easy Anderson makes it all look, and how clearly his performance draws a line through each version of the character he plays. 

One of Season 2’s biggest challenges is the considerably reduced presence of Reid, whose Lestat is, after all, technically dead. (At least, when this particular run of episodes begins.) The show navigates the hole he leaves in the canvas by having an imagined version of the character serve as a form of Louis’ inner monologue, offering sly remarks on the general state of Paris, his ex’s new relationship with Armand, and Claudia’s continued petulance. Reid certainly makes every moment he gets onscreen count—his chemistry with Anderson continues to crackle in the smallest of conversations—and there’s something quite compelling about how their love continues to haunt the fringes of Louis’ life despite his best efforts to free himself from it.

But viewers will certainly feel Reid’s absence, and the increased roles for both Bogosian and Zaman, while welcome, don’t entirely make up for it. Season 2 does a much better job of centering the actual “interview” portions of the narrative than its predecessor, and Bogosian’s Daniel is a key player here in ways he wasn’t always allowed to be in Season 1. And despite existing in the long shadow of Reid’s Lestat, Zaman’s performance as Louis’ new love is deliciously nuanced in the ways it dances between painful honesty and outright manipulation, weaving in elements of his origin story that will be familiar to readers of later novels in Rice’s series. (I’m very much looking forward to meeting Armand’s maker Marius at some point, is what I’m saying.)

Though there are significant narrative changes between the series’ second season and its first, Interview with the Vampire remains deeply confident in its own identity and vision, adding intriguing new depth and shading to underserved aspects of Rice’s original work, and trusting its audience to come along for the ride. A mix of high-camp melodrama and thorny philosophical questions about memory and the stories our lives inevitably become, Interview with the Vampire remains the best sort of genre series—one that’s not just a cracklingly good story in its own right, but one that still manages to reflect genuine truths about the human experience of the world we live in now. May it be immortal. 

Interview with the Vampire Season 2 premieres May 12th on AMC and AMC+. 

Lacy Baugher Milas is the Books Editor at Paste Magazine, but loves nerding out about all sorts of pop culture. You can find her on Twitter @LacyMB.

For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV

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