Episode 2 picks up where the pilot left off, not long after Lestat finishes turning Louis into a vampire. Lestat spends the rest of the night cleaning up bodies and giving Louis his first lessons on how to live as a vampire. In the months and years that follow, Louis attempts to juggle being a vampire and maintaining his human lifestyle, with continued input from Lestat. As their lives become more entangled and their power dynamic more complicated, it leads to a more volatile relationship between maker and fledgling vampire.
On Day 2 of the interviews, Daniel (Eric Bogosian) examines a painting in the dining room while he waits for Louis (Jacob Anderson). Rashid (Assad Zaman) enters and tells him the work is by Venetian artist Marius de Romanus, an obscure painter with few surviving pieces who was a contemporary of 16th century painter Tintoretto. He explains that Louis “covets the rare.”
Daniel doesn’t pause to consider whether his Pulitzer Prize and previous Interview with the Vampire experience make him rare enough to collect.
Instead, he asks about the creaking he hears, which Rashid dismisses as the building’s expected sway due to its height. “We call it The Groan”. As he says it, the camera focuses on demons biting a Christ-like figure in Marius’ painting. Is the building haunted or does Louis have a collection of enemies in the dungeon? Or is that the sound of many aging coffins opening at sunset? My bet is on the coffins- the sound is only heard before dinner.
Rashid tells him the sound won’t affect his meal, which is ready for him. Daniel asks if Rashid has always worked for Louis and if he’s signed an NDA. Rashid refuses to answer his questions. “I serve a god. It is my honor to serve. Mr de Pointe du Lac will join you at course 7.”
Note that Rashid doesn’t name the god he’s honored to serve and he’s standing next to a painting that looks like a mass of tortured bones. He could be the Servant of the Bones, from Anne Rice’s book of the same name.
Rashid leaves as the first course is wheeled in. It’s duck foie gras, followed by shellfish, then roast suckling pig. All are foods that aren’t just animal flesh, but are particularly immoral to serve in some way. Ducks are force fed to fatten their livers for foie gras. Clams are boiled alive. A suckling pig is a nursing infant cruelly removed from its mother, then slaughtered.
Louis is making the point that humans also torture and kill their food, often without regard for the impact on the food or the ecosystem. Daniel eats every course.
Servants cover the other end of the long dining table in clear plastic wrap, then bring in a plastic blood donation bag on dry ice for Louis, with an elaborate elevated serving bowl so that he can eat it like broth.
Louis enters the room in a serious mood and immediately apologizes for his earlier outburst. I’m not sure what outburst he means; his reactions in the first session seemed warranted to me. He’s set high behavioral standards for himself.
Daniel lets it go and starts recording again, noting that this is session 2 with Louis. A server brings another course, including “AB-, fresh from the farm”, for Louis. Louis reminds Daniel that they left off at “two vampires walk into a church.”
Well, a sinner and two priests walked into the church, then Lestat (Sam Reid) had a bloody fit, followed by his proposal to Louis. After their unholy union, two vampires walked out of the church with the bodies of two priests.
It sounds like Louis thinks his fate was sealed before he ever stepped into the church, even though Lestat theoretically gave him the opportunity to say no. I suspect Lestat would have kept talking until he agreed, no matter how long it took. Lestat was lonely and desperate for Louis’ full time companionship, but he was also desperate to get Louis out of a situation that was destroying him. Louis was so deep in his grief and self-loathing he couldn’t see how unfair his family was being to him. He still can’t.
The bliss Louis felt following the exchange of blood with Lestat was only the first stage of his transformation. As Lestat wheels a cart carrying the bodies out to the church graveyard, Louis begins to feel a seizing, unrelenting pain. Lestat breezily explains that he feels like he’s dying because he is. As Louis almost simultaneously retches and thirsts for blood, he kneels down to drink from a puddle spilled by the dead priests. Lestat stops him, warning that vampires must feed from the living, not the dead or they run the risk of following their victims into death.
This is another interesting statement that deserves more discussion some other time. We’ve already seen how hard it is to kill Lestat. In the present day, Louis is able to drink preserved blood. What is the difference between blood straight from the vein, blood preserved from a living being and blood taken from a source that’s already dead? What is it that dies and immediately becomes toxic to a vampire?
Lestat finds a sarcophagus with some room inside and stuffs the dead priests in, breaking bones as necessary. He makes a speech about tidying up after killing sprees, noting that there won’t always be a convenient graveyard nearby to make cleanup so quick and easy.
Louis finally finds a spot to sit still and stop flopping around. The euphoria of experiencing his vampire senses takes over again. Lestat notices and they both laugh in delight.
Louis explains that he continued to buzz with Lestat’s blood as if he were on a hallucinogenic drug. His senses were heightened and he became entranced with nuances he didn’t know existed before. It was “as if I had walked my entire life as a dead man, and now, dead, could finally receive the secrets of existence.”
Daniel reduces this to being “loaded”, but it’s not the same as being inebriated. Louis’ feels amazing, but his senses and reflexes aren’t impaired and his thinking isn’t delusional. Instead, his physical and mental abilities continue to improve. His body feels ecstatic because the changes he’s undergoing are real, as Lestat’s blood transforms his metabolism.
As they continue down the busy street, Lestat helps Louis focus, “Your ears will pick up the world like a maddening symphony. Follow my voice, a single strain. Your eyes will wander, led by your hunger. Are you hungry, Louis? [Louis signals that he is. His bubbly enthusiasm has taken on a hard edge as his hunger grows and they pass close to potential prey.] They were your brothers and sisters once, but now they’re your savory inferiors.”
Lestat began the process of teaching Louis that he’s now a separate species from humans. Father Matthias died for many reasons, among them to fortify Lestat for the blood exchange with Louis and to show Louis that vampires are predators before he agreed to the change. He needed to know and viscerally understand that feeding isn’t all romantic floating sex. Sometimes it’s messy predation.
Lestat threw in that reference to brothers and sisters to include Louis’ family in the category of savory inferiors who have become livestock, not the same species as you. Louis is too hungry to pick up on Lestat’s meaning.
Lestat describes the people they pass as if they were menu items, until they enter a bar and he asks Louis to consider who he wants to hunt. “Hunting is an art. You have the power to subdue anyone you want. But sometimes restraint is your most powerful weapon.”
Yes, Lestat said that. Think about the months he spent wooing Louis, which Louis described as being hunted.
Louis heads straight for a handsome sailor in the middle of a gang of loudly singing sailors, probably the most visible person in the bar. Lestat holds him back and praises his good taste, then explains why choosing the belle of the ball is bad idea. He steers Louis toward a wallflower at the end of the bar, explaining that it’s better for beginners to let the food come to them. They chat up the lonely, middle-aged traveling salesman (Jody Thompson), who tells them all about his daughter and the pony she wants. The punch line is that he sells farm equipment, which is so lucrative he’ll be able to buy her that pony in no time. His farm equipment could make them money and keep their children happy, too.
The vampires invite him back to their house to talk business, but once he’s in the door he starts to wonder what kind of business they have in mind. Lestat pours him a drink and hands it to him, telling Louis he can get started. As Louis attacks the salesman, Lestat takes the drink back before it spills. Then he drinks it himself while coaching Louis from the sidelines. The salesman is a bit jumpy, as if Bugs Bunny lost some of his confidence because Elmer Fudd suddenly turned into a vampire. Louis takes him down after a couple of tries, then figures out how to open a vein and suck.
When Louis is done, Lestat rolls up the body in a carpet, thinking out loud about what sort of carpet he wants to replace it with (Persian, maybe Arabesque), but acknowledging that a two vampire home will need a more practical way to dispose of bodies. He tells Louis that the first hunt is always clumsy, but it will get easier and more enjoyable, even become a kind of sport, just as hunting animals is for humans.
Now that he’s eaten, Louis’ has the unfamiliar taste of blood stuck in his mouth. His brain hasn’t adjusted to being a vampire yet and to all of the changes of the last few days. It’s his turn again for a melt down. He just wants to go home, for his life to return to normal. He reaches for his normal routines, telling Lestat he has to collect money from his houses. And go see Grace. And Paul.
Lestat tries to explain that as a vampire, Louis has to live with him now and he doesn’t need to worry about money. By the time Louis brings up Paul, Lestat realizes that Louis is beyond reason.
Louis yells at Lestat and shoves him across the room. Muttering that he needs to go home, he walks out into the daylight. After the door closes, Lestat says that he’ll find getting home difficult.
Wherever the sunlight touches him, Louis begins to disintegrate into ashes. He rushes back to Lestat’s house and pounds on the gate. Lestat throws a thick blanket over himself for protection while he goes outside to let Louis in.
He carries Louis upstairs as he explains, “The sun gives life to everything but us.” He goes on to explain that being a vampire has its challenges, but he thinks New Orleans is “the perfect setting for a vampire home, a vampire romance.” As he speaks, he closes the mechanical shades on the skylights, opens the secret room where he sleeps in his coffin, and begins to undress. Louis has severe burns from his face down to his chest and is basically a shell shocked refugee from his former life, but he musters the strength to complain that he’s not sleeping in the coffin with Lestat.
Lestat tells Louis that they’ll get him his own coffin soon. He remains philosophical, telling Louis that he had a long life as a human, and he’ll have an even longer, more extraordinary life as a vampire. As he says this, he finishes undressing and gets into the coffin. “Have a rest. It’s okay. You can be on top.”
Louis, covered in burns and ashes symbolizing the ugly monster he fears he’s become, stands and looks at the beautiful future he could have, if he accepts the whole truth of who he is. For all that Lestat can be rough and insensitive, rest and affection in the “quiet dark” are actually what Louis needs right now. Louis is terrible at giving himself what he needs.
And we cut back to the present day, where Daniel reduces the night to “a Hell of a bender.”
It’s jarring segue, I assume meant to mimic Louis’ sudden realization of what being a vampire meant beyond the romance. It also shows that Daniel is unable to let himself be carried away by the story, to empathize with Louis enough to live in his words. There’s maintaining a certain objectivity and analyzing the narrative for inconsistencies, and then there’s maintaining so much distance from the story that you’re unable to see beyond surface level meaning.
This is what Louis accused Daniel of doing during the original interview and he is still doing it. This issue with maintaining a barrier between himself and the world seems to have been an issue for Daniel throughout his life, given his divorces, job losses and estrangements, even though he prides himself on his “objectivity”. He’s doubled down on this attitude now that he’s speaking with a vampire, a man he’s judged to be a dangerous serial killer who he wants to have nothing in common with.
Louis: “He rushed me headlong through the encounter as if it were something to put behind us. Death, rebirth, coming out, homicide, too many firsts for one night.”
Being born, or reborn, is a lot, and is tricky. Certain stages have to be done in rapid succession or the transition could fail. Lestat didn’t rush him and it’s odd that he still thinks that way over a century later.
More importantly, Lestat didn’t know when Paul would commit suicide or that the rest of the family would turn on Louis. He didn’t know that Louis would feel like the people of Storyville were indifferent to his pain. He didn’t have a second coffin ready because he acted quickly when he sensed Louis was spiraling into suicidal depression due to the combination of guilt, rejection and isolation.
Though Louis doesn’t admit this, Lestat waited quietly for him for weeks after their threesome with Lily, until he realized Louis had become so reckless that he was endangering his own life. Then, rather than take the chance that Louis would do something to get himself killed during the day when Lestat couldn’t save him, Lestat forced the issue.
This coincidentally forced the issue of Louis’ repressed sexuality, but that was a secondary issue for Lestat. He’s not sexually repressed and is from a different time period, with a different way of thinking about sexuality. He probably didn’t even consider that Louis would see moving in together as his coming out.
It’s book canon, according to both Louis and Lestat’s separate accounts, that Louis would’ve died if Lestat hadn’t turned him when he did. The series tends to change superficial circumstances from the books, but not underlying motivations such as this. So I think we can assume that Lestat acted because he could tell from reading Louis’ mind that Louis’ deep depression and reckless behavior were going lead to him following Paul into death, one way or another, and he couldn’t bear to let that happen.
Daniel, who seems a bit homophobic, tries to steer the conversation back to the death of the salesman. Louis has already told us that he ran away from Lestat when he grasped that he’d killed someone, then realized that he couldn’t leave during the day.
He had to face being a vampire in the form of sleeping in the coffin with Lestat. Because he’d also been running away from his attraction to Lestat, sleeping in such close quarters all day forced him to face his sexuality in a way he hadn’t had to when he could think of his trysts as drunken accidents that he barely remembered. He could even lie to himself and file his first time with Lestat in that category. But now, his senses and memory were enhanced rather than impaired. His first day as a vampire wouldn’t be a mistake and he wouldn’t be able to brush it aside.
That Lestat offers Louis the safety of his protection and comfort, and yes, sex, in the close quarters of a coffin, while Louis is exhausted, confused, burned and covered in ashes, says something about the strength of his feelings for Louis that neither Louis nor Daniel stop to examine. Lestat could have found an alternative space for Louis to rest in alone all day, but that would have meant separation for both of them, leaving Lestat to worry and Louis to spiral further, without Lestat to calm him.
Daniel frames their relationship in terms of the potentially unequal power dynamic, then mocks Louis when he says they were equal when it came to matters of intimacy. Louis means that he was an adult in the relationship and wasn’t powerless in any sense of the word. He had the ability to hold his own with Lestat.
To be fair, they both have reasons to feel vulnerable within the relationship. It was love at first sight for Lestat and he’s never wavered, repeatedly putting his heart on the line. Past Louis doesn’t express the kind of open affection that Lestat does. Modern Louis’ narration contains deep affection, showing that he was in love with Lestat at the time. It’s not clear whether he only realized later that he was in love or if, in the early days, his internalized homophobia kept him from expressing much affection outside of the coffin.
Louis: “I got in that coffin of my own free will. In the quiet dark, we were equals.”
Daniel, into the mic: “White master, Black student, but equal in the quiet dark.”
Daniel is a cynic who doesn’t believe that sometimes, love is love.
Louis: “Provocation. Is this the primary tool one walks away with after downloading your internet class?”
Louis then proceeds to provoke Daniel. The next course consists of rabbit for Daniel and a live, screaming fox for Louis. Daniel attempts to bring the conversation back to the salesman, again, trying to gauge just how haunted Louis was by his first human kill. As Louis calms the fox, he asks Daniel if he considers the life of the animal before he eats it or he just eats it. He bites into the neck of the fox without waiting for an answer, unerringly hitting the vein and letting blood squirt out for effect. Daniel looks nauseated by the whole thing, as he has since the fox was revealed.
He’s just eaten eight or so courses of animals. He has no right to be upset about Louis eating one. As I mentioned, he didn’t protest the dishes that involve torturing animals. If you’re okay with that, why should you get to sit in judgement of a vampire?
Of course Daniel doesn’t answer Louis’ question. He just eats the rabbit while giving Louis a challenging stare. Louis answers it for him, explaining that vampires are apex predators, who are meant to see humans as prey, to find ending a human life thrilling. Daniel doesn’t think their readers will accept that point of view. It’s clear he doesn’t, taking the speciesist position that humans belong at the top of the pyramid and anything that would knock them off is an evil monster.
Louis replies that he wants the book to be a warning, as much as anything. He admits that he was haunted by the death of the salesman and as a young vampire killing didn’t come easily to him. Let’s note that he means killing humans. He’s never had any issue with killing innocent animals, only an issue with killing humans.
This ability to justify killing animals en masse is in line with his ability to justify owning slaves in the book and owning brothels in the TV series, but still seeing himself as morally superior to and more compassionate than others. His kindness and humanity are limited to those he feels are deserving of them. Lestat recognized the truth of him when he pulled his knife on his mentally ill brother in front of his employees, showing not only a capacity for cruelty and violence but also for public humiliation. Deep down, Lestat and Louis are more alike than Louis wants to admit. Louis now holds the mirror up to Daniel, but neither man will look at it straight on.
In fact, the stunt that Louis is currently pulling (with the fox and serving Daniel so many terrible foods) is quite worthy of Lestat. If Louis wants to practice respectful blood drinking and killing, how about offering euthanasia to humans in a region where it’s not legally available to those who are chronically or terminally ill or in chronic pain and ready to die? That would be a service to humanity. But then, maybe he’s still Catholic enough that it would go against his religion to let the victim choose.
Back in 1910, Louis drives while Lestat insults the English language, complaining about how difficult it was to learn. He’s making a point- he kept at it until eventually it became so natural to him that he began to dream in English. By then the clumsy sounds of the language were easier to form. Louis doesn’t think language is a good metaphor for murder, but he continues it anyway, exclaiming that he’s at the nightmare stage, not moving toward embracing his new status.
They stop in front a brothel, where Finn (Jeff Pope) is waiting to give Louis an envelope of cash. His arm is still in a sling from the unfortunate incident with Lestat on the night of Paul’s funeral. The boys ask how his arm is and if he needs a proper doctor. Finn has something else in mind as his pay off for the injury and his silence about Lestat’s use of his vampire strength.
He wants to manage the new brothel/casino that Fenwick (John DiMaggio) and Louis are opening. Louis was supposed to manage it but doesn’t want the job, so he’s fine with the switch. After Finn leaves, Lestat says that he read Finn’s mind and discovered he intends to overcharge for drinks and women, then skim off the top. Not enough for Louis to notice, but enough to make a tidy profit.
Louis wants to know how to read minds. They take a walk and Lestat explains the process. He says that once you’re good at it, human thoughts become boring and mundane. They almost always boil down to: “I want food,” “I want sex,” or “I want to go home.” He instructs Louis to listen to a man’s heartbeat, then his breathing. He tells Louis to find the man’s thoughts the same way, as another sound in his body. This man’s thoughts equate to “I’m hungry.” Louis listens to a woman who’s justifying sex with a woman to herself. Then he listens to another man, who wants to go home.
Louis realizes he also got a flash of a memory picture from the second man. Lestat says as he gets stronger he’ll be able to view thoughts like little movies. Louis suggests Lestat read his thoughts. He admits he can’t anymore. Vampire makers and their children can’t communicate telepathically. They’re at each other’s mercy.
Louis: “Just like the meat.”
Lestat: “You’re not one of them anymore, fledgling. You chase after phantoms of your former self. I’ll break you of it.”
Modern Louis says that his inability to break off his human relationships was an ongoing issue between him and Lestat. He refused to believe that it was a necessary step, but the difficulties with his family only grew over time.
He tacitly admits that Lestat was right, but clings to the basic premise that he’s more human than vampire to this day.
On their way into a family event at the du Lac home (a Christmas open house?), Louis and Lestat bicker over the visit, since they also have theater tickets for that night and Lestat doesn’t want to be late. That makes it seem like the problem is with Lestat, but it’s a red herring. He already knows this won’t end well and is impatient with Louis for putting them both through it anyway. Louis seems like he’s just trying to keep his family together, but in reality he’s refusing to accept the inevitable, putting off a conclusion he and they were headed for whether he became a vampire or not.
Mama Florence (Rae Dawn Chong) greets them on the front porch. She scolds Louis for failing to visit her, then trades not so veiled insults with Lestat before he lets them speak alone. She didn’t didn’t even invite Lestat to this huge event with a band and an entire roast pig on the front lawn. She returns to scolding Louis for failing to visit her, calling him fragile in the process- the term that used to be reserved for Paul. He reminds her that she could have visited him just as easily.
Then he reads her mind- she’s thinking critical thoughts about his manicure, which is really his glasslike vampire fingernails, and the dark glasses he wears to hide his iridescent vampire eyes. He informs her that his glasses are prescription, for light sensitivity.
It’s a version of the truth.
When he goes inside to see Grace (Kalyne Coleman), they hug and he hears three heartbeats. He figures out that she’s pregnant with twins. Instead of keeping quiet about information he shouldn’t have access to, he tells her. As she draws him to the table to sit, he pauses to look at Paul’s portrait. Then she takes his glasses off and exclaims that his eyes look like stained glass.
She tells him she’s missed him and not to stay away so long again. He pulls out a wad of cash and passes it to her as a gift. She tries to refuse it, but he insists, especially with the babies coming. It’s the thought of twins that convinces her to relent and take the money. She tells him that Levi isn’t the businessman that he is, so the money will come in handy. Then she asks how things are with his business, guessing that he must be doing well if he has that much to give away.
And that’s the closest we’ll ever see his family come to thanking him for making the decisions he did after his father’s death, so that he could continue supporting them in the lifestyle they were used to. Homophobia combined with envy over the difference in their lifestyles and status fuels the future of their relationship. Even during this visit, Grace was loving with Louis, but pointedly doesn’t mention his
husband roomie and best friend, Lestat. Florence was outright rude to both Louis and Lestat.
Fade to Louis in a meeting with Mr Carlo (Tony Manna), Alderman Fenwick’s attorney, who the Alderman sent in his stead to discuss the design for the new brothel. This seems to be a different night, but Louis is in for more humiliation, this time from a racist. Carlo makes sure Louis knows his place from the start, insulting him, questioning his confident statements and treating him like a precocious child. Carlo expresses surprise that a Black man could be intelligent and hardworking when Louis explains his ideas for the design of the brothel. As Carlo leaves, he calls Louis an “exceptional Negro.”
That condescending phrase requires one “yes, sir” too many from Louis and he snaps. One benefit of his distaste for hunting humans is that he normally doesn’t have to work hard to control his hunger around them, even though he’s a fledgling. But when he’s done, he’s done. Modern Louis goes on a rant to Daniel- he’s not over this encounter and has probably continued to have too many like it over the following century. He’s still overjoyed that he got to use his vampire strength on this racist oaf.
Louis: “I had powers now and decades of rage to process, and it was both random and unfortunate the man picked that night to dabble in fuckery. If not him, it would have been the next man.”
He finds Carlo urinating on a deserted street corner and attacks. It’s poetic justice.
Lestat has installed an incinerator suitable for a crematorium in the back alley behind the townhouse. Louis is a stubborn pupil, but he did absorb the lesson about clean up. Lestat fusses about the choice of victim as they carry the body to the furnace, wrapped in yet another carpet. Louis defends himself, saying he was hungry. And this guy disrespected him by saying he did a good job.
Lestat: “You are a library of confusion.”
Both have a point. They both have their triggers that make them rage monsters, but Louis does need to control his anger and thirst well enough to keep suspicion away from them. All Lestat is saying is, if you’re going to eat the guy you had a meeting with, don’t do it directly after the meeting, right outside your place of business. This is the part that makes hunting an art and revenge a dish best served cold.
Louis brings up their differences, saying Lestat doesn’t get why he couldn’t wait, because he doesn’t understand the sexual, class and racial struggles in the US vs Europe. Creole vs French, Black vs white, queer vs– Lestat self-identifies as non-discriminating. Lestat says that when the priests went missing, people probably assumed they were “kid fiddlers”. [Which is probably his explanation that he read their minds and that’s why they deserved to die.] But the authorities will look for Carlo.
Lestat calls Louis “fledgling” multiple times during their argument, which hits a nerve after he’s been called “boy” and worse his entire life and again by Carlo tonight. He tells Lestat to stop using that term, because it’s starting to sound like “slave”. Louis is justifiably done with being put in his place and treated as less than a competent, equal adult by others and doesn’t want to feel like Lestat is doing the same.
Lestat is tired of having the same argument thrown in his face whenever he’s trying to discuss practical vampire matters. While he’s yelling at Louis in two languages.
As a new vampire, Louis does need lessons and reminders from an elder. Lestat uses the term “fledgling” to remind him that this is a vampire teaching moment, not a boyfriend moment. To Lestat, it means vampire apprentice or student, and he’s angry that a simple word to describe their relationship, which his maker also used with him, sets Louis off.
Neither is more wrong or right than the other- it’s just a complicated situation they could figure out with some open communication and compromise on both sides. But they are both stubborn and proud and, you know… men, so the odds of compromise and communication aren’t good. At least not before they’ve exhausted themselves with several more decades of high Gothic drama or gay vampire couples therapy gets invented.
Dawn arrives and they go their coffins with the argument still simmering between them. Lestat, ever the mercurial one, opens his lid back up and says he doesn’t want to go to sleep angry with each other. He swears that he would have killed Carlo himself if he’d been there to hear him treat Louis badly. When Louis doesn’t respond, Lestat asks what he can do to make it up to him. Without missing a beat, Louis opens his lid and says he wants to buy the Fairplay Saloon, the fanciest, most expensive brothel in Storyville. Lestat comments that he’s aiming high. Louis says he’ll do it on his own if Lestat doesn’t want to help. Lestat gives him a mild warning that mixing vampire and human business always ends badly, then agrees to help because he can’t say no to Louis. Louis smiles.
It sure looked like Louis already had that price in mind, just waiting for the next time Lestat begged for forgiveness. I don’t think Daniel needs to worry that Lestat took advantage of Louis.
Modern Louis describes the saloon purchase as “a grand and loving gesture on Lestat’s part.” On screen, Louis and Lestat both sign the sales contract with Tom Anderson (Chris Stack). Tom wants assurances that he’ll still have free privileges at the club. Fenwick expresses resentment, “That’s a mighty tall ladder you’re climbing, Mr du Lac.”
Louis brushes it off, since he’s gotten what he wants, the best club in town, which he can now run his way. He opens up the club to all and improves pay and working conditions. He also brings his best people from the other houses along with him. Bricks, now Miss Williams (Dana Gourrier), gets promoted to madam. He soon pays back all of the money Lestat loaned him for the purchase. And the brothel attracted enough transients to be a source of prey for him and Lestat. From 1912-1917, the Fairplay, renamed Azalea Hall, raked in the cash, making him incredibly wealthy.
But he neglected his family while finding happiness in work and love. When Grace has another baby, he decides it’s time to do his duty as executor in charge and pay her a visit. She’s much less friendly this time, reminding him that he’s never met her twins and getting nasty about Lestat. Then she decides he should hold the baby, Benjamin, while she gets him some gumbo. She takes the cash he’s given her and leaves him alone with the infant.
We all know how good babies smell. Louis can hardly resist him.
Grace comes back with the food and asks him to stay overnight so he can see Florence in the morning. They both chuckle at the thought, since their mother has practically disowned him. One of the twins cries and Levi hollers for Grace to calm them down. She leaves Louis alone with the baby again. His temptation returns and his fangs drop.
Another jarring cut to the present day, where Louis tells Daniel, “I no longer kill. My last victim was in the year 2000.” It’s important to him that the book’s readers know that he’s mastered his instincts. Daniel says he understands. “Did you eat the baby?”
Louis doesn’t answer. Daniel asks if the rest of the vampires have mastered their instincts. Louis says it’s the opposite. They are addicted to blood, exhausted from keeping their existence a secret for centuries, and increasing in number anyway.
Daniel asks again if he ate the baby. And if the pandemic has left an opening for blood thirsty vampires. Louis says yes, the pandemic, along with recent geopolitical disruptions. Daniel asks how he knows what the others are thinking.
Louis: “I hear them. Our thoughts can travel thousands of miles to one another. I can stand out on my balcony, close my eyes, and their plotting speeds to me. One of them, a brute in Madagascar, called it “the great conversion.”
Daniel, an elderly, privileged white man, scoffs at the idea that most people would want to give up their comfortable, routine existences to become vampires. Louis notes that most people aren’t Daniel. As he speaks, describing those might be interested in immortality as an escape from their lives, Daniel repeatedly asks if he ate the baby. Guessing Louis isn’t the first person to tell him he’s out of touch with most people’s reality.
As they banter, the servers bring in a young man, who sits next to Louis at the table. Louis turns to him and casually greets him as Damek (Kirill Sheynerman). He taps the vein in Damek’s chest, then bites. While Louis drinks, Damek makes small talk with Daniel in Russian. Louis stops for a moment to tell Damek that Daniel, who is watching with distaste, is American. Damek switches to English and asks if he likes Dubai.
Daniel hasn’t had time to sight see. Damek suggests Kite Beach for the… kites. Louis finishes and thanks Damek. His face is completely clean- not a drop of blood, not even on his lips, in contrast to bloody faces we’re consistently shown in the past. Daniel still looks disgusted. He sits with a piece of meat dangling from his fork, put off his meal by Louis’ sucking on a man’s neck. This is someone who seriously needs to confront the suffering involved in his own food choices. And probably his homophobia, especially if he’s bi himself.
Meanwhile, Louis seems to have an issue with women- I don’t recall seeing a single female in the present day. Are the servers actually guarding him as an elite prisoner?
As Damek gets up to leave he gets woozy and almost falls over. Louis calls for Rashid. Damek keeps going, then collapses just off camera.
Next time, give him the orange juice and cookie right at the table. Or get his blood sugar up before the donation.
Daniel steers them back to Louis’ nephew- did he eat the baby? He admits he came close.
Grace finds Benny lying on the floor crying. Louis is gone.
Back at home, he tells Lestat how close he came to losing control with the baby and despairs that he’ll never be fully in control of his thirst. Lestat has noticed him skipping meals and patiently reminds him that will affect his control. He also reminds Louis that it’s a rite of passage for vampires to give up their human attachments.
He warns that the family will soon become afraid of Louis, if they aren’t already, and suggests that Louis spare them that pain. Louis bitterly realizes that he’ll never have children of his own. (You’d think that would have come up before this, since he’s 39 years old and has been a vampire for 6 years- guess he’s been focused on his career and relationship rather than his biological clock.) Lestat says that he’s Louis’ family now. Louis suggests that Lestat get rid of him and make a replacement, since he’s a failure. Lestat tells him that would be a waste.
Lestat: “I have two centuries walked this Earth and can report, you have no twin. No one as angry, as stubborn, as unaccommodating, as maddening-“
Louis: “Sounds like trash to me.”
Lestat: “As loving, as dedicated, as thoughtful, as imperfectly perfect as you’ve become. You’re a challenge every sunset, Saint Louis, and I’d have it no other way.”
He suggests they get away from it all with a vacation in Rome. Louis refuses to take a break and let the Azalea be run by anyone else. And he’s skeptical of the difficulties involved with vampire travel, even though Lestat points out that obviously they can be dealt with.
Lestat suggests a smaller vacation as a compromise- a visit to the Italian opera. Louis still isn’t enthusiastic. Lestat tells him Don Pasquale is an opera that has special meaning to him, since he knew the composer, Donizetti, and attended the premiere 73 years ago. The soprano starring in the tour is supposed to be a real talent. Lestat is so excited for this that he’s gotten them their own box and had matching tuxedos made.
It’s the matching tuxedos that finally win Louis over. Fashion is one of the interests they share. Lestat apologizes for neglecting their romance and says Louis also deserves a reward as a vampire student (and he doesn’t use the word “fledgling”).
Modern Louis says that Lestat was charming and thoughtful in the early years. “He was my murderer, my mentor, my lover and my maker- all of those things at once. He didn’t choose me to be his doormat. I knew he enjoyed it when I fought back, but there was present a kind of worship on my part. The earth beneath me always felt liquid.”
In other words, he says that at first, the issues between them weren’t so much because of Lestat’s expectations or treatment of Louis as they were because of Louis’ insecurities. Louis was very much in love but inexperienced at relationships and their relationship was complicated for both of them.
Daniel doesn’t comment on this speech, he just listens with an interested expression on his face as Louis speaks with sincerity. Since his confession goes unchallenged, Louis continues directly into his next recollection, the night at the opera.
Louis explains that the opera house was “whites only”, so in order to attend he had to pretend to be Lestat’s valet, walking a step behind him, removing his coat, standing in the back of their private box. He only dared to sit next to his husband once the lights went down and the music started.
It might help here to know that Lestat is a good actor. He appears unaffected by the humiliation Louis must endure in order to enjoy a night of professional theater, but in reality he’s very, very good at hiding behind a front when he wants or needs to. We already know that Louis has had to hone the same skill to perfection, after a lifetime of surviving Jim Crow era racism.
By the time Louis sits down, he’s seething. This situation is very similar to the last time he visited his family, at the open house, with their homophobia and rejection quickly followed by Lestat’s perceived lack of understanding and then an incident involving racism and humiliation, which led to Carlo’s death. This time, Louis had a difficult visit with Grace, where he almost lost control and she was critical of his life choices, he still doesn’t feel like Lestat appreciates how much racism affects him and he’s just had a humiliating public walk through the opera house.
Louis describes the confession Lestat makes at this moment as him “seizing an opportunity to disarm” him. In fact, Lestat looks over at Louis, notices his temper is about to blow and uses his own vulnerability to bring Louis back down to Earth.
So, yes, he disarmed Louis, but he only did so in that moment because Louis needed to be literally “disarmed”, not as a way to manipulate him. And his message is real, an issue that older vampires struggle with throughout The Vampire Chronicles. If they want to live, they need to find some detachment from their personal issues with humans, as Lestat keeps saying, and find solace in long-term vampire companions and larger issues or interests.
I mean, it’s a goal- nobody reaches perfect detachment and Lestat is compelled to break the rules, even if he’s the one who created the rules in the first place.
Lestat: “There is one thing about being a vampire that I most fear above all else, and that is loneliness. You can’t imagine the emptiness- a void stretching out for decades at a time. You take this feeling away from me, Louis. We must stay together and take precaution and never part.”
He’s probably also worrying that he’s miscalculated and the opera isn’t enough to distract Louis from his troubles. He’s lost people before and doesn’t want to lose Louis due to either his own mistakes or Louis’ demons.
Louis asks how many other vampires exist. Lestat says there are about 100, now 101. He touches Louis’ hand as he says it tenderly. The overture ends and the curtains open on Don Pasquale. Music is one of Lestat’s passions and he’s enthralled by the soprano. They are both caught up in the story, which is about star-crossed lovers. Louis feels as though it was written for them and the “difficult love we often had trouble expressing ourselves.” Maybe Lestat was thinking the same thing when he insisted they attend. I’d be very interested to know which character(s) each one identifies with.
But I should note here that it’s Louis who has trouble expressing his love, other than physically. Lestat just begged Louis to stay with him forever. Again.
Sometimes a girl just needs to hear the words returned, you know?
The romance of the night is disrupted by the pitchiness of the tenor playing Ernesto (Kameron Lopreore), one of the young lovers. His off-key notes are accentuated by the supreme talent of the soprano (Sarah Jane McMahon) he’s singing opposite and their finely tuned vampire ears. Lestat stabs his musical score with his fingertip to mark each bad note with blood, an ominous sign. Even worse, the human audience, thrilled to see the opera at all, is generous with their applause, enraging Lestat even further.
There’s also the issue of this experience bringing up Lestat’s past, along with its many complications, which he’s never shared with Louis. Since they aren’t following the books exactly, Lestat’s timeline has changed, but I have a feeling Don Pasquale is triggering memories of a particularly difficult period in Paris and that Ernesto’s role is reminding him of someone he’d like to forget. The tenor playing the role may have been doomed no matter what. Plus, Lestat has his own recent stress to work off- it’s not easy to parent alone.
And, as noted, Louis didn’t respond to his confession at the beginning of the show with a promise to never leave him, or even return the implied declaration of love. Instead, he asked about other vampires. As Lestat thought about it over the course of the show, that response could have started to feel as if Louis was considering other options besides staying with Lestat long-term.
In Don Pasquale, a young woman tricks an older man into a fake marriage, uses him for his wealth, then leaves him for her younger true love, which is exactly what Lestat fears. Louis seems to think being faithful and attentive should be enough to show Lestat how he feels, but he has no trouble articulating his unhappiness. It’s natural for Lestat to question Louis’ commitment to their relationship when he withholds verbal affection for years at a time and blames Lestat for his vampire state.
As Louis puts it, when show ends the curtain falls like a guillotine and then he waits in the bar, nursing his complicity, while Lestat courts the tenor. “I was surprised by a wave of nausea coming over me. Here I was, six years his pupil, and it was no different than the tractor salesman. This poor soul was someone’s son, someone’s brother. And he was to be butchered for what? An offending note?”
Louis only recognizes his own surface complicity, he doesn’t consider whether his actions affect Lestat’s changing moods or stop to consider whether his husband has as much going on inside as he does. It doesn’t help that Lestat refuses to explain his motives in any real depth- you have to listen to listen to him closely, as with the comment about the priests actually being pedophiles. Lestat probably spent so much time in the bar with the tenor because he was listening to his thoughts.
Or he wanted to make Louis as angry as he was. Tough call. Could be both. And if he is already angry with Louis, he’s sure to do the opposite of what Louis wants for a while.
Lestat wants to be loved unconditionally, not constantly judged for being a vampire. Louis feels judged as well, but mostly Lestat has been trying to teach him how to survive and Louis has rejected the lessons. So far, Lestat has been more frustrated and worried that Louis won’t survive than judging about his diet. But just as something snapped in Louis when he was with Carlo, something snapped in Lestat during this performance and he’s done catering to Louis’ delicate sensibilities.
To Louis’ disgust, Lestat brings the tenor home with them and plays the score to Don Pasquale on their piano. He sings it perfectly along with the tenor, pointing out every mistake the other man makes and ripping his ego to shreds in the process. He finally stabs the man in the neck with his fingernail, while telling him his singing would have sent the composer into an early grave and he needs to die so he’ll stop contaminating the world with his voice.
As I said, he has some anger to vent and he’s tried to keep himself relatively under control for 6 years.
It’s the last straw for Louis, who angrily asks why Lestat does these things. Lestat answers simply- he enjoys it. Louis says he doesn’t enjoy watching Lestat humiliate people. Lestat loses his temper, yelling that Louis doesn’t have to enjoy killing in the same way that Lestat does. “Kill them swiftly, but do it! Embrace what you are! You are a killer, Louis!”
Modern Louis tells Daniel, “I was in denial.” It’s not clear what he’ referring to here- his ability to tolerate Lestat’s flair for the dramatic kill, how long Lestat was willing to draw out a death, or the real issue, his inability to accept his vampire nature and the way he uses that to maintain an emotional distance from Lestat.
On the other hand, this is what happens when you turn someone at the point where they’re so depressed they don’t care if they live or die. Louis is in the grand tradition of sad vampires who can’t get over it- well, actually, he was one of the first. Anne Rice was one of the creators of the type, loosely following Dark Shadows‘ sensitive vampire Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid). Every vampire universe has at least one now, from Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley) on The Vampire Diaries to Matthew Clairmont (Matthew Goode) on A Discovery of Witches.
Lestat calls the tenor “love” and carefully carries him to the couch to die. Louis continues his narration, explaining that Lestat was such an artist at death that his cut disabled the tenor’s voice, so he couldn’t call for help, but would kill him slowly. Louis admits that he felt a “charge” watching Lestat’s quiet, meditative process while he sat across from them and observed the victim’s dying thoughts as a lifetime of memories scrolled through his mind.
Lestat stops what he’s doing and tries again to influence Louis. He says that if Louis listens to him and submits to his own vampire nature, he’ll be filled with life, see the beauty in death and understand life at the point of death as only a vampire can.
Louis might have been on his way toward discovering this on his own, but Lestat uses the word “submit” as part of his speech and insists his lover do what he’s told, forgetting how triggering that type of message is for Louis. Louis is taken out of the moment- he can barely admit in the present day that he was ever in the moment, but he was. The potential to accept his vampire nature was there.
The sad thing is that Lestat also hates being told what to do. He should be able to understand this about Louis and try to adjust around it, but he doesn’t have that kind of sensitivity toward others.
This experience could have gone either way- Louis could have used the long, slow death of this man at Lestat’s hands as a way to relive his own death at the same hands and to finally put his own human life aside, understanding that death comes to all things and is ultimately a part of life. Or he could use it to glorify human life over vampire life and to continue lying to himself about his own and human nature.
Louis spends the rest of the night helping Lestat drain the tenor, but he blames his participation on Lestat’s hold over him and hypnotic charm rather than his own desire. He tells Daniel that Lestat was “enthralled” but he only pretended to be, because he didn’t want to disappoint his maker.
Louis’ decision was made that night. He would never again give in to the charge he’d felt earlier in the evening or to Lestat. His choice of wording, that Lestat was enthralled but he was pretending, fits what we’ve seen between them and explains the air of desperation we’re starting to see in Lestat. To be enthralled is to be captivated, spellbound, to hold someone’s attention completely, potentially even to be enslaved. This is what we’ve seen in Lestat from the start, commitment to Louis that never falters, while Louis has moved from outward defiance to pretending and silent doubts. He’s never been fully committed to their lives together, but he doesn’t want to lose Lestat either. He realizes he needs to change tactics.
Louis: “Lestat was wrong. I was never going to be a natural. I was never going to savor the aftertaste. I was a shame-ridden second, a fumbling, despondent killer, a botched vampire. [An elaborate dessert is placed before Louis and Daniel.] I try to have a human dish once a week to maintain the thread. There was an offhanded remark in your memoir about this dessert. I hope you don’t mind.”
To maintain the thread of eating foods he doesn’t like that don’t nourish him, but give the illusion that he’s not causing as much suffering as Lestat. By choosing a dessert from Daniel’s book in particular, he’s deliberately aligning himself with his biographer, hoping to form a point of commonality, maybe even empathy. He’s still the man Lestat watched pull a knife on his brother in the street, the savvy businessman who understands people and how to manage them.
There’s almost certainly dairy in that dessert, so it’s not cruelty-free any more than any other dish he’s served or eaten in either episode. Mothers lost their children so he could pretend to be human for a few minutes. If he could hear their screams, maybe he’d realize how little the species of animal you eat actually matters. At least Damek gave informed consent and was probably fairly compensated.
Daniel asks what the dessert tastes like to Louis. Louis replies that it tastes like most human food does to a vampire, bland and mildly unpleasant, like chalk or soap. But he convinces himself that he’s noble in his suffering.
Daniel recalls that he had this dessert after he proposed to his first wife in Paris, in a cafe up the Rue Servandoni, near Saint-Sulplice. Louis knows the street from his own time in Paris. Daniel continues, remembering that his wife, Alice, had one eyebrow that was half blonde. She used to dye it to match the rest, but he preferred it when she left it natural.
Daniel closes his laptop to stop the recording, which is getting a little too personal. Louis looks confused, as if he can’t understand how Daniel could have loved Alice for her imperfections. Louis just shared the story of the Italian dessert he shared with Lestat and how it drove him further away from his husband. Maybe he wasn’t expecting this French dessert to remind Daniel of fond memories of his first wife.
At dinner on night 2, Louis’ arm is still scarred from putting it in the sun the day before. It’s taking a long time to heal- either he was burned nearly down to the bone or he’s still living mostly on animal blood. Being able to hear other vampires from all over the world suggests his power has grown over the last century, but living mostly on animals would still weaken him.
Rashid and the other servants wear gloves. To prevent the transfer of germs? I don’t think Anne Rice covered blood borne illnesses in vampires the way Charlaine Harris and True Blood did, but diseases would be a real possibility. Louis has so many other anxieties that becoming a germaphobe seems in character. The servers go to great lengths to keep the serving area clean in this episode and the difference in cleanliness and clutter between the 1910s house and the Dubai house are striking.
It’s as if Louis is attempting to climb up out of the sinful, materialistic Earthly plain he lived on with Lestat and find his way into heaven through a combination of aestheticism (the appreciation of art and beauty for their own sake) and asceticism/minimalism (the spiritual practice of renouncing materialism and living a simple life in order to find redemption or salvation). Louis hasn’t taken a monk’s vow of poverty, but he seems to still be denying himself and to live a spare, controlled life.
Rashid seems like the sort of immortal being who speaks in half truths and riddles, never giving a straight answer. Chances are he’s not what he appears.
Louis and Azriel from Servant of the Bones would get along famously. Daniel assumes Rashid is an underling, but he could be Louis’ equal, working as the household manager because he enjoys it. He’s protective of Louis’ and acts as his enforcer. He seems to be testing Daniel at times, just as Louis is, to see how far his acceptance of their ways will go and what he knows about them beyond the information they provided. Do they have more plans for Daniel? Recording Rashid/Azriel’s story could be a possibility someday.
It’s probably not a coincidence that Louis asked an addict to listen to his story, since he comes to view his vampiric abilities and needs as evils that separate him from his essential humanity. His various attempts to abstain from killing humans are similar to the ways addicts attempt to abstain from the substance they abuse in order to recover or the vows of poverty and chastity that priests take to keep them focused on God rather than worldly distractions.
In episode 1, as they argued in between the two priesticides, Lestat admitted to killing Lily and to being the cause of the other mysterious recent deaths in New Orleans. He tells Louis, “I give death to those deserving. I’m not the Devil.” Louis understandably misses the implications of this statement at the time, since Lestat is dripping with Father Matthias’ blood and about to slaughter the other priest. But it’s important- Lestat is saying that he only kills those with criminal intentions or malicious pasts, not the innocent.
Sometimes Lestat misleads Louis into thinking he kills indiscriminately because he’s weary of Louis passing judgement on him, so he fights back by giving in and appearing to be what Louis thinks he is. It’s performative sarcasm, the nature of which is generally lost on the intended audience. Although it feels great in the moment, ultimately it’s self-destructive and damages the relationship further. It’s also Lestat’s favorite way of moving through the world at this point in time.
He’s a little bitter, okay? Which isn’t Louis’ fault. He doesn’t even know any of Lestat’s history, which also isn’t his fault. Lestat has revealed more on TV than he did in the book, but it’s still precious little.
Daniel still has no respect for the unusual, dangerous or dead. That’s got to impair your judgement as a journalist. He was in the middle of a joke about endangered species when Louis entered at the beginning of this episode. The joke was the show’s lame nod to the fact that with or without vampires, the food Daniel was served was unethical and unsustainable.
Even a century later, the hollowness Louis blames on Lestat and his vampire nature is equally based in Paul’s death, his mother and sister’s betrayals and the knowledge that as a Black man he’ll never be able to earn the respect he deserves. The violent urges he wrestles with are as much his thirst for revenge and to prove his own worth and power as his thirst for blood. He fears and runs from the enormity of his own desires and the problems that he can never solve. But it’s easier to externalize his anger onto Lestat, turn his self-loathing onto his vampire nature and to bury the rest most of the time.
At sunrise on their first night of vampire marriage, Lestat offers Louis the equality that’s been lacking everywhere else in his life. Though their differences cause issues and Lestat can’t change how the world views them, in their intimacy and vulnerability with each they are equal. Louis has never had this before and Lestat probably hasn’t either (to this extent). In his bloody proposal at the church, Lestat admits that the prospect of such a love frightens him and he knows it also scares Louis.
Louis never takes this sentiment to heart, perhaps because he’s never been truly alone. Or he may hold back because he feels like he ignored Paul in favor of Lestat, which led to Paul’s death and so he doesn’t deserve to have a happy relationship with Lestat.
Lestat has difficulty understanding how important feeling respected and independent are to Louis, because his independence and position in the world have rarely been threatened. Lestat wants and almost needs to be consumed by love because, at least in the books, he feels like he’s never been unconditionally loved and appreciated, just for himself, without having to perform, even by a parent or a lover. Meanwhile Louis fears losing himself because he has to fight so hard for his identity. It’s a conflict that can only be resolved with trust and maturity- which come with time- along with the commitment to stay together and keep trying.
By the end of his session with Daniel in episode 2, it’s clear that Louis still, more than a century later, hasn’t come to terms with the enormity of what he shared with Lestat. It’s also clear that Daniel still isn’t capable of teasing out the insights necessary to confront Louis about the lies he tells himself. He challenges Louis about coming out and about killing the baby and salesman, but he doesn’t question whether Louis’ self-loathing is still, to this day, powered by his family’s cruel words and his need to prove they were wrong about him. Daniel’s distaste for the realities of vampire life gives him a bias that aligns with Louis’ own biases about acceptable killing and living up to certain societal standards. In his own way, Louis is still trying to keep up appearances, just as his mother wanted.
So Louis is still an extremely unreliable narrator and Daniel still doesn’t ask the right questions. Louis only partially understands himself and rarely understands Lestat, leading to strong but intensely confused feelings for him, reflecting the tone of the book.
Images courtesy of AMC+.