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AMC's Interview with the Vampire Has a Different Flavor in Season Two

Less than two years after it premiered, “Interview with the Vampire,” AMC’s bold, delightfully garish Anne Rice adaptation returns for another bloody installment. With a new Parisian locale and a recast Claudia, “Interview with the Vampire” continues to deliver vibrant characters and addictively volatile storytelling, even if Lestat’s absence is sorely felt. 

Starring Jacob Anderson, Sam Reid, Assad Zaman, and Eric Bogosian, AMC’s “Interview with the Vampire” continues the story of star-crossed vampires Louis (Anderson) and Lestat (Reid), whose passionate, turbulent romance was permanently fractured, thanks in no small part to Louis’ compassion for Claudia (Bailey Bass in the first season), their fledgling vampire trapped in the body of a 14-year old. 

While the Louis of the past struggles to navigate a war-torn Europe (alongside a bloodthirsty Claudia, now played by Delaine Hayles), Louis in the present has re-asserted control over his ongoing interview with not-so-intrepid journalist Daniel Molloy (Bogosian). The climax of last season’s finale revealed that Louis’ servant/blood bag Rashid (Assad Zaman) is not, in fact, Rashid, but the ancient vampire Armand, and he’s ready to share his side of the story. 

“Interview with the Vampire”’s second season doesn’t push away or distinguish itself from season one, serving as a true continuation of the story, albeit with one key difference—the recast Claudia. The series handles the transition simply and elegantly (with a title card at the top of the season premiere, reminiscent of slips left in theater programs), not looking to let the change in casting interrupt the momentum the series has worked hard to build.

Ironically, though, the storyline with the most momentum coming off the season one finale is the one that doesn’t involve Claudia at all—instead, it’s the Rashid/Armand reveal in the present day that’s got the most immediate shockwaves. Where Zaman had spent season one with Rashid masquerading as a demure, worshipful servant of Louis, season two has him take center stage in his full splendor.

It’s a delicious opportunity for Zaman to show off his range. There was an endearing quality to his taciturn Rashid in season one, but this confident, seductive Armand is another beast entirely, and one who also makes his presence known in the WWII-era storyline with Claudia. But while Armand may be a fascinating character, his Louis and the introduction of the Parisian vampire coven/theater troupe do end up feeling stale, especially in comparison to the walking soap opera that was Lestat.

In the absence of Lestat and his dramatics, “Interview with the Vampire” positions Armand as the new primary love interest of Louis’ past and present—but that doesn’t mean the series has forgotten about the Daniel/Armand connection. Just as Armand’s sudden heel-turn has given Zaman new meat to dig into as an actor, it’s also allowed Bogosian to explore the more vulnerable, achingly human parts of Daniel that are so cruelly exposed by Armand’s revelation. The power imbalance between Daniel and Louis/Armand comes to the forefront of this season, Louis taking more than one opportunity to poke around in Daniel’s head when he feels cornered by his line of questioning. 

It’s a predictable way for Louis to lash out (and one that Daniel calls him out on), but Bogosian, Anderson, and Zaman wring every drop of tension from the team’s acerbic teleplays, and the moments where Louis and/or Armand invade Daniel’s mind are reliably unsettling and hypnotic in a way that feels singularly reverent towards Rice’s original novels. Bogosian and Zaman, in particular, have a tantalizing chemistry that acts as the unexpected lifeblood of this second season, especially in the absence of an ongoing Lestat/Louis romance.

And it is a true absence—after spending all of last season building up to Claudia and Louis’ betrayal, “Interview With the Vampire” season two examines the vampire nuclear family sans their blonde patriarch. It’s strange not to have Lestat and his quips as a reliable way to inject humor into the story and combined with Armand’s much more serene, subdued delivery, season two sometimes feels in need of Sam Reid’s vampiric vivacity.

As for “IWTV’s” newly-minted Claudia, Delaine Hayles picks up the role from Bailey Bass without missing a beat. There are (remarkably) no growing pains in ensuring the Claudia/Louis relationship remains the familiar core of the series. As Claudia, Hayles channels the requisite deceptive youthful innocence and ferocity, although there’s a manic kind of vulnerability to Bass’ performance that’s just slightly lacking behind Hayles’ eyes. 

Still, even with a breakout performer gone from the ranks this season, “Interview with the Vampire” remains pulse-pounding television, thanks to directors like Alan Taylor continuing to inject the show with a black, offbeat sense of humor. Though the Armand/Louis romance may not be as electric as Louis/Lestat’s tryst, “Interview with the Vampire’s” continued dissection of Daniel Molloy and a cast of vibrant characters deliver another juicy chapter of AMC’s Romantic epic. 

Six episodes screened for review. Premieres on AMC on May 12th. 

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