‘Interview with the Vampire’ review: One of the best shows on TV is back for Season 2

“Interview with the Vampire” might be one of the best TV shows of the decade in part because it understands certain basic tenets of solidly crafted television in a way that too many series (especially those based on books) simply do not.

It’s also probably one of the most under-watched by Emmy voters; the first season received zero nominations. That’s one of the more head-shaking omissions I’ve seen in recent memory, because AMC’s adaptation of the Anne Rice novels is just so richly written, so thrillingly inhabited by its cast, so effortlessly funny. The first season premiered two years ago and if you missed it and want to catch up, it’s worth subscribing to AMC+ for this show alone. I don’t even like vampire stories and I’m in the bag for this one.

A key choice at the outset by show creator Rolin Jones was to shift Rice’s timeline forward, beginning the story in 1910 rather than 1791, when Louis de Pointe du Lac (a wonderfully miserable Jacob Anderson) is turned into a vampire by Lestat de Lioncourt (the equally wonderful and louche Sam Reid).

Their toxic affair falls apart viciously 30 years later — the homoerotic subtext of the book is no longer merely hinted at — which is where Season 2 picks up, with Louis and his quasi-spawn Claudia (Delainey Hayles, ably replacing Season 1’s Bailey Bass) traveling through Europe during World War II in search of other vampires. They haven’t been human for decades, but their human needs and compulsions remain. They’re looking for community, driven by the desire to be known and to be understood.

Eventually, the pair settle in Paris after the war and find their way to Théâtre des Vampires, where the grand guignol on stage is all too real. Everyone in the troupe is a vampire, but the audience is blissfully unaware, which is why these nightly performances are such a handy way to hide in plain sight. Claudia is instantly drawn to this world. Louis is mildly disgusted (he really has not come around to the whole vampire thing!) so he keeps a respectful distance while she immerses herself in this twisted little community where “Who’s your maker?” passes for small talk the same way someone might ask, “Where are you from?”

Beneath the cheery, circus-like surface of the theater troupe, power plays and schisms abound, some of them fueled by the sly, dangerous and excitingly diva-esque Santiago (Ben Daniels), whose over-the-top ego is only matched by his opportunism. He’s a riveting, hilarious menace! Louis finds him lacking: “I nodded off one night while Santiago was hamming it up. Apparently that made me persona non grata with the leading man.”

Overseeing the theater company’s operations is the elegantly serene Armand (Assad Zaman), whose romance with Louis creates yet more tension within the troupe — tension that will ultimately come to a head. But before all that can happen, there’s a quiet moment of flirtation between the two as they stand outside a sprawling country villa. Inside, havoc is on the menu as the theater troupe feasts on humans who likely deserved it, not that these vampires seem terribly concerned about such distinctions. But the contrast — romance in the foreground, chaos in the background — is emblematic of the show’s sense of humor.

Where is Lestat during all of this? Vanquished — or so we’re meant to believe. But he haunts Louis’ psyche like an invasive thought, always showing up at inopportune moments, because Louis can be tedious and self-pitying if left to his own devices, leading you to wonder: Can a vampire be a nihilist?

The story’s framing device — the interview of the title — is just as thick with that blend of intrigue and comedy, as journalist Daniel Molloy (an amusingly sour Eric Bogosian) tries to wrangle something approximating the truth from both present-day Louis and Armand, who live together in expensive domestic bliss. Their penthouse in Dubai is where the interview takes place. Cranky as always, Daniel is impatient and unimpressed with Louis’ ramblings and Armand’s polite reticence. But eventually he gets at something messier than expected: The real story about his first attempt to interview Louis in San Francisco back in 1973, when both were fried on coke and quaaludes.

The show understands how to build emotional stakes that make all this timeline jumping so gripping. Other small nuances stand out, like the way a couple can fight and then somehow also bicker within said fight, like a nesting doll of anger and frustration. “Interview with the Vampire” is always atmospheric, whether it’s the calming concrete and right angles of the modernist Dubai abode, or the ancient catacombs of the theater’s bowels. The show’s minimalist title sequence is such a stroke of genius, mimicking the sound of an orchestra tuning its instruments. The performance is about to begin. And what a performance it is.



4 stars (out of 4)

Rating: Tv-MA

How to watch: 9 p.m. ET Sundays on AMC (and streaming on AMC+)