The fourth episode of Interview With the Vampire belongs to Bailey Bass. Her Claudia is anything we’ve seen. She’s not the five-year-old of the book, nor the 10-year-old of the film. She’s 14just far enough into puberty to know that something is changing, but not far enough along to know what to do about it. Claudia is an immortal girl, always a child, never a woman, a maniac character who is both developed and un-developed, a hunk of clay that never gets fired. I love this version of Claudia, I truly do, she’s wild and wonderful and I am excited to talk more about her. But first, before we get into her multitude of issues, let’s check in with our old man, Daniel Molloy.
As we begin “…The Ruthless Pursuit of Blood with All a Child’s Demanding,” he’s stuck in Dubai, naturally, and as he’s currently dealing with the oncoming symptoms of Parkinson’s, he’s worried about missing a treatment. Never fear! Rashid has tapped his phone (maybe?) and Louis has paid an exorbitant amount of money to have extremely expensive equipment and medical professionals brought in to treat his almost ex-boyfriend, I mean, his biographer.
Growth, Rashid escorts Daniel into a reading room (with a whole flowering tree and actual floating bookshelves) and this is where things get interesting. The entire flashback portion of the show to date has been from Louis’ point of view, but now, as Daniel picks up a small, delicate journal with “Claudia, 1917,” written on the cover, we’re about to be catapulted into an entirely new perspective.
Rashid advises he start on the left. Ever the contrarian, Daniel picks up the furthest-right journal, opening to an entry dated “Paris, November 14, 1945”–a somber indication of when the vampires might arrive in Europe in the already-announced second season. A note here that this is about six months after World War II ended, and all of France at this time was still rebuilding and recovering from the invasion, occupation, and devastation it suffered during the war. An interesting time in Parisian history, and one we will see explored next season. Back to the episode!
He then picks up the earliest journal. Immediately, Claudia begins her narration. It’s incredibly naive, almost to the point of being saccharine; she describes how Louis saved her (describing him as a black angel) and how Listat (the white angel) turned her. The scene by the bedside where Louis convinces Lestat to turn Claudia into a vampire is a feat of acting so incredible it should be studied. Here are two incredibly damaged men who are simply using each other to survive, while also knowing that they’re hurting each other to do so. All this is communicated just with a few gestures and their eyes, and it’s incredible. The motives here are deeply fucked-up, as Louis is simply trying to do something good and List is attempting to manipulate him into staying.
As Claudia is introduced to the world of the vampires and her new caretakers (Daddy Lou and Uncle Les), Lestat almost immediately becomes jealous of the bond that Louis and Claudia share. He intervenes quickly, taking the family—and Claudia—out for her first hunting trip. As Claudia walks away from the two vampires and towards her first prey, Listat says “I’m not sure about that pleated skirt,” and I swear to god I would go to war for this mentally ill French bottom. Louis, not to be outdone, reminds Lestat that “it’s chiffon, it has movement,” and I fully ascended into the astral plane. The episode is full of these off-the-cuff moments and jokes, the humor cutting through at strange odds against all the murder, coercive sex, and general toxicity in the air.
Claudia, unwilling to kill the drunk man at the fountain, finds sweeter, more dangerous quarry: a white policeman. Someone who will be missed, noticed, and mourned. A mistake borne of her childlike intensity. When she demands more, Lestat notices that her teenage metabolism is permanent. The irony of Louis—a vampire who hates killing—having made by his demands a monster who has no true moral compass and no way to regulate her demands is a wonderful twist. She’s not the five, or even the 10-year-old who can simply be picked up and carted away—she’s just old enough to be rebellious, and soon enough she is going to become everyone’s problem.
I cannot overstate the inherent, wonderful, absolutely absurd amount of humor that is woven into every part of this show. From Louis and Lestat arguing in French as Claudia scribbles in her diary to the visit to the funeral home to purchase a coffin for Claudia (her gasps of wonder as she jumps into a lush, pink-lined coffin is an absolute delight), Interview With the Vampire is wildly funny. The whiplash the writers take the audience on, between funny, sexy, horrific, is absolutely remarkable. One of the sweetest scenes comes when Claudia spies Lestat climbing into Louis’ coffin, whispering that he missed him.
After this we get a touching moment between Daddy Lou and Claudia as they talk about the specifics of love, secrets, and murder while paddling out on the bayou. There’s a line where Louis mentions that he “pretended to like girls” and then seconds later he admits to “trying to like” the taste of fish blood. He then says “some killing has consequences,” trying to explain how to differentiate between human affairs and vampire kills. It’s an almost-charming portrait of a family.
We’re back to Daniel. “For a killing machine, I kind of like her.” Me too, man, what the fuck.
Rashid, in this next scene, is praying. He’s a Muslim, called to pray five times a day, and he does so in the traditional way, on his knees, repeating holy phrases. And then he slips up. He speaks in a language that is not Arabic, and Daniel, as much of a bloodhound as any of the beasts he surrounds himself with, catches on, and asks where he’s from. Rashid deflects, saying that Dubai is a child, and nobody is from here. Molloy immediately goes back to his computer and in a barely-hidden folder (Brooklyn Co-Op Finances>Household Help.doc) makes notes about Rashid. He types “What is his end game?” and sits back. And I have to ask, Daniel, what’s yours? He picks up the second diary.
It’s Claudia’s 17th birthday (sort of), she receives a jewel that Lestat says he got from a Marquis (I might guess this is a reference to his father, actually), and she asks how old he is. He’s 160, according to Louis; 159, according to Listat. If she was turned in 1917, when she was 14, this conversation happens in 1920, which would make his birth year sometime around 1760, exactly what it is in the books. Okay, nerd explanation over, back to the episode.
Claudia holds the jewel up to her neck and frowns. She asks, “When am I going to grow into this?” Instead of answering, Louis simply says that he’ll find something in her size. They go see Nosferatu and cannot contain their laughter, re-enacting the film in their living room. And then, Louis’ mother dies. Like every interaction with his family, nothing goes well for Louis. His sister, Grace, asks for the house and Louis gives it to her.
Then we depart from Louis, and for the first time during our entire trip into the past, we truly do not have him in the scene at all. Lestat, during a driving lesson with Claudia, takes her to a lovers lane for a midnight meal. With all a child’s innocence, Claudia doesn’t understand what’s happening in these cars. She watches, enrapt, before eventually ripping these human bodies apart, flapper dress and all. She turns 18 and decides, in a red dress and pearls, it’s time for her to start acting like it.
What’s not said here is as powerful as what Claudia writes out in her diaries. She’s old enough to be a woman, to do adult things, but she can’t yet say what those things are. She wants to be an adult, but she’s still trapped in this 14-year-old’s body. And she’s not fooling anybody, even with her dressed-up look and makeup. Not even Charlie, the nice man who distracts her from killing three mean girls across the street who are gossiping about her performance, is convinced she’s anything but a child wandering the streets.
She’s searching for love, she can’t express it, understand it, but she wants it. “I want to know what his tongue tastes like.” Then Charlie drives by her house and she mutters to herself “if he looks up, he likes you.” He does, in fact, look up. And he drops flowers on her doorstep as well. Louis demands to know who Charlie is, but Claudia blocks his telepathy. This is the first hint that something may be fracturing in the family. Claudia has always been able to bring Louis and Listat together, but now? She’s nearly 19, and she’s pulling away. And she’s dragging with her the only thread that’s keeping her family together.
When Claudia attempts to go on a date with Charlie, he turns her down kindly—she’s young. She insists she’s not, and only a few minutes later, they end up messing around in the back of his carriage. She might be 19, but she’s still a young vampire, and when she drains Charlie she doesn’t stop in time; she leaves a husk of a man. When she drags his corpse home and begs Lestat to turn Charlie, he delivers a harsh lesson. This hurt is why we never get close to mortals.
And then Louis shows up, finally, just as the episode is ending. As Louis remarks on Claudia’s talent, Daniel (my BEST FRIEND, my pal, my home boy, my rotten soldier, my sweet cheese, my good time boy) quips, “like Anne Frank meets Stephen King.” I know that Daniel has a death wish, but babe, please, try to survive a few more episodes, I beg you just like, choose life. I love this character so much, and the threat of violence is real.
Daniel asks the obvious question: where were these diaries during their first interview, in 1973? Louis, typically, deflects. He talks about the simple joy of being a father, how it made him feel love, how it silenced his demons. Returning to the question, Louis explains that if you, as a parent, could read about every single time and instance you failed your child, would you share those moments with, and I quote, “A brash young reporter you met at Polynesian Mary’s? ”
Daniel laughs, and I feel God in this Chili’s tonight. Louis admits that Claudia might have felt like a Band-Aid trying to repair a broken marriage, and when we return to her diaries seconds later, the elegant script quickly becomes rushed and angry. She underlines the failure of her body, the failure of immortality, the failures of her parents, and then Bailey Bass delivers some narration that should be in the fucking Met, it’s that wonderful.
She describes how much she hates herself, her horrible demon instincts, and as she yells at her diary, in pen and ink, she opens the sunroof and lets the morning stream down on top of the unused piano. She circles it, like a predator, like she’s coming to an understanding as her feet press against the keys, making a dull sound. Staring at the shaft of sunlight, Claudia sticks her arm under the sun, her skin and flesh turning into dark, dusty sand.
This episode is a study in mania. We get a Claudia that is so different from the murderous baby doll of the books, utterly changed from the precocious 10-year-old of the movies. She doesn’t want an adult to be her mother, she wants to be an adult herself, and she was so close to hitting puberty and becoming a woman, and instead of attempting to take her to a hospital, Louis impulsively demands that Lestat turn her instead. The consequences of impulse echo throughout this entire episode, and in the next, it will break the family apart.
Interview With the Vampire airs new episodes Sunday at 10 pm ET on AMC. Online, AMC+ is airing episodes one week early.
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