Updated: Nov 18
Is my very nature that of a devil?
This episode lays out the central conflict between Louis and Lestat around which the entire first book in the Vampire Chronicles is based. It opens with Louis and Lestat sitting on a park bench and discussing morality. Louis doesn't want to kill people anymore, or if he must, he only wants to kill evildoers. Lestat tries to explain how difficult this is to ascertain and how impractical a requirement for something that should be entirely instinctual.
"Hunting is pure instinct. Reason is a set of leg irons."
Lestat makes fun of Louis as they walk through the streets, trying to determine the morality of strangers from what they are thinking. He finally gets Louis' approval on a victim who is, in Louis' mind, morally questionable enough to kill. Lestat dispatches the victim, snapping his neck in an alleyway and calls Louis to partake. But Louis hesitates and Lestat urges him to eat.
Instead of drinking the blood of the dying man, Louis grabs a stray cat and drains it, much to Lestat's disgust. The look on Lestat's disbelieving face as he watches this is a wonderful demonstration of Sam Reid's talents and razor sharp perception of the character of Lestat.
Later, as they share a table at The Azalea, listening to new singer Antoinette Brown and to Azalea staple Jelly Roll Morton at the piano, Lestat confronts Louis.
"You're ashamed of what we are."
Louis admits he doesn't want to kill anymore.
"A fish that doesn't swim. A bird refusing flight. You're going to struggle. I feel for the feline population of New Orleans."
We can make an analogy here to the reluctance of some closeted queer people to reject their true nature, no matter how painful or difficult it may be. In Anne Rice's day, homosexuality, particularly male homosexuality, was seen as a disorder and a threat to society at large. Anne sees in her fictional vampires, a predatory nature that is inescapable, like the mountain lion whose instinct is to hunt other mammals to survive. Just as she knew that homosexuality was an innate trait in humans (and other mammals), and that to deny it was not living a full and satisfying life.
Following Louis' declaration, Lestat becomes angry and insults Jelly Roll, complaining about the blandness of his recent performances.
I love how much of an asshole he is in this scene--actually in the whole episode--because I can understand his frustration with Louis. Lestat only wants Louis to join him in his questionable existence, and be a fully engaged companion. Lestat desires Louis to share with him the things that make his immortal life worth living, but Louis rejects this at every turn. In expressing Lestat's irritation at this turn of events, Sam Reid's portrayal of a pissed-off aesthete and cultural snob is bang on.
The scene with Antionette in their parlour at the townhouse, with Lestat intent on seducing her in front of Louis, is so well done. She asks about their relationship as there are rumours around town, and Lestat alludes to being interested in all forms of physical closeness. Antoinette admits to the same, and says she likes men called Daddy, so Lestat deliberately pours champagne on her and says,
"Your blouse is soaked with champagne. Bad Daddy."
I honestly think that anyone who might have been on the fence about Reid's portrayal of Lestat has got to be won over by now.
The sexual tension in this exchange causes Louis to close his book and inform them he's going to get dinner. Lestat asks if the animal markets are still open, insulting him in front of Antoinette.
Later, when Louis returns, Lestat is smoking a cigarette while watching the incinerator (love the post-copulation ciggy reference here) and Louis assumes it's Antoinette. Lestat admits to letting her live and he admits it's actually a dentist in the incinerator.
"There's a dentistry convention in town. Sinister talk of molars and bicuspids around every corner."
I love the way even an offhand comment like this is delivered in such a sardonic and amusing way.
When Louis questions Lestat about his dalliance with Antoinette, Lestat admits to the need for variety on occasion. Lestat's joyous laughter when Louis asks why he isn't enough, is so telling. You can see that Lestat is reassured that Louis loves him, and wants him, and is jealous of Antoinette. I love the way Reid switches from distain and coldness, to joy, so quickly at those words, and veritably skips across the courtyard to embrace Louis.
Louis asks if that means he can fuck whoever he wants. You can see the hesitation as the tables are turned on Lestat, but he conceals his unease with a string of affirmatives.
"Of course...of course! Of course. As long as you come home to me."
But when Louis has the audacity to carry through, Lestat follows and watches, a fact which becomes apparent later.
When Louis returns from a disastrous visit to his human family to the townhome full of young army recruits and Lestat regaling them with a rousing rendition of "Where Do We Go From Here?" is one of my absolute favourite scenes.
First of all, at the call,
When the war began,
Pat enlisted in the army as a fighting man;
When the drills began, they’d walk a hundred miles a day,
Tho’ the rest got tired, Paddy always used to say:
Where do we go from here, boys,
Where do we go from here?
Slip a pill to Kaiser Bill and make him shed a tear;
And when we see the enemy we’ll shoot them in the rear,
He saw a dead man next to him and whispered in his ear...
The braggadocio of his singing, the way he commands the room of men, the way he keeps going as Louis drags him from the piano, is a cover for how vulnerable and betrayed he feels.
"I thought we could have an orgy. You can fuck them and I can eat them."
This is a direct rebuke to Louis for daring to hook up with his old friend (a soldier). Louis questions his judgement at letting all these men into their home, where their coffins are kept, but Lestat implies that they are too stupid and obsessed with other things.
"All they want is more wine and a German on the end of their bayonet! Kill the huns!"
Lestat mocks the young soldiers. He sees their patriotism and war mongering from a unique perspective and understands on a deep level how subjective good and evil can be (this refers back to their earlier discussion), and how naive and easily-influenced young men, can commit appalling acts against a dehumanized population.
Louis demands that he get rid of them, and Lestat puts a hand to his head and concentrates Intensely as the soldiers stop what they are doing and file out, under his silent command. But this has clearly sapped him of his strength and he sits, blood oozing out of his ears and down his neck. He makes a sad attempt at another verse and it's obvious how tired he is.
"Oh joy...Oh boy. Where do we go from here?"
It is spoken with such a sense of defeat and sadness, and reflects his confusion over the turn their relationship has taken. When Louis interrupts him and criticizes his behaviour, Lestat gives Louis his own words back.
"What can I say? I'm a lot. I'm not perfect."
This confirms Louis' suspicion that Lestat was there, watching his entire encounter.
"Yes. I don't like sharing."
Louis is understandably upset that Lestat has the audacity (come on - it's Lestat. Audacity is his middle name) to say this while being involved with Antoinette. Lestat says that that is different, because he doesn't have feelings for her. When Louis starts to say it's the same with him and his friend, Lestat leaps up in a rage, yelling,
"I heard your hearts dancing!"
The absolute desperation and hurt in this exclamation is gut-wrenching.
For all that Lestat pretends to be this big meany immortal he is a lovesick little girl at heart.
"And then I watched you pull over and drain a dog! Then run down the alleyway for two more rats! This is not a life!"
Jacob Anderson does so well here, as a counterpoint to Lestat's rage. He meets him at the same level, and accuses him of ruining his life.
"That's 'cause you took my life!"
So here they are, at a stage in their relationship that neither saw coming, and neither of them knows what to do about it.
The episode takes an even darker turn when Louis, frustrated because the city officials are trying to drive him and his business out of town, kills the alderman/town councillor and displays his mangled body on the gates of city hall. This leads to riots and arson in Storyville, and Lestat challenges Louis' motivations for his garish display.
It is during this violent turn of events that Louis hears the thoughts of young Claudia, crying out for help, and since he cannot stop what is happening to his people in this beloved city, he goes to rescue her.
The scene of Louis breaking into Claudia's burning bedroom and leaping over the furniture to come at the camera, is exquisitely crafted and leads into the next episode.
A bandaid for a troubled marriage, indeed.
Feel free to let me know what you thought of this episode below.