When Daniel Molloy (Eric Bogosian) gets whisked off to a Dubai apartment in the middle of the pandemic, we already know something’s up. It’s only the first episode of Interview With the Vampire, but if you are a Vampire Chronicles fan, there’s something strange about this characterization.
After the first episode ends it becomes even more clear that this apartment, which is made of concrete, isolated, and full of incredible art, feels wrong for Louis de Pointe du Lac (Jacob Anderson). That’s because this isn’t Louis’ apartment—it’s Armand’s. The end of season twist/finale revealed that the fastidious and dedicated manservant, Rashid (Assad Zaman), was actually the vampire Armand in disguise. If you’ve never read the books this might have come out of left field, but if you were online or a Vampire Chronicles fan, this wouldn’t have been a huge surprise. One of the best jokes that ever happened on IWTV Twitter was referring to Rashid as “Armand-coded.” So the reveal, while shocking and melodramatic in the best of ways, had been clearly choreographed from the beginning, because it wasn’t just Rashid that had been Armand-coded… it’s that the entire season has been Armand-coded.
If we re-watch the series knowing that Rashid is the vampire Armand and that he and Louis are in an intimate relationship together, the whole premise becomes more and more absurd, and, in a way, terrifying. Interview With the Vampire is, essentially, Louis telling the story of his first abusive relationship to a third party in front of his current boyfriend, who also may or may not be abusive. He recalls the worst parts of his relationship to Lestat (Sam Reid), but also the best parts of his relationship, emphasizing over and over the vampire bond that they shared and the obsessive, narcissistic, toxic love they had for each other… again, in front of the vampire he is currently in a relationship with. The motivation to embellish the worst parts and understate the best parts is literally standing in the room with him.
On top of that, we have clear evidence that some parts of Louis’ story have been practiced, refined, or even editorialized. It happens when Daniel replays the tapes from the ‘70s, then when Louis can’t recall whether or not it was raining on one particularly important night, and then a third time when Claudia’s (Bailey Bass) journals were tampered with. So when it comes to the fact that his powerful, possibly psychopathic, definitely magical, 500-year-old vampire boyfriend is listening in on his conversations, it’s not a stretch to say that what he’s saying is filtered through Armand’s influence.
Then, there are moments that Louis relates that begin to raise some eyebrows. If you’re a fan of the books, you will recall that Lestat and Louis don’t have a fight as brutal as the one depicted in episode five. (They do fight in the books, by the way, it just isn’t quite that bad.) But do you know which vampires actually have a knock-down, drag-out fight? Lestat and Armand. In particular, Louis being dragged along the ground is a very clear visual from The Vampire Lestat.
Now, this could just be the show’s writers taking inspiration from The Vampire Lestat while writing this season of Interview With the Vampire. They did take bits and piece of lore and world-building and even characterization from six of Anne Rice’s books (Interview With the Vampire, The Vampire Lestat, Queen of the Damned, The Tale of the Body Thief, Memnoch the Devil, and The Vampire Armand) so it’s not like they’ve mixed and matched inspiration before. Even the character “Rashid” is, for those who don’t know, a minor vampire in 2001’s Blood and Gold. So we can choose to imagine that the writers have been inspired by additional books, or we can go deeper into this theory and say that this horrific fight was not accurate because it was Armand-coded.
What could be happening is that Armand, another psychopathic vampire, this time with mind-control capabilities, has taken the worst parts of his own memories and coded them onto Lestat and Louis’ relationship. Let’s say Lestat and Louis did have a brutal fight, which is objectively true considering that this part of the series is based on Claudia’s diaries, but the specifics of the fight have been affected by Armand because Armand also had a brutal fight with Lestat. I’m not trying to excuse Lestat’s actions or make him seem like he’s not a monster; he’s very much an abusive jagweed and a horrible partner, but within Louis’ retelling he might not be portrayed in the most charitable light because of Armand’s influence and Louis’ tendency to become subsumed by the wants and needs of his partners.
Going back to the Dubai apartment, there were always a lot of hints that this was Armand’s home and not Louis’: keeping human servants for food, the isolated nature of the apartment, all of the people sworn to secrecy upon entering. It’s all very reminiscent of Armand’s Night Island. In the books, Armand purchases Night Island in order to prevent his companion, Daniel Molloy (yes, the same Daniel Molloy currently interviewing Louis) from abandoning him. Night Island is a vampire’s paradise, but it is also Molloy’s cage. He often runs away only to be dragged back by Armand. The apartment feels like the writers have taken inspiration from Night Island. Louis is trapped here, unable to leave, with nowhere to go, and reliant on Armand’s money and connections to help him survive.
(As a note AMC, announced via press release in April that a digital original titled The Night Island is coming. It’s “about an exclusive resort like no other, open only from sunset to sunrise, catering to an exclusive clientele of vampires and mortals, with strict rules in place that still can’t prevent each night from turning into a near disaster,” and is based on Anne Rice’s Queen of the Damned)
Armand’s apartment is also incredibly sterile. Full of beautiful art, but very little of Louis on display. Really Transformation by Ron Bechet in the dining room is the only piece of art that I can really see being exclusively Louis’ choice. The Basquiat in the living area? Maybe. But Armand was sold and bought in the 1500s too. In stark contrast to this sparseness, Louis’ house on Rue Royal was lush, textured, full of rich colors and warm lighting. He never wore black except to his brother’s funeral. And besides that, perhaps most importantly, he was constantly surrounded by books; in every episode he was reading or was shown with a book in his hand.
Remember when Daniel Molloy asked in episode six why Lestat would hide the fact that he could fly? Louis answered that he thought it was so that he—Louis—wouldn’t feel inferior to him. In the Dubai apartment the only books are kept on shelves that are literally hanging from the ceiling. They are kept out of Louis’ reach, and the only way that he would be able to get to any of them is by asking Armand to fly up and get them. A constant, unnecessary reminder of Louis’ weakness compared to Armand.
There’s even a moment in episode one, as Armand is giving Daniel a tour of the apartment, that he mentions that the architect was a sentimentalist while gesturing to a tree that has been planted inside the apartment, surrounded by sand, with a false sun shining down on it. Louis, despite being a vampire and literally unable to walk under sunlight, is nevertheless a man who is constantly seen outside. He loves to sit in Jackson Square, he takes his daughter for a boat ride in the bayou, but in Dubai—a child-city, one that is was built up in a desert, that is not surrounded by green space so much as it has carefully cultivated its hearty palm and baobab trees among hedgerows—where would Louis go to experience that again?
If this apartment is, like Night Island, a cage and not a paradise for Louis, it makes sense that a sentimentalist would put a tree in the middle of the apartment. It’s very likely that between Armand’s influence, the isolated nature of the city, and perhaps even his own fear at being discovered, Louis has not left this apartment in a very, very long time.
At the end of the night, Armand is not to be trusted! It’s not just that Rashid is Armand-coded, but the entire season is Armand-coded. Armand is a master manipulator, a manifestation of 500 years of traumatic, absolutely batshit insane cult behavior, and the boy has fangs the size of the Ottoman empire. Armand takes mansplain, manipulate, malewife to unprescended levels of insanity. Like, I love him, he’s a weird little gremlin who plays with blenders and starts a podcast, for some reason, but he’s absolutely out of gourd and willing to do anything to keep everything just how he likes it, and that includes Louis.
Who knows why Armand allowed—and it’s clear, in retrospect, that Armand has given permission for this interview to take place—Daniel Molloy, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist, to come into Louis’ life and ask probing questions, but he has. On rewatch it seems obviously that Armand steps in frequently, not to stop Daniel, but to control Louis. Louis has jumped from one abusive partner to another, and there’s no way to tell what part of his story is his story and what part of it is due to Armand’s influence.
This whole season has been about the monster that is memory, but when you’re 500 years old, maybe memory makes a monster out of you. Although the signs that Rashid was Armand were there from the beginning, the signs that the entire season has been affected by Armand are really only visible when you rewatch the season, which speaks to the rather incredible effort on behalf of the writers who absolutely knew what the fuck they were doing with this horrible little chaos vampire. Interview With the Vampire is Armand-coded, and I’m sure that season two is only going to reveal more and more ways in which Armand has fucked with Louis, Lestat, and Daniel. I’m very excited to watch it happen.
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