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Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches Deserve a Chance

January 16, 2023

I’ll be the first to admit that Mayfair Witches isn’t the obvious hit that Interview With The Vampire was. With only a few episodes under its belt, it didn’t break out the way AMC’s Anne Rice Immortal Universe series premiere did. The characters aren’t quite as alive yet, and the charming sense of sly indulgence, sympathetic emotionality, and New Orleans magic is largely gone. This is all true, but I’m not ready to throw in the towel. It’s worth remembering that The Office and Taylor Sheridan’s Paramount+ juggernaut, Yellowstone, weren’t initially well received. Sometimes things take a while to gel.

There are pieces, however, that give me hope. White Lotus Emmy nominee Alexandra Daddario is as well cast as Rowan. But, for now, her gorgeous blue eyes are enigmatic. She is a figure of pent up feelings and growing concerns. Daddario is an excellent actress who can play emotionless rage very well. She bristles and cracks with anger, resentment and hope, but it’s all done with the cold emptiness of a fish.

It is by design. Rowan is a force of nature who barely understands how dangerous it can be. She didn’t know she could kill someone with a mere forward thought and chose to control her temper because she works in a male-dominated field and needed to avoid being labeled as a hysterical woman. Now that she knows, her fear is disrupting her control. A lot is thrown at Rowan quickly, and Daddario is smart about letting her grow organically.

Not everyone needs to radiate sexiness or rage right away. Beth from Yellowstone has become the powerhouse she is now. Kelly Reilly let her gradually evolve from a stubborn hot mess to a complex character who is bright and bold but still incredibly messy. Rowan isn’t that kind of character, but with a chance, Daddario could easily develop his version of the witch into someone as sexy and strong as the trilogy. Character arcs and dynamics are essential to a plot. Without ups and downs and without growth, history would stagnate. Daddario’s slow rollout of Rowan will pay big dividends for those patient enough to stick with it.

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Witches of MayfairBTS, Jack Huston as Lasher – Mayfair Witches _ Season 1, Episode 1 – Photo Credit: Alfonso Bresciani/AMC

Lasher is the television series’ other lightning rod. The Lasher we see in the TV series is played by Boardwalk Empire’s Jack Huston, Season 4 of Fargo and Antebellum. It’s an interesting choice that I understand viewers’ frustration with. With only two episodes airing, he’s not the Lasher of the books. This Lasher sizzles and oozes sexuality and menace. He seduces and purrs, caresses and schems.

This Lasher hasn’t had enough screen time yet to give us all of the malevolent power of the Mayfair female-bound magical shadow creature. However, Huston does the long-suffering characters well. In Fargo and Boardwalk Empire, he is tortured and emotional. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t read the books, but Rice’s Lasher is both twisted and does its fair share of torture, which makes it hugely entertaining. If Huston can tap into his inner Joe Goldberg from You, he could be the spark the show needs to dial in the sex.

Fans of the Lives Of The Mayfair Witches novels have understandable issues with the cast and story changes. The ubiquitous incestuous angles were glossed over a bit in the early episodes, but who can blame them for immersing us in the horror that is the Mayfair family? Rice writes sex well (seriously, go read her Sleeping Beauty trilogy as AN Roquelaure), but let’s face it, some might be too much for those unprepared.

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Incest isn’t sexy, it’s disturbing, but in Rice’s world, the undercurrent of taboo passion and abuse is a crucial sensual rhythm that the whole story hangs on. This won’t change in the series, but it will be adapted to make it more palatable to a wider audience. It means darker beginnings that allow us to develop relationships with all the main players before they beat us over our heads with the blow of family curses, betrayals and forbidden sex.

Showrunner Esta Spalding and writer Michelle Ashford didn’t remove the most important parts. They just camouflaged them a bit. In the first two episodes, we see Rowan’s mother impregnate a boy who may have been her uncle in disguise and be seduced by a magical being who is much older (don’t even tell me how long) which is . It’s all very smoke and mirrors, though. There is a hint of what happened, but it is not specified. Mayfair Witches does not yet show all of its cards. Even though those who read the books know what’s going on, a sense of possibility hovers over the series. Interview With The Vampire changed the characters and the story for the better. Why can’t the witches of Mayfair do that too?

I am optimistic that what we are seeing now is growing pains. Mayfair Witches is found. Like Rowan’s powers, there are glimpses of what the show can become. Proven product, Harry Hamlin camps with the best of them as Uncle Cortland. His well-to-do party boy with hideous motives will be fun to watch. New addition Ciprion (Tongayi Chirisa of Another Life and iZombie) gives us another “good guy” to cheer on. He’s just a question mark now, but the mysterious agency he works for and his inevitable relationship with Rowan will be intriguing to explore.

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Rowan has barely put his boots down in New Orleans, and things have already taken a bloody turn. The change of scenery is good for her and for the series as a whole. Like Interview with the Vampire, the town is a character in its own right to exploit and showcase. There’s so much in this world we haven’t seen yet and other parts we’ve only had disjointed glimpses of. It’s still early days, and I have no doubt the nuggets of genius I see from time to time will crystallize into a new story that’s faithful to the source material but different enough to make us wonder what’s next.

To be patient. Give it a chance. Mayfair Witches has all the ingredients for an intoxicating spell. Baffling, seductive, gruesome and electrifying, AMC’s series has potential. So let it overwhelm you and stop obsessing over the book. Trust that everything will come together. I do. New episodes of Mayfair Witches can be found every week on AMC and AMC+. Find all of our coverage here.

Tracy Palm Tree

As the editor of Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the editor.

Anne Rice’s post Mayfair Witches Deserves a Chance appeared first on Signal Horizon.