Plot: Based on Rice’s best-selling trilogy, “Lives of the Mayfair Witches,” the 8-episode series focuses on an intuitive young neurosurgeon, Rowan (Daddario), who discovers that she is the unlikely heir to a family of witches. As she grapples with her newfound powers, she must contend with a sinister presence that has haunted her family for generations.
Review: In October 2022, Anne Rice’s most famous novel, Interview with the Vampire, was reimagined as a television series. I found the updates and changes to the classic story, adapted once before starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, to be far more faithful to Rice’s books and a great introduction to adapting her extensive Vampire Chronicles series. Now, another one of Rice’s series, which crosses over with the Vampire Chronicles, is getting its turn on AMC. Mayfair Witches, based on a trilogy of books, is the second installment in what AMC has dubbed Anne Rice’s Immortal Universe. Also set in New Orleans but following a very different form of supernatural beings, Mayfair Witches revels in similar themes of erotic horror as Interview with the Vampire but with a more feminine focus.
Mayfair Witches utilizes a different format than Interview with the Vampire. Where the first series was told predominantly as flashbacks of Louis meeting and living with Lestat, Mayfair shifts between several timelines. While the various narratives are all connected and lead to the main storyline, the lack of voice-over is somewhat disorienting in the early episodes as you try to determine which are younger versions of certain characters, which sequences take place when, and who the primary focus should be. After a couple of chapters, it becomes clear that this story is centered on Rowan Fielding (Alexandra Daddario). It is also intrinsically linked to the centuries of familial heritage that make up the Mayfair family line. So, as we shift between the present day, the recent past, and hundreds of years before, we must remember who is related to who and how.
But, at the core of this story is the connection between the Mayfairs and Lasher, played by Jack Huston. An evil entity that may be a ghost or a trapped demon, Lasher is connected to various members of the Mayfair clan and is now tied directly to Rowan herself. Rowan, adopted at birth and only now learning of her true Mayfair lineage, is capable of performing supernatural acts with her thoughts which sometimes result in death. As she travels to New Orleans searching for her true mother, Rowan discovers her place and destiny as a Mayfair. This means meeting Dierdre (Annabeth Gish), Carlotta (Beth Grant), and patriarch Cortland Mayfair (Harry Hamlin). Rowan is also pursued by Cipiren Grieve (Tongayi Chirisa), a sect member who protects witches like Rowan. Ciprien has his own history that comes into play in this story that draws him even closer to the woman he is assigned to protect.
Over the eight-episode season of Mayfair Witches, five of which were made available for this review, the story takes its time in introducing the various characters. It takes at least three episodes before the story takes shape, a relatively long time for a series based on a trilogy of novels. I will say that I am relatively unfamiliar with the source material as compared to The Vampire Chronicles. Still, in the early going, it is hard to find the same level of charm or allure as is instantly felt when seeing Lestat on screen. Mayfair Witches is chock full of erotic and sensual moments, a calling card of Anne Rice’s work, but the feel of this series is much more somber than Interview with the Vampire. Alexandra Daddario is often quite good, just watch The White Lotus or her turn on True Detective for great examples, but she spends the first half of this series frantically going from place to place with a shocked expression on her face and not much else. It is not until the halfway mark of the season that she finds her rhythm. Much of the success of this series is owed to Jack Huston, who is dynamic and excellent as Lasher, a character I would love to see on screen opposite Lestat.
Created by poet Esta Spalding and Masters of Sex creator Michelle Ashford, Mayfair Witches consistently strikes an elegiac tone and look of muted colors despite being set in the vibrant French Quarter. This New Orleans looks shockingly different than the one on Interview with the Vampire, and yet both have connective tissue that has yet to be explored. Spalding and Ashford share directing credits or solo helmed three of the eight episodes this season with a predominantly female crew of directors and writers on board. This female-focused series offers the type of storytelling that Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey aimed for but failed to achieve. Even as it stands, Mayfair Witches is a better written, directed, and acted production than either of those popular franchises. But, I still fail to find as much to enjoy here as I did with Anne Rice’s other creations.
While I may not be the target audience for Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches, I do recognize the potential of this story and for an expansive shared universe with Interview with the Vampire. I wished this series had a little more fun with the material, but that may be in store for a second season should this one prove to be a success. From the vantage of sexy actors moaning on screen while displaying supernatural powers, Mayfair Witches is a massive success. As a genre offering that balances drama with thrills, this series falls short of what it should have delivered. With a good core cast on board and the world-building behind it, this story has the potential to turn into a better series in subsequent seasons. That means you will have to endure some rough moments in getting through this first season to get there.
Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches premieres on January 8th on AMC and AMC+.