Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches l AMC
AMC investing in an Anne Rice Immortal Universe is a risky move. There are so many ways in which it could go wrong. For a network that just made sweeping layoffs, a lot is riding on the success of this universe. Starting things off strong was “Interview with The Vampire,” which has already been greenlit for a second season. Now, Anne Rice’s MAYFAIR WITCHES is set to debut this week, making it the second Rice property to get the series treatment. Unfortunately, there’s little magic to be found here.

The series follows neurosurgeon, Rowan (Alexandra Daddario), who is suddenly forced to deal with a lot at once. The re-emergence of dangerous new abilities leaves her frazzled and her adopted mother’s declining health takes its toll. After her adopted mother passes away from cancer, she then learns of her biological relatives – the Mayfairs – who reside in New Orleans, Louisiana. Taking no chances, she hops on a plane and ventures to seek out her family, only to learn that sometimes, blood isn’t a replacement for connection.

On paper, there’s plenty to work with here in Anne Rice’s MAYFAIR WITCHES. You have a strong cast. Plenty of juicy titillating bits from the novels that could have been utilized to keep viewers on the edge of their seat. However, based on the first five episodes, the end result fails to captivate. Instead, the show reads as underdeveloped and confused as to what tone it wants to take.

The Mayfair Witches – An Identity Crisis

Photo Credit: Alfonso Bresciani/AMC

From the first episode, part of the issue in establishing a tone is due to choppy editing. It’s jarring. The reveal towards the end of episode one does little to make the editing choices more forgiving. From there, it seems like there’s a lot of ground the writers are trying to cover story-wise. In order to cover everything, a sacrifice had to be made. Most obviously is the character development of Rowan, Tongayi Chirisa’s Ciprien, and Jack Huston’s Lasher.

The character development, or lack thereof, renders the character interactions between this trio hard to believe. It’s possible some of it is due to direction as well as acting choices, but the writing does itself no favors here. Once Rowan enters Louisiana, there reads a personality and behavioral shift that felt unnatural. Almost like there was a missed transition somewhere. Once Lasher is in her orbit, the character almost undergoes a personality shift. Knowing this is not how the novel’s Rowan behaves, I imagine many will be frustrated.

Ciprien, being a mash-up of two novel characters, proves to be the most captivating of the trio, with Chirisa’s nuanced performance keeping things grounded. But, because things have to keep moving along, the development of his relationship with Rowan gets expedited, and falters due to lack of chemistry. The same can be said regarding Lasher and Rowen’s relationship, with Huston’s Lasher barely given much to do except stare heatedly. The danger component that makes Lasher so compelling is gone.

The Good, the Bad, The Ugly

Courtesy AMC

The supporting cast fairs a bit better. Annabelle Gish’s Deirdre Mayfair is captivating; her story heartbreakingly tragic. When she’s onscreen, you can’t help taking in the nuances and levels during her brief screentime. Beth Grant’s Carlotta Mayfair is the matriarch you’ll love to hate whereas Harry Hamlin’s Cortland Mayfair will have you questioning whether or not he should be trusted. Given the seasoned nature of these performers, conjuring performances that bring the viewer in is little surprise.

As much of a character as the people that occupy it, the construction and decoration of the Mayfair House is exquisite. It is regal and antiquated. It feels lived-in, which is exactly what is required for a home that’s housed multiple generations. Full of magic and mystery and dark corridors, it represents the gradual decay of old money families. Given the long-lasting legacy of the Mayfairs, you get that sense once we get a peek inside their home.

The sound design and score for Anne Rice’s THE MAYFAIR WITCHES may be the only section of the series that truly feels magical. It’s eerily ethereally, hinting at the magic that lies beneath the surface everywhere Rowan ventures. In otherwise bland scenes, it adds a pop of something to make us speculate what might happen next.

A general lackluster energy possesses Anne Rice’s THE MAYFAIR WITCHES. Sacrificing development for plot, it feels rushed and surface level. Unlike “Interview with the Vampire,” this fails to capture the charged energy of its respective source material.

The second series in the Anne Rice Immortal Universe will debut Sunday, January 8 on AMC+ and AMC.

Sarah Musnicky
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