Review: AMC’s ‘Mayfair Witches’

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This past fall, Interview With the Vampire exploded onto the scene over at AMC and AMC+, bringing a new adaptation of Louis, Lestat, and Claudia’s story to screen. The updated story and shift to New Orleans for this classic vampire tale allowed for a larger and more complete story to be told, with the backdrop of New Orleans upping the creepiness of the series. Interview With the Vampire was easily one of my top shows and I wasn’t alone, with the series achieving positive ratings from critics and audiences alike. Now, Anne Rice’s world on AMC is set to expand, with the introduction of the Mayfair Witches.

Set in the same world as Interview With the Vampire with the characters crossing over a few times in the novels, Mayfair Witches changes focus in AMC’s Immortal Universe from vampires to magic and demons. Mayfair Witches begins its story outside of New Orleans, but it isn’t long before viewers are plunged into the familiar supernatural streets. However, New Orleans is a bit more modern than the one seen in Interview With the Vampire

Brought to screen by Esta Spalding and Michelle Ashford, both writers from Masters of Sex, and starring Alexandra Daddario, Harry Hamiln, Tongayi Chirisa, and Jack Huston, Mayfair Witches is ready to bewitch the viewers as another hit from Anne Rice’s mind. But is it utterly bewitching? Let’s explore.

[Warning: light Spoilers and impressions from AMC’s Mayfair Witches are below!]

Family secrets, a magical legacy. and New Orleans

When audiences meet Rowan Fielding (Alexandra Daddario), she has no idea who or what she truly is. Well, at least she is unaware of her magical origins. She’s a neurosurgeon who is great at her job and a fantastic daughter to her adoptive mother Ellie (Erica Gimpel). On the flip side, she lives on a boat and has a fear of commitment, indicating that perhaps she’s not as secure in her life as she could be.

Rowan loves Ellie a lot, but her family history haunts her. As far as she knows, her adoption was closed, meaning that she doesn’t know anything about the family she came from nor does she have any way of finding out. Ellie also isn’t helpful, refusing to provide any information if she has it.

Everything changes when Ellie dies, opening up the doors to a whole new world full of magic and danger. While there are hints of magic and mystery prior to Rowan visiting New Orleans, there’s a tonal shift when we move from one setting to The Big Easy. It’s in New Orleans that the legacy of the Mayfair Witches comes into play, with the larger mystery of their development and the entity known as Lasher (Jack Huston) beginning to unfold. 

The major players in Mayfair Witches

While this show is an ensemble, the main character for which the story follows is Rowen. She has a quiet confidence about her, which comes off as slightly unsure at times. However as the story progresses and she comes into her own and her powers, the confidence reveals itself. She’s kind and caring, making her a fantastic doctor, however, there’s something else boiling under the surface that comes out every now and then.

Daddario is fantastic in the role. She makes Rowen undoubtedly more likable than her novel counterpart, which is a testament to her acting as the role really isn’t changed from novel to screen.

Rowen in Mayfair Witches
Alexandra Daddario as Rowen. Mayfair Witches (AMC).

Joining Rowen on her journey is Ciprien Grieve, a newly created character for the series. Ciprien is a combination of two characters from the novels, Michael Curry and Aaron Lightner, both of whom served different purposes to Rowen and the Mayfair Witches. Ciprien works for a mysterious organization called the Talamasca, tasked with keeping Rowen safe from the Mayfair legacy, which has plagued so many that came before her. 

Tongayi Chirisa is good as Ciprien, however, the role doesn’t provide anything extraordinary for which to show his talent. This character has some major promise for a larger, meatier role, especially accounting for his job in the series, but for most of what I’ve seen, he feels a bit more like a love interest than something more substantial. That being said, where Ciprien is left at the end of the first five episodes, I’m sure there is a better story coming.

Harry Hamlin as Cortland Mayfair and Beth Grant as Carlotta Mayfair are two sides of the same coin. Cortland is the patriarch of the Mayfair line and of charge of the fortune. Carlotta remained in the family house, wishing to control the family as much as possible. Both characters seem to think they are doing what is best for the family. However, they’re wicked in ways that slowly reveal themselves over time. 

Hamlin and Grant are both standouts in Mayfair Witches, stealing every scene they are in. I grew up with Hamlin in Veronica Mars, I show I have watched many times over, so part of me sees him through a villainous lens. In this series, you see a bit of that again. He’s oddly charming as Cortland, but there seems to be some ulterior motive in every one of his actions. Grant is positively electrifying as Carlotta, with scenes that gave me chills and actions I never saw coming. Mayfair Witches might be a crowning achievement of an extensive career in acting.

Finally, there’s Lasher, played by Jack Huston. Lasher is a mysterious entity who can change his appearance at will and is connected to the deeper mystery of the Mayfair Witches. As the series dives deeper into the mystery of this magical lineage, you begin to learn more about who he is and why he’s there, but it’s more breadcrumbs than answers. Huston is impresssive as the scary and intimidating Lasher and I can’t wait to see where his character goes next.

The good and the bad of AMC’s Mayfair Witches

This series is off to a good start, with a fascinating story that remains true to the heart of Anne Rice’s novel. It’s modernized a bit, as was done with Interview With the Vampire, however, the modernization didn’t impact the story nearly as much as the latter.

Mayfair Witches does well diving into the rich lore of Rice’s witches and how they came to be. Some of the best episodes are the ones exploring the past, such as Deirdre’s younger years or even how the first witch in the line came to be.

Cortland and Rowen Mayfair Witches
Harry Hamlin as Cortland and Alexandra Daddario as Rowen. Mayfair Witches (AMC).

One of the biggest problems with the series is the pacing. Mayfair Witches volleys between having a lot of stories and action going on at the same time, to periods where it doesn’t feel like much is happening at all. The stories focusing on the past witches, or even the scenes where the history is being spoken of, are some of the best. The modern-day storyline with Rowen feels bogged down for reasons I don’t quite understand. It takes forever for Rowen to arrive at the moment when she gets to embrace her powers.

This is a story about a blossoming young witch who is coming into powers of her own, a story we’ve seen time and time again. There are ways to approach it, but drawing it out isn’t necessarily the right way. If you are to look at the series as a person-centric piece exploring the impact of this dysfunctional family, then it’s excellent. But going into a series called Mayfair Witches, I suppose I expected more magic.

Another small gripe, which I have with quite a few series nowadays, is that some of the scenes are quite dark, making it difficult to see what is going on. Specifically, in one of the later episodes we were able to watch, the entire episode felt this way. I felt myself trying to guess what was going on, relying on my ears more than my eyes. I hope this is a trend we eventually get away from.

Final thoughts on AMC’s newest series in the Immortal Universe

Regardless of the pacing issues and my issues with using dark scenes, Mayfair Witches is a great series. It’s a slower burn of a series compared to Interview With the Vampire, however, that is also the nature of the story. The Witching Hour, on which this is based, is a thick book and covers a lot, and it rolls out slowly. So seeing Rowen’s story come to screen feels much the same way. Personally, I enjoy that. I can also understand if this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

I do think that those who enjoyed Interview With the Vampire will enjoy this series, especially with the small nods to the predecessor in it. So check out Mayfair Witches and give it a chance to grow as a series, I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches arrives on AMC and AMC+ on January 8. Are you planning on checking it out? Let us know on Twitter or The Cosmic Circus Discord. And if you haven’t already, check out our review of Interview With the Vampire finale!

For a review of The Witching Hour (Lives of Mayfair Witches book 1) by Anne Rice, check out this link!

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