Is The New AMC Series Worth Watching?
By Elke Simmons
If you’re a female Gen X’er, then you understand the magical charm and love the Anne Rice series, The Witching Hour. As a teenager, I quickly ate everything and anything Anne Rice, but The Witching Hour was special. Rowan Mayfair was a magical human. That was a difficult comparison to make because I thought Rowan Mayfair was better than any human. My friends and I wanted to be her. She was beautiful, a powerful witch, and an amazing doctor who saved lives all the time. She was proud of her femininity and sexuality. She also had a bit of masculine energy to sprinkle into her being.
All of this was during a time when misogyny was still unspoken but very much in charge. Women weren’t supposed to be sexual but still expected to be paragons of sexuality that men could dream of. One could be smart, successful, and full of sparkling personality, but don’t be more smart or successful than your male partner. Be a cute bleach bottle blonde who would twirl her hair, chew her gum loudly, and giggle sweetly if your male partner wanted you to bring him something. While you’re doing all that, make sure to earn a high salary for your family, be as tough as the men, do all the housework, and take care of the kids, all the while looking like a Playboy Playmate. (Have things really changed that much?)
In summary, Rowan Mayfair and the Mayfair witches could do what they wanted. They had special powers and a hot demon who they could boss around. My friends and I ignored that Lasher sometimes did what he wanted and wasn’t always easy to order around. In my opinion, the first episode was surprisingly intelligent and captured the spirit of the book in the best ways. I would recommend watching the first episode of Mayfair Witches and deciding if it’s the right kind of Anne Rice for you. I definitely think it’s worth a try.
Rowan Mayfair: Challenge All the Ways to Devastate
First, if you love Anne Rice, then you know how protective fans are of the books and their details. If you want the fans to follow, do not change the details. When the first Interview With a Vampire came out, there was major controversy when the director cast Tom Cruise as Lestat. Most of us could not imagine preppy, mega-male Tom Cruise as someone with an alternative lifestyle as Lestat. Brad Pitt as Louis, well, that was fine. He was hot, but Tom Cruise? No way. I was surprised because Tom Cruise actually did a decent job as Lestat. The cast and their physical appearances matter in Anne Rice’s story. They are another way she reinforces the narratives.
In contrast, enter Alexandra Daddario as Rowan Mayfair in the new television series adaptation of The Witching Hour, Mayfair Witches. Daddario is a brunette with striking blue eyes, while Rowan is described in the book as being blonde with steely gray eyes. This is one of the departures from the book that struck me the most. How can you change such fundamental details of the character when those details were so important to the character description in the book? These details helped Anne Rice define these characters.
The integral setting of the books includes a sexual vibe that veils the entire series. While there has to be softening of sexuality for television, the sexuality in the first episode seemed contrived and unnatural. In contrast, Rowan’s boat is similar to what I would imagine of her boat home in The Witching Hour. The book describes it as a work of old-world craftsmanship, with heavy solid wood and quality construction. I can only hope the major differences in tellings don’t devastate the ethos of this legendary story.
The Magic Powers: The Disastrous & Devastating Whole
Additionally, The Witching Hour says that Carlotta Mayfair gives the baby, Rowan, to Ellie Mayfair and her husband. Ellie is Rowan’s aunt and can’t conceive, so she and her husband are to raise Rowan as their own and never let her know that she is a Mayfair. Rowan was raised away from New Orleans as Rowan Fielding. In the first episode of Mayfair Witches, it appears that Ellie raises Rowan as a single mother. This is a detail that I’m almost okay with. The book says that Rowan killed her uncle with her mind when she was a child.
In the book, it says that Cortland Mayfair, Deirdre’s uncle, raped Deirdre so that he was Rowan’s father. In the television show, Cortland chooses a handsome young man to spend time with Deirdre during one of his parties. The young man is shown wearing a mask while he and Deirdre are in bed. We don’t know who is actually behind the mask. It was said that the Mayfair witches were active in incest to keep their wealth and powers in the family, and this also protected Lasher.
Next, most of us know about Anne Rice’s house in New Orleans’ Garden District. For those who don’t, at the time these books were written Anne Rice was living in a historic home in New Orleans. It was white with Greek-style columns and gardens. She loved that house and it is said that she created the Mayfair family home to look like her old house.
Lastly, Jack Huston, the actor who plays Lasher in the television series, is not as I would expect. Lasher in Mayfair Witches is a good-looking gentleman who, so far, seems pretty harmless. The part where he reveals his true nature to Deirdre was interesting and a little bit nail-biting, but it was short and not really fear-provoking. As readers, we are always nervous about what Lasher is doing. He is an enigmatic character who is always demanding emotions of either fear or excitement. This makes the book all the more compelling.
Three Powerful Reasons to Watch The Mayfair Witches
There are three main reasons to give Mayfair Witches a chance. First, the unique originality in Anne Rice’s novels is kept intact. It was pleasantly surprising to see that the story was still quite intriguing. Anne Rice creates worlds like no other, even if that theme has been done a million times before. The show lets that rare quality shine through. I still checked the date of the next episode, because I so wanted to see what was gonna happen next. I don’t like changes to my favorite novels, so for me, that is a compliment to the series and cast.
Second, it’s lots of fun to watch strong women being evil, sexual, beautiful, and dangerous for a change. The Mayfair women in this television series are so beautiful, wealthy, and powerful they don’t have to live up to common societal norms. These women are not superheroes. They are not angels or demons, even though they are supernatural. There are plenty of things out of their control, but they are privileged to have so much more freedom than most female characters in films are allowed.
Third, it is well done enough that if you don’t like how it handles Anne Rice’s story, you can still watch the show. Mayfair Witches has an impressive collection of esteemed executive producers and directors, including Michael Uppendahl, Anne Rice, Christopher Rice, Jeff Freilich, Mark Johnson, Michelle Ashford, and Esta Spalding, directed by Michael Uppendahl. The creators claim they knew how Anne Rice’s fans felt about changes to the book, so they tried to respect the details as much as possible. It is an intriguing, professionally done show that seems like it’s going to continue to be captivating, passionate, and imaginative.
Watch Mayfair Witches on Sundays on AMC+.
Mayfair Witches (2023) Official AMC Studios Trailer