This week’s The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story was a heartbreaking departure from the first two episodes. All the fun of what we’ve seen so far — South Beach’s color and fire throwback jams like Soul II Soul’s ”Back to Life,” Laura Branigan’s “Gloria,” and La Bouche’s “Be My Lover” — was stripped away to reveal the undeniable brutality of Andrew Cunanan’s (Darren Criss) murders. I appreciate how much care has been taken in showing the way trauma ripples out in people’s lives, because a death doesn’t happen in a vacuum, its shrapnel stays lodged in people’s families, friends, and culture for years after.
Just as soon as I’d typed that I felt sick, because Andrew Cunanan appears to be the kind of killer who was highly concerned with his legacy and who is or is not a “great man.” I’m curious about Cunanan’s motives, since his intentions at times appear to be to out and potentially humiliate the powerful men he’s taken as clients. It would be easy to paint him as a “have not” who wants to destroy the “haves” because he’s jealous, but that flattens out some of the more nuanced and dark intentions I think he had. Take for example, the conversation Andrew has with Lee Miglin (Mike Farrell) about his dream building at his desk. Andrew appears to almost be guiding him into saying what he wants the person he knows he is going to destroy to say. It’s almost like he needs his trophies to be worth more because then he will be robbing them of a more full and rich life. I worry he viewed himself like a gladiator who proved his strength by destroying other strong men.
He might also have just been a regular sociopathic killer, with very little complex motivation beyond wanting to kill. TV often gets a bad rap for sensationalizing real life events, but it’s interesting to note that the actual murder of Lee Miglin was even worse than what we saw. According to The Washington Post, he was stabbed over 20 times with a screwdriver and had his throat sawed open with a hacksaw. Following this murder and before Cunanan made it to Florida to stalk and kill Gianni Versace (Edgar Ramírez), he was added to the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list. I just kept going back to how high profile he was for so long, and yet, he was still able to kill more at least two more people.
But let’s get to the women. The motif of women’s intuitions was back with a vengeance. I was moved and deeply disturbed by Marilyn Miglin (Judith Light) almost being afraid to search her impeccably clean, white house, for fear of confirming her immediate suspicions. It’s slightly ambiguous if she simply knew something was wrong, her husband was dead, or her husband had been having affairs with men, but the moment when she says, “I knew it,” hooked me. Long after the episode, I was thinking of how she is yet another strong matriarch thrust into a leadership position by the untimely death of her partner. Sounds like Donatella, no? Finally, I know it’s small, but the cop who found Andrew Cunanan’s car was also a woman, and I don’t think any casting (especially of a woman) is ever by accident.
It’s heart-shattering to me that Donatella and Marilyn are both so aware that their reactions will be immediately be judged. When a desperate Marilyn finally cries and says, “Am I a real wife now?” I felt a pang of sadness for her, but I also felt guilt because I realized I had been waiting and judging her for not crying yet, too. I had been caught, and I thought I had been on her side. I think that’s why her final monologue to camera was so chilling. Her heavy makeup even reminded me of Ellen Burstyn in Requiem For A Dream, but her words about what the public will never know, and what it means to be a couple rang true. If anyone deserves to have the last word on her husband’s life, it’s her.
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