The Assassination Of Gianni Versace: ACS Episode 7 Recap: "Ascent"

American Crime Story came back from a week off and caught me off guard. I was starting to think the show’s reverse storytelling style meant I knew everything that was coming, but the horrific murder of Lincoln by someone other than Andrew Cunanan (Darren Criss) shook me. Seeing Cunanan become an accidental witness to the killing felt like watching an intense telenovela and I couldn’t look away. I am a little worried that for Cunanan this was the sick, twisted version of “You can’t be what you can’t see.” I worry he felt almost excited and inspired by the violence.

The bludgeoning was terrible but it did allow for one of the best lines of this episode. Norman (Michael Nouri) is so likeable and is even more so when he said, “We fall sick, it’s our fault. We’re murdered, it’s our fault.” The second best line had to be the woman who runs the escort service saying, “I can’t sell a clever Filipino, even one with a big dick.” All the other good lines belonged to Donatella Versace (Penelope Cruz). “I believe for a woman a dress is a weapon to get what she wants” is good enough to hang on a college dorm wall. And when she told her bro, “You want me to wear the dress and talk about female empowerment and then keep my mouth shut when we’re in the studio,” I was with her in a big way. If they’re pandering to this Brooklyn Feminist, I don’t care because I am eating it up.

This was the first time we get to see Gianni Versace (Edgar Ramírez) go full diva, and we get to see his sister be soft. In fairness, the man thinks he’s dying, but he is also the harshest we’ve seen him. It almost felt like his anger was bringing his partner Antonio D'Amico (Ricky Martin) and Donatella together for once. I also think the Versace matriarch deserves credit for how much she held it the heck together, and I appreciate that she wore a badass biker bitch outfit to deliver a truly sweet and vulnerable pep talk to her team. Also, if you love Gianni’s creative meltdown with the scissors, you should really see Phantom Thread.

I guess I should also talk about Cunanan, who starts this episode looking like San Diego Pharmacy Ken or a more handsome version of the creepazoid in 24 Hour Photo. His grooming and dressing are so meticulous, it almost makes him feel untrustworthy. Speaking of untrustworthy, wasting ice cream is easily the most serial killer thing we’ve seen Cunanan do so far. That and answering the question, “Are you drunk?” with “(I’m) drunk on dreams.” Gross. Call 9-1-1.

The relationship between Cunanan and his mother chills me to no end. Who lets their kid throw a fit over ice cream like that? And I say “kid,” when Andrew is a full grown man. I mean, he’s 23, but my mom would have laughed in my face if I had pulled that stunt. I also thought it was bizarre for her to wait up for him the way she did. They simultaneously seem very close and very dysfunctional. I think the scientific term for them is yucky. Cunanan call his mother his “dream woman.” Call me old fashioned, but I don’t love men treating their moms like wives and vice versa.

You can just feel that there’s going to be violence in the bedroom scene with Cunanan and his mom. She’s just so frantic, and he appears to have adopted some of her lack of boundaries and aggressive pushing. I know Cunanan cries about what he’s done in the doctor’s office later, but I have a feeling the actual man wouldn’t have done that. I just don’t think he is someone who felt remorse for his actions.

The rest of the episode felt like the same Cunanan snake oil show. We’re once again forced to reckon with the irony that if the killer had just put the work he puts into being with older men and charming people into something else, he could have done anything, but I sometimes doubt if he really is that smart or he’s just one of those guys who memorized a lot of Wikipedia entries about Häagen-Dazs and operas.

It was nice to see how David Madson (Cody Fern) fell (briefly) for Cunanan’s charms in San Francisco. It is kind of rude that it’s this Patty character’s birthday and Cunanan just brought a boy over, but maybe the friend group was super used to him dominating conversations anyway. I feel like we’re meant to understand that Cunanan’s proclaimed love and ultimate obsession with Madson is partly due to the fact that he’s the only man his own age who he had ever gotten anywhere with. He started to represent a life outside of hooking, but the only problem is that it truly was all an illusion, they wouldn’t always have the luster of the Mandarin Oriental and the fancy steakhouse dinners. Cunanan thinks money is a personality, and it simply is not.

My final thought was that Gallow is easily the best character. The redheaded older gay man has a fine nose for fakes and I love his shady ways and perceptive comments like, “You’re very young to be married...” He’s right and even if Cunanan wasn’t lying, since when is running away from your wife suddenly chill? And did you notice that he chooses not to clink glasses with Cunanan? Savage and ultimately wise.

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