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The second season of FX’s anthology series American Crime Story is all about the assassination of fashion designer Gianni Versace at the hands of spree killer Andrew Cunanan. And it begins at the end.
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The premiere introduces Versace and shows his death before the main title even appears. The episode follows the aftermath, as Andrew evades the police and FBI, while also offering a glimpse into the past when these two men first crossed paths.
The series begins on July 15, 1997 in Miami Beach, the day of the assassination. The two major characters are introduced and their differences are clear. Gianni Versace (Edgar Ramirez) is in his palatial estate, enjoying fine robes and a tasty poolside breakfast, Andrew Cunanan (Darren Criss) is sitting on the beach in a ratty t-shirt and jean shorts, picking at a gash on his leg, screaming into the ocean, chugging a soda and throwing up in a public toilet. One is at the height of luxury, the other has hit rock bottom.
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When Versace walks back home after a morning stroll through town, Andrew sees him, pulls a gun from his backpack and fires. Well, I guess the series is done after less than five minutes because we’ve already seen the titular assassination of Gianni Versace.
When Andrew Met Gianni
In the first of the show’s many, many flashbacks, we cut to Andrew lurking into a bedroom, standing over a man and woman while rubbing his crotch. The dude is totally creepy. The woman, Andrew’s friend Lizzie, wakes up and he excitedly tells her that he met Gianni Versace.
It’s October 1990 in San Francisco and we get a flashback within a flashback as Andrew tells the story. Andrew met Versace at a gay club, boasting about his Italian heritage, claiming they’d met before and being very pushy to get the older man’s attention. But Andrew is young, attractive, confident and well-spoken, so he’s able to befriend Versace and immediately acts as if they’re best friends.
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But back to when Andrew is telling his friend about the meeting, he fabricates all of the details, claiming that it was at a cigar club and Versace approached him. Andrew also acts contemptuous of homosexuality. It’s immediately clear that he’s a pathological liar.
To drive the point home, Andrew talks to another friend on a college campus, a man who is clearly in love with Andrew. He’s tired of all of Andrew’s lies, like how he claimed to be half-Jewish (in truth, Andrew is Catholic and It’s implied that he was molested as an altar boy). This friend doesn’t like how Andrew pretends to be someone different depending on who he’s talking to (like lying about his homosexuality to straight people), but Andrew responds that he tells people whatever they need to hear.
Versace arranged a date with Andrew at the opera. Andrew does ome super creepy research on the older man while trying to find the perfect suit, borrowing from his female pal’s boyfriend. At the opera, Versace dresses a woman and talks about how his fabrics and designs don’t matter, his only goal is to make the woman wearing them feel happy with herself. The theme is becoming clearer: Andrew wants to pretend to be something that he’s not while Versace strives to find a person’s inner truth.
Their date echoes that idea, with Versace talking about the logo for his company being a childhood memory and how all of his designs are for his siser while Andrew talks about writing a novel based on his father’s massive pineapple empire. By this point, it’s almost certain that nothing Andrew says is real, but Versace is taken with him. He wipes off an eyelash and holds it to Andrew’s lips for him to blow. As he does, we hear a gunshot and cut back to the moment of the assassination, a jarring transition.
Back in 1997, Versace’s body is discovered by his partner and lover Antonio (Ricky Martin). There’s an immediate circus as a guy rushes to get a Polaroid camera to take a photo of the body and starts a bidding war with reporters at $30,000. A woman rips a Versace ad from a magazine, runs up to dab it in his fresh blood and then puts it in a plastic bag, presumably to be sold online. I assume these are based on real people and I hope they are shamed once again, 20 years later, because profiting from this gruesome violence like vultures is deplorable. At the hospital, there’s nothing the doctors cam do and Versace is pronounced dead.
Meanwhile, Andrew evades the police, though he does take some time to celebrate in his truck. He also has a change of clothes to hide as a valet at a parking garage, so it was clearly premeditated. The cops do find the truck and trace it back to another murder, linking it to Andrew Cunanan from the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List.
When the FBI shows up, there are suggestions that this could’ve been prevented. They’ve been looking for Andrew in Miami for a few months and the FBI agent has boxes full of wanted posters in his trunk, though it sounds like none have been posted.
A pawn shop owner sees Andrew’s face on TV and calls the tip line. She paid him for a coin seven days before Versace was shot and indignantly says that she filed all of the proper paperwork, including an address for Andrew, which the police should’ve had access to. The police and FBI raid the address, a room in a hotel, and find a scared man named Robbie (New Girl‘s Max Greenfield) who says that he doesn’t know Andrew
Elsewhere in Miami, Andrew, in yet another outfit, strolls through Miami, sees newspapers reporting on the death, gets a menacing grin on his face and buys four of them.
Donatella Takes Charge
The cops question Antonio and it’s obvious that they are clueless and suspicious of his homosexual lifestyle, focusing the questions on his sex life with Versace and the fact that Antonio brought other attractive young men into their bedroom (at Gianni’s request). Antonio is angry and upset, having just lost a man he truly loved and now having that questioned.
However, Gianni’s sister Donatella (a fabulous Penelope Cruz) arrives from her private jet and shuts it down. She’s curt and dismissive with Antonio and her only goal is to protect the image and legacy of her beloved brother, not wanting sordid details of his personal life to get out.
She’s sad but strong and quickly gets down to business to take over the company. Versace was in the U.S. to sign papers for his company to go public on the New York Stock Exchange. Instead of going forward, Donatella shuts it down because she doesn’t want her brother’s company to be in the hands of strangers at such a turbulent time.
What did you think of the premiere of The Assassination of Gianni Versace?
The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on FX. For more TV news, like BuddyTV’s Facebook page.
(Image courtesy of FX)