FX’s American Crime Story
Season 2, Episode 1: “The Man Who Would Be Vogue”
Directed by Ryan Murphy
Written by Tom Rob Smith
* For recaps & reviews of Season 1, The People v. O.J. Simpson, click here.
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Manhunt” – click here
July 15, ’97, in Miami Beach, Florida.
Gianni Versace (Édgar Ramirez) wakes up, he puts on his slippers, walking through the magnificent palace he calls home. He throws on a pink robe and stands on his balcony outside, like a king overseeing his kingdom.
Not far on the beach sits a young man, Andrew Cunanan (Darren Criss). He has with him a copy of The Man Who Was Vogue; The Life and Times of Conde Nast by Caroline Seebohm. He also has a gun and a bad wound on his inner thigh. And he seems like the weight of the world is on his shoulders, as he wades into the ocean to scream into the waves. A little later he rushes into a dirty public bathroom where he vomits, staring at hideous, homophobic graffiti.
Down through his castle Gianni walks, to the breakfast table where he enjoys a nice meal. Also in that private villa is Antonio D’Amico (Ricky Martin). We’ll get back to him later. Gianni goes out for a walk, kindly refusing an autograph and strolling to get a paper, saying hello to people he knows. When he’s heading home, Gianni runs into Cunanan; the young man shoots once, missing, then shoots again right at the face.
October ’90. San Francisco, California.
Andrew – in much better shape than seven years later – tells his friends Phil (Nico Evers-Swindell) and Elizabeth Cote (Annaleigh Ashford) he met Versace. We see Andrew the night before in a gay club, a packed crowd. There in a booth is the designer, Mr. Versace. A friend of Andrew’s introduces the two. The young man is very persistent, even though Gianni clearly doesn’t want to talk with him. He talks about his mother, Italy, until finally the designer asks him to sit. Then the two of them chat like old friends.
“Very strict policy on not approaching celebrities, which I would never do, by the way. Ugh. So tacky.”
But what we see is that Andrew lives two different lives. He tells his friends the story as if Versace came up to him. Quite an embellished version. Moreover, we get the sense that Andrew also lives two different lives in that he uses the word “fag.” Yet he’s gay. “I tell people what they need to hear,” he says to a friend. He’s “someone else” to everybody – gay to the gay people, straight to the straight people. We get the sense that this is a man who just wants to be somebody important to others, in any way.
Using some of his friend’s clothes Andrew dresses up well, goes to the opera, where afterwards he drinks champagne with Versace onstage after everyone is gone. The young man makes up a brilliant story about his father, supposedly owning a pineapple plantation, flying planes for the military, all sorts of grandiose things. He claims he’s writing a novel about everything, too. What’s interesting is seeing the parallel, between such a genuine, passionate man as Gianni versus a fake guy like Andrew.
“I‘m sure you‘re going to be someone really special one day”
July 15, ’97.
Andrew stares at a dead bird next to the gunned down Versace, then he runs off, chased by one of the designer’s servants. Moments later, Antonio stumbles onto the bloody body. Soon police arrive on the scene. Andrew runs. He tries calming himself, but mostly he celebrates like a maniac, happy to have accomplished his goal. It’s a terrifying moment to observe.
Detectives soon arrive on the scene, an ambulance comes to take the designer as a beach bum grabs his camera to snap a Polaroid of Versace, vulnerable and bleeding and dying, being loaded into the vehicle. At the hospital, he dies on the table at 9:21 AM. In the villa, Antonio receives word. Outside, a woman tears a Versace ad from a magazine, rushes through the crime scene tape, and soaks the near naked models on the page with blood from the villa’s steps; a brutal image.
All the while, Cunanan still walks around free. Except the cops find the truck, linking it back to a homicide – a man named William Reese was killed, and now they’ve got Andrew’s name. Plus, this gets the FBI get involved. Seems the young man is a serial killer: the designer makes five bodies.
Antonio is put through a daunting questioning by Detective Scrimshaw (Will Chase), about the various lovers, so on. At the same time, Ms. Donatella Versace (Penélope Cruz) arrives in Miami to the media circus engulfing the city. She has to enter the villa, past the bloody steps where her brother was assassinated. Then she orders everybody out, so she can speak with D’Amico. She makes him understand he can’t talk to anybody, not even the police, unless he talks with her first. Ah, the mystery.
“They will find out, Donatella.”
“What – what will they find out?”
Donatella is working to make sure her brother’s legacy isn’t tarnished, among other things. She wants to make sure the family controls things, wishing to keep the company private. She doesn’t trust anybody else.
The manhunt for Cunanan is on. They’re able to track down an address from a transaction in a pawn shop. SWAT bears down on the apartment, but there’s only a guy called Ronnie (Max Greenfield) there; no Andrew. The killer’s out wearing nice clothes, walking the streets of Miami and proud.
An out of this world premiere for The Assassination of Gianni Versace. Shaping up to be an amazing season. Really excited for more. “Manhunt” – appropriate title – is next week.