FX’s American Crime Story
Season 2, Episode 9: “Alone”
Directed by Daniel Minahan
Written by Tom Rob Smith
* For a recap & review of the penultimate episode, “Creator/Destroyer” – click here
July 15th, 1997 in Miami Beach, Florida. Throw on some Ultravox.
Andrew Cunanan (Darren Criss) walks down the streets, seeing all those who have more than him, all those who’ve got the life he wanted, and still craves. He’s surrounded by humans, yet he is totally alone in the universe. Then he comes up to the Versace villa, finding Gianni (Édgar Ramirez) heading inside. So, Andrew fires, and kills right there.
A little later, the serial killer heads to a house where he breaks in. He finds a bottle of champagne, then sits down watching coverage of the murder he committed on live television. He’s already “the suspect,” but more than that, his face is right next to that of Versace’s in the media. He has ultimately arrived, in a sense. All the same, again – he’s all alone, and he has nobody with which to enjoy his perceived fame.
Jump over to Tampa, where we catch up with Mrs. Marilyn Miglin (Judith Light). She gets a visit from the FBI. They tell her about Gianni’s assassination and the involvement of Cunanan, linked to the death of her husband Lee. “When will this end?” she asks them with so much weariness it’s breathtaking; not in a good way, either. Poor Marilyn laments the fact law enforcement had “two months” to find Cunanan, and now here he is, continuing to kill. The FBI wants her to leave Florida. Of course she refuses to hide from her husband’s killer.
American Crime Story has done a precision job of getting to the core of the issues in both its seasons: Season 1 tackled, above all else, racism in many forms, and no Season 2 does just as fine a job with touching on the societal hostility towards gay men, specifically during the ’90s. Each season’s likewise brought in the concept of fame and celebrity, too. All serial killers are scary. However, there’s something especially terrifying about the ones who do it solely for fame, which is a relatively modern concept; when we get into post-modernity, regarding fame and media in the past 25 years, it’s a whole new ballgame.
On the news, Andrew sees that his mother Mary Ann (Joanna Adler) is being questioned by the FBI currently. This is another sad aspect of the serial killer: their parents. As opposed to papa Modesto, mama Mary Ann is just another parent – often it’s the mother – caught up in a hideous storm of their child’s horror, so to see her being hounded by other citizens and the media is kind of upsetting.
Ronnie (Max Greenfield) is hauled in by Dt. Lori Wieder (Dascha Polanco) and Dt. George Navarro (José Zúñiga) looking for information about Cunanan. They don’t exactly get much other than the realisation of how gay men are treated in America. Although we can’t blame it all on society, there are huge, devastating consequences to making homosexuals stay forcibly in the closet, for fear of violence or ridicule (or both + more). And Cunanan is a microcosm of the issue; a violent, brutal microcosm. Ronnie makes clear to the cops his old pal’s not hiding. Rather, Andrew is very much trying to “be seen.”
The serial killer’s hiding, though only literally. He’s looking for any way to escape and get back on the run possible. It’s just difficult when your face is plastered everywhere and an FBI manhunt is bearing down on him. Everywhere Andrew turns there are LEOs, from one agency or another.
“You were disgusted by him long before he became disgusting“
On the news, Liz (Annaleigh Ashford) pleads for Andrew to give himself over peacefully, and she tells him she remembers him, not the media’s portrayal of him. Simultaneously, Trail and Madson are being discussed in the media, and Madson’s father is out there trying to make sure his son’s memory is honoured.
There’s something so terribly pathetic about watching Andrew scramble for food, finding only dog food. Such a stark contrast from when he was dining on the finest things on one of his sugar daddy’s dimes. He was never rich. But he’s still fallen from a pedestal on which he placed himself. He did have wealth and power, if only fleetingly, and due to his sexual relationships with older men, and here is now, eating dog food from a can.
Also poignant juxtaposition seeing Andrew watch Marilyn on TV. She talks about struggling to get where she is now, and building herself up from nothing. Cunanan’s nothing like Marilyn; he took an easy, bloody path instead of working honestly to build his personal American Dream.
In Manila, Modesto gets a call from Andrew. Yes, you guessed it already, dad’s trying to make every last dollar off his relationship to his son, getting requests for interviews. Modesto claims he’s going to come find his son, “hug” and “hold” him. Y’know, like a good dad after all these years. That’s not actually what’ll happen. Soon, Andrew hears Modesto on TV, denying his son’s homosexuality and calling him the “perfect boy.” He goes on lying, too, and proving to his son that he won’t be coming to get him. Beating home the nail in the coffin of their relationship, as Modesto claims they talked about movie rights to Andrew’s life story. Dad, again, is only trying to make a buck.
Jump to July 22nd, 1997, when Gianni is being laid to rest. Antonio D’Amico (Ricky Martin) and Donatella Versace (Penélope Cruz) are left in the wake of his death, wondering how to move on. Big problems arise when Donatella suggests things won’t be how Antonio and Gianni envisioned they would: “Today is the day for saying goodbye.” What’s most evident within this scene is how there was nothing left for Antonio after the death of his lover. He has no rights to anything, as someone who was Gianni’s partner for many years. If Gianni had a wife, you can be sure it would not have been that way for her. So it’s a commentary, once more, on the state of the lives of gay people in America, as opposed to the societal privilege of being straight. Seeing Tony sit there during the funeral as the Catholic priest doesn’t mention him as one of the “loved ones” left behind is heart wrenching. Worse is the priest won’t even touch his hand as he does with the rest of the family.
Andrew gets a surprise, when the landlord of the house where he’s squatting shows up. The old guy has a gun with him. The killer fires a shot, sending the man fleeing. Then begins a standoff between Andrew and the police after a call goes out. Cunanan not only sees the news, he can already hear the helicopters overhead. He’s soon totally surrounded.
The cops and the FBI try contacting Andrew inside, but he refuses to talk. He sits inside the house, watching the coverage of himself. People remember him as an “affable young man” instead of a serial killer. This doesn’t last long. The FBI’s SWAT team enter the home with smoke and weapons at the ready. In the bedroom, Cunanan puts a gun in his mouth while staring himself down in the mirror. He pulls the trigger.
We see him flash back to the moment between him and Versace on that stage together, talking about being special, “destiny,” and everything in between. Andrew all but begged to be part of Gianni’s life. And the answer was no. After that it was all downhill for the soon-to-be serial killer.
And so ended the horrific saga, for all involved. Marilyn gets word of her husband’s killer’s death, glad it’s all over. She also starts discovering more about Lee, who was living not just a secret life as a man conflicted with his sexuality, but also one of philanthropy.
In Italy, Donatella talks about Gianni calling her the day he was murdered. She was annoyed with him then refused to pick up when he called back. So much sadness left in the wake of her brother’s death. Meanwhile, Tony is preparing to swallow a bottle of pills in order to drown his own sadness. And one tragedy begets another, though luckily Tony didn’t actually die; he was, however, left alone, just as Donatella felt in her own right after losing Gianni.
The biggest realisation is that Versace touched many lives, both privately and publicly, from his sister, to his lover, to his eventual murderer. Unfortunately, even if Andrew’s tucked away in some warehouse of the dead, relatively obscure, his name lives on synonymous with Versace, when all he did was kill the man. American Crime Story‘s best feat is to not simply look at societal issues of race and gender (etc), but also to examine the role of the media, and how – as we still see today with mass shooters – the killers of history are often just as glorified as their victims, celebrity or not.
Can’t wait for a Season 3.