'The Assassination of Gianni Versace': American Crime Story Exceeded All My Expectations

After the massive success of its first season, American Crime Story had a lot to live up to when it announced that their second season would delve deep into the backstory of the assassination of fashion designer Gianni Versace, following both Versace and his killer, Andrew Cunanan, on their journeys to become the men they became. The cast is weighted heavily with high caliber actors such as Darren Criss in the lead role of Cunanan, Edgar Ramírez as Versace, Ricky Martin as Versace’s partner Antonio D’Amico, and Penélope Cruz as Donatella Versace.

The Assassination of Gianna Versace: American Crime Story was broken up into nine episodes that actually begin with the assassination and proceed to travel backward in time. While Versace is the namesake of the series, the show really follows Cunanan as he descends from being the favored prodigy child of an immigrant family to a manic, mentally ill serial killer with a proclivity for fabricating life details to become the person he wishes he were. The series most definitely takes creative liberties with the story since most of the real Andrew Cunanan’s life is a complete mystery. He left nearly no personal possessions when he died—he committed suicide just before the police could bring him into custody—and there was no clear, foolproof reason for his killings. The only common thread was that every man he killed was gay.

Something that the show does excellently is its commentary on the way the manhunt for Andrew Cunanan was directed and the broader conversation of acceptance of the LGBT+ community in the 90s. Cunanan, both in the show and in the real world, never hid from the police. Even while he was one of the top individuals on the FBI’s Most Wanted List Andrew continued to live his life as he bounced from city to city, usually starting relationships with older gay men to mooch off their fortunes. If the FBI really worked as hard as they said they were, Cunanan should have been captured long before he had the chance to kill some of his victims. The last episode does an amazing job of bringing this issue to light by utilizing the wife of Andrew’s fourth victim, Lee Miglin.

Darren Criss (left) and the real Andrew Cunanan (right) // Courtesy: Hollywood Life

The star of this series, amongst all its positives, is the incredible performance by Darren Criss. Known primarily for his role as Blaine Anderson on Glee, Darren Criss is not a name that would normally be associated with dramatic roles or high-profile roles. That is not the case anymore, however, as Criss brought Andrew Cunanan to life in the most chilling of ways. While it is clear that Andrew is mentally ill and the killings he commits are gruesome and horrific there were times while I was watching that I felt myself actually feel bad for him. Criss plays him with so much compassion and emotion that instead of just receiving the one note of crazy serial killer you see a young man with a whole lot of wasted potential. This is definitely the best thing Darren Criss has acted in to date and if he does not win the Emmy for Best Actor this world is officially a mess.

The Assassination of Gianni Versace, in the full scheme of things, blew me away. I didn’t have any strong expectations going into the series—other than I knew I was promised a lot of naked Darren Criss—and I was sucked further and further into the story with each episode. The story was told in a unique and interesting way, the production was phenomenal and the acting was overall superb. I would definitely recommend this to anyone.

Rating: A+