The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story has transformed TV

Lynlee Derrick

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The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story has transformed TV

Infamous fashion designer Giovanni (Gianni) Versace, the founder of the runway brand Versace, did not die of natural causes; instead, he was shot twice in the head by Andrew Cunanan.

His momentous and monstrous murder, one with a story beyond his own self, is the exact focus of the significant second season of American Crime Story. The first season brought O.J. Simpson’s trial to life, and this second one has dug into the twisted trail of murders leading up to Versace’s death.

As someone who avidly devours hours of crime shows or unsolved mystery documentaries—more than what’s probably healthy—I was skeptical of the show The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story when it fell into my lap like a message from above.

Having only known about Versace from lumping it into runway fashion—which has had people actually wearing sleeping bags for shows, although it is something every teenager in high school has done before— I had not really been hooked on the show when I clicked to begin the first episode.

However, as I began the first episode “The Man Who Would Be Vogue,” my indifference to the show’s subject soon became irrelevant; I was a fish hooked on a line within the first fifteen minutes.

The opening scene shows Gianni Versace, played by Édgar Ramírez, going through his normal routine and looking out onto Miami Beach, Florida. On that very beach sits Andrew Cunanan, one of the main characters performed by Darren Criss, and without knowing the relation between the two characters yet, the spectacular shots convey an eerie bit of tension and discomfort switching from Versace’s lush mansion to Andrew’s walk through the beach.

With an odd introduction and no real understanding of the premise of the show, the first handful of minutes were off-putting to a casual viewer such as me. I was not alive when the murder took place in 1997, so I had no understanding of who was who or any connection to the killing.

Yet as I began to doubt the series—I’m as picky with shows as I am with food—Andrew shoots and kills Versace, and the series formally begins.

With such a blunt introduction of Versace’s death and no background or story provided beforehand, I presumed something ingenious had to be brewing in the storyline of the nine episodes like the best present under the tree. But to open the present, to understand the murder, I had to wait.

And to have the understanding of it all, the final puzzle piece, dangling at the final scene of the ninth episode was so worth it.

This series, one I had barely heard any chatter about, captured my full attention. Unlike other shows, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story wasn’t a show that could downgrade to being mere background noise as I completed a math worksheet; the show demanded to be seen, to be heard, and to be followed, and my mind ate it up.

Despite the name of the season being dedicated to Versace, the show follows the killer, Andrew, and the path that led him to Versace’s doorsteps with a gun in his hand.

Skipping around in time, from months before the murder to Andrew’s life as a kid, I didn’t find myself lost; instead, I was taking note of the way the show artfully demonstrated Andrew’s development. From friends calling out his behaviors to his own family providing a toxic environment, the show never outright says anything. Stunning scenes provided a peek into every character and relationship by showing instead of telling.

By showing Andrew’s mental instability, his flaws, his strained relationships, and his murders that gave him the title of a serial killer, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story captivated me. Every detail was thought-out, and the characters seemed to embody their roles, making me believe that the cast were the real people they were playing.

Darren Criss exudes confidence in his role. He is able to execute every line and action of the character of Andrew, falling down the hole that was Andrew’s mentality; Darren encapsulates all Andrew was, the need for fame and the instability, in a role that seems perfectly tailored for him. His acting alone was astonishing enough for me to play episode two without hesitation.

This pattern of falling into a trance from the visuals, the acting, and the plot itself lasted for every episode, and as the final one ended, I wanted another. Displaying Andrew Cunanan’s plummet into murdering five people was a fresh take in my perspective. The way the background of Andrew tied into the life Versace could have easily been a tangled mess instead of a cinematic masterpiece in my amateur critic eyes.

But with excellent acting, attention to detail, and just enough mystery to intrigue me—but not confuse—this season of American Crime Story has set the bar for the following shows I will inevitably watch. Watching the pieces all fall together in this story made it a much more bone-chilling watch than any news coverage of the crime.