The bloody Andrew Cunanan saga reaches its conclusion

By Dana Schwartz
March 21, 2018 at 11:19 PM EDT
Ray Mickshaw/FX
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It’s finally back to the beginning, the titular assassination. Remember Andrew Cunanan in a red baseball cap? Remember Gianni Versace bleeding out on his stairs, flanked by doves?

The second time, the assassination is shot almost like a music video: quickly paced, and in tempo. It’s more like a dance than a murder. The same is true of Cunanan’s breaking and entering of a Miami houseboat, where he pops champagne for himself and begins watching news coverage (focused on him, of course) on bigger and bigger screens until it’s finally projected onto the wall. It’s all almost choreographed — a perfect encapsulation of Ryan Murphy’s overly stylized style. A man on television remarks how he saw Versace’s head blown off just as the cap pops off the champagne. Cunanan descends into giggling hysterics. “Oh my god,” Cunanan says to himself when he hears his name on the news. He swings a massive silk scarf around his neck like a movie star, and lounges on a balcony chair. He looks like he’s pretending to be famous.

Lee Miglan’s wife, Marilyn, is informed that Versace was also killed by the suspect in her husband’s murder. “When will this end?” she says. “How many more are going to die?” Barely restraining her fury, she makes the most pointed case of the show: The police had months to find Cunanan, and they didn’t.

Ronnie makes the same point when he’s brought in for questioning. “Hiding? He wasn’t hiding. He was partying. The other cops: They weren’t searching so hard, were they? Why is that? Because he killed a bunch of nobody gays?” Ronnie finally gives the show’s thesis: “Andrew is not hiding. He’s trying to be seen.”

And now that the victim is famous, the police hunt has tightened. Cunanan can’t get out of the city with checkpoints set up to catch him. And so he flings his car keys into the ocean and screams — he’s famous, finally, but he’s also completely important. He is the bug trapped under a glass.

Cunanan sneaks onto a boat and eats stolen tortillas, barricading himself in the bedroom when a woman hears him onboard, and running away when he hears her tell someone to call the cops. He watches them arrive from his houseboat hiding spot, where he also watches Lizzie on TV talking about him, imploring him to end the standoff and give himself in. “The Andrew Cunanan I know is not a violent person. I know that the most important thing in the world is what others think of you.”

Cunanan’s mother watches television from under a blanket and lets the police in through a latched door. “Have you killed my son?” she says, voice soft as a ghost.

Starving, living on nothing but cable news and garbage, Cunanan succumbs to eating dog food. “Dad, I’m in trouble,” he cries on the phone to his father. His dad promises to fly in and come and get him.

“Twenty-four hours,” his dad says. “I will find you, and I will hug you, and I will hold you in my arms, and it will all be okay.” He promises again to come, and tells him to pack some clothes and be ready to leave as soon as he arrives.

And then Cunanan sees his father on television, talking about Cunanan’s innocence, telling them that they talked on the phone — to discuss movie rights to his life. Cunanan shoots the screen. He is fully alone.

Meanwhile, Antonio learns that the homes on Lake Cuomo where Versace told him he could stay are actually owned by the company, not Gianni. Donatella tells him he can take some time to stay there after the funeral. “And after that?” he asks. She tells him that it’s time for them to start a new life.

Eyes wide, Cunanan watches Princess Diana and Elton John parade into Versace’s lavish funeral. He sings along in falsetto with the church choir, eyes to heaven. He shaves his head, kneeling before the mirror.

Eventually, the police surround the houseboat and completely cut Cunanan off. Cunanan grabs his gun and hides in his bedroom, quietly sitting next to the childhood version of himself, and then, alone again. The police cut the power and deploy smoke bombs. They force their way in.

Cunanan takes off his glasses, cocks his gun, and shoots himself in the mouth after looking at himself in the mirror one last time.

Finally, we see the end of his interaction onstage with Versace — a polite rejection, a fundamental difference of understanding on the nature of art. Cunanan’s act, his charm, didn’t work on Versace. “Another night,” Versace says. “Another stage.”

Gianni’s remains are at a Lake Cuomo altar, gilded, surrounded by candles. Cunanan gets an anonymous block in an endless mausoleum. The final shot speeds away, his final resting place disappearing into anonymity.

The show was ambitious, beautiful, and impossible to look away from. Its conversations on the nature of fame and ego and homosexuality in the early 90’s were far more interesting in Cunanan’s story than in Versace’s — the latter’s plotlines were far thinner. But Andrew Cunanan is one of television’s most terrifying and memorable villains, a fully unique character equal parts tragic and despicable.

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