‘American Crime Story’ Review: ‘Alone’ Brings the Story to an End
Posted on Thursday, March 22nd, 2018 by Chris Evangelista
This week’s American Crime Storyreview takes a look at the latest (and final) episode of The Assassination of Gianni Versace, “Alone.” Spoilers follow.
No Way Out
Time has run out for Andrew Cunanan. After committing one murder after another with ease and seemingly no danger of being caught, Andrew’s luck has finally run out due to his murder of Versace.
The final episode of American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace is all about the end. Here is the culmination of it all. The final weary days in the short, destructive life of Andrew Cunanan. There’s no catharsis here. No sense of release. Instead, there’s a sense that if Andrew was given the chance to do it all over again, he’d probably do everything exactly the same.
After weeks of episodes moving backwards, we finally arrive where we started: with Andrew gunning down Versace on the steps of Versace’s Miami mansion. But unlike Andrew’s other murders – which, aside from the murder of Lee Miglin, attracted very little attention – this one is markedly different. Cop cars are everywhere, speeding through the Miami streets at night. News coverage splashes tabloid-like headlines left and right.
Andrew retreats to a seemingly abandoned houseboat and watches the result of his work on multiple TVs. He seems elated at first – even when the news anchors report him as a suspect. He’s famous now; he’s changed the world. He celebrates by popping open a bottle of champagne. Later, he’ll watch Versace’s televised funeral with reverence and even a little pride. Versace’s funeral is filled with celebrities – Princess Diana, Elton John, Naomi Campbell – and they’re all there because of something Andrew did.
The celebration is short lived. When Andrew tries to get out of Miami, he finds roadblocks at every turn. The police are leaving no stone unturned. He’s trapped. With no one left to turn to, Andrew frantically places a call to his father, Modesto.
Modesto, never one to miss an opportunity, has been selling interviews to the press ever since it was revealed Andrew was the killer. When Andrew calls, he assures his son that he’ll come to America and whisk him off to safety. Andrew, who has apparently learned nothing, believes him. He packs up some things and waits, hopeful that his father will be there in 24 hours.
But his father never shows. Instead, Andrew catches Modesto on the news, mugging for the camera, insisting this is all some mix-up because his son isn’t a homosexual, and revealing that he’s talked to Andrew on the phone.
For Andrew, this is the final nail in the coffin. He knows it’s hopeless now. No one is going to come save him. Soon, police have discovered his location and have him surrounded. With nowhere left to turn, Andrew places his gun in his mouth, sparing one last look at his reflection in a mirror before pulling the trigger.
While anyone who happened to read the Wikipedia entry for Andrew Cunanan knew where this was all going, there are still a few surprises in the final episode, “Alone.” For one thing, Judith Light returns as Marilyn Miglin, widow of Andrew’s victim Lee Miglin. Marilyn just happens to be in Miami during these events, filming a new commercial for her latest perfume. She seems to sum up the feelings of everyone involved here when she says that all she wants is for this to be over. She’s sick of having her good name attached to Andrew Cunanan, and she wants nothing more than for people to stop associating her, and her husband, with Andrew and his actions.
Meanwhile, in Milan, Donatella Versace is trying to put things in order following the murder of her brother. She’s still wrought with grief – in an emotional scene, delivered with a real sense of sorrow by Penélope Cruz – Donatella reveals that on the day Versace was murdered, he tried to call her, and she deliberately ignored the call.
Donatella also has to contend with Antonio, who is also grieving. But Antonio’s grief is treated as something secondary, and Donatella isn’t interested in helping him out. Versace’s will left Antonio with a pension of 50 million lira a month for life, and the right to live in any of Versace’s homes. But the properties Versace left actually belonged to the company, not Versace himself. As a result, he’s cut out. He has no home now. In one of the most cringe-worthy scenes in the episode, the priest at Versace’s funeral goes down a line, offering comfort to everyone in Versace’s family, but deliberately skips Antonio. By the time the episode has ended, Antonio has tried to kill himself – but failed.
All of these surviving individuals – Marilyn Miglin, Donatella, Antonio – are searching for some sort of closure. They want to subscribe to the French proverb “What you lose in the fire, you will find amongst the ashes.” But there’s no real closure here. No sense of completion.
Yes, Antonio survives his suicide attempt. But he’s still cut-out of all things Versace. Yes, Donatella inherits her brother’s empire, but her grief is overwhelming. Yes, Marilyn takes comfort in the fact that the man who murdered her husband is now dead, but she’ll still forever be tied to Andrew and his actions. After the dust has settled, we see Marilyn pouring over letters sent in offering condolences. Letters from young men Lee clearly had affairs with. She can take comfort in these condolences, but she also has to contend with the fact that Lee lied to her throughout his entire life.
And what of Andrew Cunanan? Did he have a moment of clarity in those moments before he pulled the trigger and blew his brains all over the wall of a houseboat bedroom? A realization of where he went wrong? A sense of remorse for his actions? According to American Crime Story, the answer is no.
At the moment Andrew kills himself, we flashback to the (possibly fictional) evening Andrew spent with Versace. There, standing on the stage at the opera with Versace, Andrew says he’s been waiting his whole life for someone to tell him he’s special, and that all he’s ever wanted to do is persuade other people that he’s capable of doing something great.
“But it’s not about persuading people that you’re going to do something great,” Versace says. “It’s about doing it.”
Andrew is puzzled by this response – he doesn’t get it. All he wants is for someone to just tell him he’s special without having actually done anything to merit it. He begs to be made Versace’s assistant, but Versace politely turns him down. Versace tells Andrew that one day, he’ll understand. But Andrew never will. He’ll spend the rest of his short, violent life continually trying to prove to everyone that he’s special. And while he will certainly make headlines, he’ll also leave nothing behind worth celebrating.
In the end, “Alone” juxtaposes the locations of the earthly remains of Gianni Versace and Andrew Cunanan. Versace’s ashes are housed in a veritable temple; a shrine to his greatness, located in a picturesque location. Andrew body, meanwhile, is tucked away in some mausoleum somewhere, among rows and rows of other people, forgotten. Just one nearly anonymous body in a sea of thousands.
After a few wishy-washy episodes, “Alone” ends The Assassination of Gianni Versace on a high note (although high note perhaps isn’t the right term for such a depressing episode). Director Gwyneth Horder-Payton captures the sinking feeling washing over Andrew perfectly. In one haunting scene, Andrew is visited by the younger version of himself. The young Andrew watches the TV coverage of the adult Andrew’s deeds, a slight, eerie smile on his face. In another scene, Andrew watches Marilyn Miglin’s infomercial as Horder-Payton has the camera push-in on his blank face, effectively pushing the audience into his headspace.
This season of American Crime Story wasn’t entirely successful. The backwards-moving narrative never quite worked, and resulted in a somewhat uneven season, where the bulk of the action happened very early and left a few episodes spinning their wheels. Yet for all its flaws, The Assassination of Gianni Versace still made for some intriguing, captivating television.
While the backwards narrative didn’t quite gel, it did enable Versace to pull a clever bait-and-switch on the audience. At first, we go in thinking this will be just another true crime saga. But what it really turns into is a compelling character study and also a story of how society treats queer people.
Darren Criss’ portrayal of Andrew Cunanan is exemplary. The actor brought the character to life, and while some of the writing could’ve easily turned Andrew into something close to parody, Criss’ performance walked a tightrope and balanced it all.
Other MVPs of the season: Ricky Martin turned in a surprisingly soulful performance as Versace’s lover Antonio D’Amico, particularly in this final episode. The moments where Antonio realizes he’s being cut loose from all things Versace are handled with appropriate panic and confusion by Martin. Penélope Cruz also shines this season, and in this final episode in particular. While there were times when the writing felt as if it was bending over backwards to find ways to insert Donatella into the story, Cruz always managed to play the part with grace and just the appropriate amount of over-dramatic flourishes.
Next up for American Crime Story: a season that tackles the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina, featuring Dennis Quaid as George W. Bush. While that may not stand out as your typical “true crime” narrative, it’s going to be fascinating to see how the series tells this story. Just as the first season of American Crime Story used its true crime angle to tell a story about racism in America, and this second season was primarily about the way society treats queer individuals, I’m sure the Katrina season will have its own social message buried within the narrative. We’ll have to wait to see how that plays out.
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