American Crime Story’s enthralling first season which followed the 1995 trial of O.J. Simpson went on to win 9 Emmy Awards including Best Limited Series. What was truly fascinating about ‘The People VS. O.J. Simpson’ was the storytelling which not only focused on key players like O.J., the defence and the prosecutors, but also the jurors and the community.
And taking the very same story-telling method a notch higher, Ryan Murphy in the later episode of ‘The Assassination of Gianni Versace’ shows the narrative of the first three victims of Andrew Cunanan played by Darren Criss. The show’s ability to have the audience hooked and still interested in the series without its title character, who is largely absent from the action, is commendable.
Recommended Read: American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace – Fact or Fiction?
As Episode 3: A Random Killing focuses on the murder of second most high profile murder of a Chicago real estate developer, Lee Miglin’s family denied rumours of him and Cunanan knowing each other before the murder. However, as per the show, Miglin played by Mike Farrell invites Cunanan over to his house while his wife, Marilyn Miglin is away on a business trip. Investigators of the homicide too believed there to be a connection between Miglin and Cunanan. “Why would Cunanan go to Chicago, find Miglin, and torture him without some motive?” investigator Todd Rivard of the Chicago County Sheriff’s Department said. This explains why there were no signs of forced entry and no defensive wounds found in Miglin’s autopsy report.
Later in the episode, Cunanan drives to New York in the Lexus and then almost immediately heads south. On the road, he hears over the car radio that the police are able to track his movements through the car’s phone. Cunanan, realizing he has to ditch the Lexus, spots a red pickup truck and trails the driver, William Reese, to the Finn’s Point National Cemetery, a Civil War memorial where he is the caretaker. There Cunanan shoots Reese point blank and steals the truck.
The fourth episode: House by the Lake, backtracks the killings of Cunanan’s to his first victim Jeff Trail and Cunanan’s then-boyfriend, David Madson. American Crime Story executive producer Brad Simpson in a recent interview said, “Tom Rob Smith, the writer, had to invent a lot of what had happened based on what we knew from the crime scene and we knew about Andrew and David. We know there was this murder, and then we know they were in a car together, and we know that David begged for his life at the end. But we had to fill in what might have happened during that time.”
And while in reality, many neighbours reported the two taking their dog out for a walk, the narrative almost seemed like Stockholm Syndrome which would explain why David did not escape.
However, there’s no record of the two ever being seen together at a bar, diner or even in Madson’s jeep after leaving Minneapolis. It’s unknown why Cunanan took his time before killing Madson. It was up to Tom Rob Smith’s script and some impressive acting from both Criss and relative newcomer Cody Fern to fill in all the blanks there.
If any viewer had any sympathy or affection for Cunanan up until this point, these episodes strip that away entirely. He is terrifying and merciless, and downright cruel.
The life and death of Jeff Trail will be the focus of next week’s episode. The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story season 2 is currently streaming on HotStar.