The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story maintains its momentum in Episode Two by elaborating on what worked so well with last week’s episode. Like its predecessor, The People v. O.J. Simpson, Assassination offers incredible characterization as it unfolds its exposition through the clever use of flashbacks and present-day storytelling.
Darren Criss is the star of the show with his scene-stealing portrayal of serial killer Andrew Cunanan. Episode Two spends much more time getting to know him, and this ends up being both hypnotizing and traumatizing for the viewer. Criss’ Cunanan projects a special blend of iron confidence and crippling awkwardness. In some public scenes, we get the impression that he could sell bottled water to a fish; but in his private moments we can see him grappling with the fact that his world is unraveling as a nationwide manhunt closes in on him. Depending on the scene and his company, Criss’ character is sometimes unassuming, sometimes charming, or sometimes terrifying. I suggested in my previous review that Criss sometimes takes a page out of Christian Bale’s book when he portrayed Patrick Bateman in 2000’s American Psycho, and I was utterly delighted when Episode Two ended with a scene very similar to Bateman’s “misunderstood” night club conversations. One thing’s for sure: regardless of his inspirations, Criss is delivering an extremely engaging performance of an otherwise detestable character for this program.