Updated: Feb 5, 2020
On Feb. 14, approximately 900,000 Americans spent their Valentine’s Day watching the fifth and so-far-best episode of The Assassination of Gianni Versace, the second season of the true crime anthology American Crime Story. For fans of American Horror Story, the series has some of the same producers and follows the same structure: stand-alone seasons dramatically chronicling based-on-true events (though, by nature, ACS is more heavily rooted in truth).
For its first season, the show followed the alleged crimes and the trial of O. J. Simpson, receiving critical acclaim, a 97% score on web-based review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes and nine Emmy Awards. ACS’s second season maintains the high quality of casting, writing and directing, though it details a crime much less well-known. Though the season is titled The Assassination of Gianni Versace, Versace’s murder is only the peak of a fascinating crime narrative. For fans of Glee or A Very Potter Musical, Darren Criss is easily spotted in a career-defining role, starring as serial killer Andrew Cunanan, around whom the season is arguably centered. This is a crucial line to toe for any producer of a crime drama: the danger of celebrating or otherwise glorifying gruesome crimes and the criminal behind them.
This season of ACS is set—for the most part—chronologically in reverse; viewers learn of a crime, receive its immediate context, and then spend a greater portion of the episode (or several) learning more about the greater context of the crime—specifically, an extensive and earnest portrait of the victim. For example, the end of the fourth episode, “House by the Lake,” details the killer’s patterns and motivations contributing to the murder of one Jeff Trail, and the fifth episode, “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” is an emotionally riveting journey through Trail’s entire life, not just his death. Thus, the series placates the gore-obsessed crime-gawkers of the public while also shifting what the narrative of a true crime series can be: one which celebrates life, commemorates loss and carefully observes the fascinating true crimes of American history. ACS airs on Wednesdays at 10pm on FX.
By Mimi Mays, Staff Writer