The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story: “A Random Killing” Season 2 Episode 3 Review

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If you’re like me—born in the early ’90s and thus not particularly aware of the circumstances surrounding Versace’s assassination—the killing of Lee Miglin probably does feel as random as the episode’s title would suggest upon an unbeknownst interpretation. But The Assassination of Gianni Versace has provided us with enough context in the first two episodes that we have more than an idea of what Andrew Cunanan was planning for Miglin. But it isn’t just Miglin’s killer that makes it feel less random. In fact, I’d argue the episode’s very purpose is to strip the supposed randomness out of murder entirely.

Lee and Marilyn Miglin (Mike Farrell and the exceptional Judith Light) were hardly nobodies. Lee’s proposed Skyneedle would have been an architectural feat had it been built, and Marilyn’s perfume line frequently put her in front of cameras. But for Cunanan, as Darren Criss continues to portray him, Miglin is almost the exact opposite type of figure to Versace. Both men have power, but one is deep in hiding, having never been kissed with any sort of passion from the sex he prefers, while the other lives openly, and engages in polyamory. Cunanan’s target of gay men in power escalates as his spree goes on, Versace naturally being the pinnacle of it all.

But despite being opposites, Miglin and Versace both represent age-old cliches: an openly gay fashion designer and a married closeted man. Last week’s episode ends with Cunanan maniacally claiming in a gay club that he can be anything. Well, a gay serial killer certainly isn’t a cliche, and this may be his self-given purpose in the world: eliminating the gay men in power, out or not, that have pigeon-holed themselves into lives that they may have let others write for them before they even had a chance to make a choice.

“A Random Killing” executes this point slightly messily, with the front half of the episode successfully giving dramatic weight to the second half, but also removing much of its tension. We know from the second Miglin answers Cunanan’s call that this is how he dies, and because the season is playing in reverse order, we know these events will lead to Cunanan killing another person later in the episode (the true “random killing,” as it were) in a moment of desperation as the cops start to close in on him. But even if the show isn’t as visually juicy or narratively tense, what it’s doing thematically is slowly revealing itself to be a fascinating idea worth chewing on. It helps that the season finally finds a place to emotionally resonate in this episode as well.

Which brings me to Judith Light. This woman has been terrific on Transparent for four seasons now, but her performance in the opening scenes of “A Random Killing” are downright intoxicating. The writing around her is top-notch as well, creating a support system between script and actor that finally reaches the heights of what was present throughout the entirety of People v. O.J. She gives weight to her husband’s death, but doesn’t neglect the nuance of a woman in grief realizing who her husband truly was. It’s subtle, but Light is exploring emotions here on a level that makes her an early contender for best performance of the year. She of course likely doesn’t have as large of role as the show moves past Miglin’s murder next week, presumably, but it’s one that will likely be felt in the remaining six episodes.

And so, the first Versace-less episode all but confirms that The Assassination of Gianni Versace isn’t about Versace at all, or his family for that matter. It’s about Cunanan building a dark destiny as a gay man, one not restrained by societal expectations of what a gay man can do with his life. It’s about what it means to have power in the gay community before we had been more normalized to the masses. This second outing for American Crime Story may not be as immediately enthralling as the first, and it certainly lacks the structural and emotional perfection of that season, but it’s on the precipice of a discussion that hasn’t been had on this scale before. And it sure feels like time to have it. Grade: A-

By Matt Dougherty

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