Darren Criss’ butt! American Crime Story knew this heavy season was getting me down and brought me back to life with Darren Criss’ butt. The former Glee actor has been very generous with his rear end, and this is actually the second time we’ve seen it naked in a mere six episodes.
ACS also nurtured me this week by having people who knew Andrew Cunanan (Darren Criss) read his (less literal) ass to filth. At the beginning of the episode, we learn that Cunanan has been living as a kept man with his older partner, Norman (Michael Nouri), in San Diego. We find out that Cunanan met Norman right after he’d lost his partner to an AIDS-related illness, which fits with Cunanan’s pattern of preying on the desperate but highly successful. I think Norman’s friend said it all when he dragged Cunanan and said he’s “too lazy to work, and too proud to be kept.”
In fact, the sassy gay friend is right about everything. Normally, I’d take issue with him being a trope, but the truth is this is a bigger story with multiple nuanced characters, so it’s not immediately time to sound the think-piece alarms. He played the role of almost an omniscient god character, which is intensified by the fact that Cunanan is forced to spar with him immediately after doing “coke.“
The party is risky because it brings all of Cunanan’s lies and personas out into the open, and it’s clear he’s been a lot of different versions of himself to different people. We glimpse his internal conflict and possible shame when his friend asks him, “Are you officially gay now?,” and he awkwardly replies, “You know I don’t like labels.” His reluctance to tell his female friend he is sleeping with the older man is translucently thin, and she reads his ass more gently when she asks him, “Who are you trying to be?”
I see why she’d ask. The red flags in this episode were overwhelming. Cunanan has his friends help him lie, be different people, and give him fake presents, and guilts reluctant people like poor Jeff Trail (Finn Wittrock) saying, “I’ve helped you… with countless guys. It cements that there were signs Cunanan was unhinged a year before any violence, but everyone kept meeting him at times when they were low so they thought they couldn’t say anything. I was sadly reminded of the older man he almost suffocated in an earlier episode.
It’s depressing because you know Cunanan’s tricks of making his life seem impressive did work, or at least they worked on David Madson (Cody Fern) at first. Norman seemed less naive, and when he finally has his moment to call Cunanan on his bullshit, he doesn’t hold back, but he’s also not especially cruel. When he and Cunanan are arguing on the patio, it’s so much like a father and son fight. It’s not because Norman is weird, but because Cunanan is such a petulant child. When he yelled, “It’s ordinary!” at a man offering to pay for his college, I was infuriated.
Cunanan thinks he’s keeping all these secrets so well, but time and time again people know exactly what he’s up to. When he says, “Do you know that I probably lost the love of my life by living with you?,” Norman answers right away that he knows he’s talking about Madson. I thought it was painful how Cunanan’s friends, Trails and Madson immediately liked each other, which should make Andrew more sympathetic, but NO ONE GETS TO MURDER ANYONE, NO MATTER HOW HEARTBROKEN THEY ARE.
We get to see Cunanan’s temper and lack of self-control flare up a lot in this episode. I was shocked when he broke Norman’s glass table. The older gentleman owes Cunanan nothing and offers him a good deal. I can’t help but think Cunanan wildly overestimates his market value, even Jeff Trails says, “You had a good thing there.”
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