a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

At first blush, I found myself bored with the next-to-last episode of “The Assassination of Gianni Versace.” It seemed trite, formulaic. Is this what we’ve been put through for nearly two months? The fact that now that we see him, it’s all another simple, ’50s. Freudian episode, Ep.8, “Creator/Destroyer,” or it could be called simply “Blame the Father.” Andrew Cunanan has been the REAL central character of this epic saga and now we finally have a reason for his murderous killing spree of 20 years ago. His father.He may have been molested by his own father. And to hear others tell it, there may have been priests, that priests plural, doing it to him, too.

But it’s all there in the story. Andrew is incredibly spoiled and doted upon by this rather slimy father Modesto “Pete” Cunanan. He is given the master bedroom to the new house they move into.

The mother has to sleep on the sofa.. He keeps caressing his son’s hair. He says to Andrew at one point “You’re a good boy. You don’t make a sound.” And then it moves in on the father and fades to black.  It’s subtle, but it’s there. The show’s creator Bryan Murphy and writer Tim Bob Smith have laid down all the clues, in a way they can be either ignored or acknowledged by the audience.

And he gives him a car when only 11 years old, according to the show, when Andrew had three older siblings who all could’ve driven it. His affection for his son almost seems obsessional. And more than explains Andrew love/hate relationships with the older men we see him constantly involved with. The master bedroom, which also had its own bath, was far away from the rest of the family’s sleeping quarters, so they wouldn’t “hear a sound.”

The great Filipino actor Jon Jon Briones is just brilliant as Andrew’s ne’er-do-well father. I saw him in an even sleazier role on Broadway last season in “Miss Saigon” belting a song that is incredibly apropos here, too, “The American Dream.”

Modesto, who used the name “Pete” in America, came to the U.S. via the Navy and afterwards ascended to the heights of stock broking at Merrill Lynch, before he began HIS precipitous slide to a low-rent brokerage house in San Diego. He fled the country as the F.B.I. came looking for him for embezzlement. Oh, and he regularly beat his hapless wife (a just right Joanna Adler),too.

He sold his family’s house out from under them and took off for Manila, the capital of the Philippines, leaving Andrew and his mother and his other three children with nothing. Everything was a fraud. A lie. It’s the traumatic episode of Andrew’s life.

Andrew follows him to the Philipines,but then is disgusted to find him hiding out & living in squalor.

After all this, and Darren Criss’ magnificent,astounding performance, one can’t but feel what  Criss has stated was his reason for taking on this complex, controversial role, “to create empathy.” He did. Bravo, Darren! You did it, man. Give that boy an Emmy.


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