ACS: Versace Recap: “Ascent” Puts The Spotlight On Donatella

Credit: Ray Mickshaw/FX

After last week’s episode, Andrew Cunanan’s motive for being the way he is was hinted at but this week, we finally saw real truth as we delved even further back into Cunanan’s backstory and went back another year.

We also got the return of Gianni as he and Donatella shared quite the moment as his illness was making it difficult for him to work, and she was in a state of panic at trying to imagine a future without her big brother.

Gather ’round and let’s discuss “Ascent”.

Two Worlds, Same Struggle: Cunanan and Donatella are both struggling in their own ways. Cunanan is working at a dead end job in a pharmacy while Donatella is struggling to become the new face of Versace with her brother’s illness starting to take over. Donatella has Gianni in her corner: Even as her sketch becomes instantly sidelined in a meeting with designers, when she retreats to her brother, he fights for her. He knows she wants more and that she will have to become more in order to keep the brand afloat after he’s gone.

As for Cunanan, we get an early glimpse at how easily young Cunanan lies while at his job. Later on,  while flirting at a bar, he doesn’t do as well with the younger, hotter gay crowd as Jeffrey does, and it’s an older man who sidles up next to him at the bar. Cunanan ends up going home with the man, which worries his mother when he finally returns to her.

A Mother’s Mercy: Cunanan’s mother is the unexplored tragic figure in this show so far, so painfully pathetic and willing to indulge all of her son’s narcissism for the fantasy that he might achieve the better life he dreams of. He, in turn, treats her like garbage and even abuses her over some ice cream, which she accepts.

Sex For Money: Cunanan later takes it upon himself to try to become an escort, which fails at first for him. The woman in charge of the agency told him that people wouldn’t want to sleep with him because he’s Asian. Cunanan was shocked by that, which ultimately resulted him going out on his own and bagging his own clients.

All Eyes On House Versace: Meanwhile, Gianni is dressing Donatella, almost erotically, in the dress they designed, a dress that will finally allow her to take center stage. And when it’s finally revealed, on the red carpet of the 1996 Met Gala, all eyes are on her, the star for the first time. Donatella and Gianni’s victory over their dress and red carpet walk is short lived; the dress is too outrageous for women to wear off a runway, which leads to a fight between them. But their fight ends with mysterious, panicked hearing loss. Gianni has ear cancer. He has to leave Versace to recover in Miami, and Donatella has to take over the day-to-day operations of the company, ready or not.

The Ultimate Goal: Like Norman alluded to in a previous episode, Cunanan researched him like a mark, showing up at a French play in La Jolla because he knew he’d be there. When Norman meets Cunanan, he’s a young, charming theater lover with a Portuguese last name. Cunanan gets what he wants out of Norman and other clients in the end: a stipend and an expense account. The money is good enough that Cunanan can go back to his friends like a king, treating them all to dinner and drinks and then acting every part the philanthropic millionaire to a young David Madson, alone at the bar. Cunanan only returns home to get his things, with his mother begging to go with him, which leads him to hurt her.

A Life Changing Moment: Cunanan does end messing up though as his current sugar daddy Lincoln  breaks up with him over catching him with David, but when Cunanan comes to his home to protest in person, he sees he has already brought someone else home — a boy from the gay bar who claimed to be straight. When Lincoln reaches to reclaim the drink from the man’s hand, the man lunges and beats Lincoln to death with a nearby statue. The killer sees Cunanan. “He tried to kiss me!” the guy sputters. “I know,” Cunanan answers comfortably.

This leads him to reuniting with Norman, honoring Lincoln’s memory. Using a story David told him about wanting to build a home for his bullied friend in high school, Cunanan promises Norman he will build him a beautiful home where they can live together and be happy.

Quote of the night:

“This dress is not my legacy. You are.” – Gianni

Check out the promo for the next episode below!

Erika Negrón Rivera
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