In “Manhunt,” an opening flashback takes us into the 1990s, where Gianni Versace (Edgar Ramirez) is diagnosed with a severe illness. They don’t dwell on the diagnosis, but it’s strongly hinted that Versace had HIV (his family has denied this, and “cancer of the ear” is called out in his Wikipedia entry). Considering ear cancer isn’t contagious, or particularly linked to one’s sexual proclivities, it’s interesting that, following the diagnosis, there’s a showdown between Antonio (Ricky Martin) and Donatella (Penelope Cruz), who seems to blame Antonio, and the couple’s apparently polyamorous lifestyle, for the situation. Gianni begs them to “be a family” as he attempts to regain his health.
We then return to the present (meaning 1997), where Antonio and Donatella are still locking horns as Versace is presented in an open casket and cremated.
We pull back a couple of months, in what we can assume will be a backward-spooling breadcrumb trail of the moments that led Andrew Cunanan (Darren Criss) to murder Versace. We see him stealing a license plate in a South Carolina Walmart parking lot and tearing down the highway, where a radio station he flips past mentions his own name in connection with the murder of Lee Miglin in Chicago. He blithely changes stations, singing exuberantly along with Laura Branigan’s “Gloria.” (“Gloria, you’re always on the run now / Running after somebody, you gotta get him somehow.”) He arrives in Miami, has an incredibly creepy conversation with the woman at the desk of a sleazy motel (“I’m a fashion student,” he gushes, “and I think Mr. Versace will find my conversation quite wonderful”). He bags a room and unpacks his gun. We see him try the locked gates of Versace’s palazzo on the waterfront. He buys a disposable camera and starts photographing the mansion, seemingly very focused on the gorgon detail on the gate. Back in his hotel, he studies the pictures.
The FBI shows up and the agents act really cagey with the South Beach police, refusing to clarify why they think Cunanan would be in Miami and oddly reluctant to accept help scouring the gay bars, clubs and beaches of the area.
Cunanan immediately hoovers up a buddy who knows where to score. Ronnie (Max Greenfield) is openly HIV positive, so Cunanan makes up a story about all the people he helped working at an AIDS initiative in San Diego. Then, he tops it off with the story of the time Gianni Versace proposed to him over dinner at Stars (a perfect detail, as anyone who was in the Bay Area in the 1990s can attest, right down to the fact that in his haughty description Cunanan slightly mispronounces the name of celebrity chef Jeremiah Tower). He picks up an older man on the beach and… teaches him a very difficult-to-watch lesson in submissiveness. The traumatized man calls 911, then hangs up.
We cut to a fashion show. Gianni complains that the models “look ill.” Donatella shows up, clears the room, and tries to convince him that he’s in danger of being a has-been. He stands his ground; the show’s a success and even his kind of insufferable sister has to concede that his standing up for his own style wasn’t wrong.
Cunanan and Ronnie get high in the hotel room. Ronnie tries to talk “Andy” into opening a florist’s kiosk while Cunanan wraps his face in duct tape, as he had done to the older man.
Antonio tries to talk Gianni into joining a threesome. Gianni sketches instead, pausing to watch them with an inscrutable expression. Later, Antonio says he “doesn’t want that anymore” and says he wants to marry Gianni.
In need of cash, Cunanan stops in at the pawnshop we saw in the season premiere and sells a gold coin. The shopkeeper (Cathy Moriarty) is immediately suspicious and looks at a wall of FBI Wanted flyers. (Gee, too bad the agents didn’t have any particular enthusiasm for distributing his picture.) After watching a fake Donatella trying to get into the house (“No, baby, I’m sorry,” Gianni calls from the balcony, “I can only handle one Donatella”), Cunanan rushes back to the hotel, gets his gun, tears down his serial-killer-standard wall mural of Versace pictures, and leaves Ronnie.
But Versace has left. He and Antonio go to a crowded club, Antonio repeats his marriage proposal. They leave just as Cunanan walks in. “What do you do?” a young man asks him.
“I’m a serial killer.”
Amy Glynn is a poet, essayist and fiction writer who really likes that you can multi-task by reviewing television and glasses of Cabernet simultaneously. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.