The Assassination of Gianni Versace Episode 7 Spotlights Penelope Cruz's Donatella
Given that Gianni Versace has ended up as a supporting character in the series named after him, it’s perhaps inevitable that Donatella Versace has felt like a guest star at best. But Penelope Cruz finally gets her spotlight moment in tonight’s episode, as Gianni persuades Donatella to model a daring new Versace dress she co-designed. Later, Donatella is forced to take over the company as her brother's health declines.
Meanwhile, we see more from Andrew Cunanan's origin story, starting with Cunanan working as a humble drugstore clerk but dreaming of a more glamorous life—one he successfully cons his way into by the end of the episode.
Here are five talking points from Episode 7 ofThe Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, "Ascent."
1) Donatella really did wear that iconic dress in 1993.
Donatella has a vision of “a dress as a weapon”—making literal the idea that women wield fashion in order to get what they want—and she and Gianni create a stunning dress that incorporates steel and harness motifs to reflect this idea. The siblings working together has an extra layer of poignancy, because at this stage, Gianni is very sick, and believes that this dress may be the last one he ever makes.
Determined to push Donatella to grow into more than an assistant role, Gianni insists that she should be the one to debut it at the gala. “This is perfect for Naomi,” she exclaims, referring to supermodel Naomi Campbell. But Gianni insists Donatella wear it, and even though she's convinced she'll look absurd, she absolutely kills it at the event. The dramatic moment of her posing in the dress with Gianni generates a huge amount of buzz for the brand and draws attention away from Gianni’s declining health. And even though there’s some snarky coverage, Donatella is thrilled.
2) Versace’s HIV status is once again addressed without being fully addressed.
As was the case in Episode 2, this episode walks a very fine line in its dialogue about Versace’s health. Maureen Orth claims in her book, , that Versace was HIV positive, but the Versace family has always vigorously denied that. Here, Gianni is in a foul mood, flying into fits of rage at the drop of a hat, and it soon transpires that he believes he’s dying—and he’s understandably furious. Though his disease is never named, it’s clear it’s something without an easy cure; after he’s been especially vicious to Donatella, Antonio tells him, “You don’t have time to be cruel.” Later in the episode, Gianni struggles to hear anything during a sales meeting. He ends up taking a leave of absence from the company because he’s become so sick, and Donatella explains to her concerned employees that Gianni has developed a rare form of ear cancer (which was also referred to in Episode 2).
3) Long before he’d had a taste of the high life, Andrew Cunanan was obsessed with getting the best of everything.
Andrew is still living at home at this point, and his poor, unstable mother makes the mistake of buying store-brand vanilla icecream instead of the Häagen-Dazs he likes. This prompts a full-blown tantrum, and a lengthy explanation of why that Danish-sounding name was made up by the company’s American founders. Clearly, Andrew’s already taking mental notes on how easy it is to win through branding and subterfuge.
There is some love in this mother-son dynamic; she clearly adores him, and he’s affectionate to her too, promising that he will take her with him when he ascends to greatness. But when he actually claims to have hit the big time, and makes plans to leave home to travel the world with Gianni Versace, he tells her she can’t come with him. She won’t let it drop—it seems like Andrew got some of his relentless pushiness from her—and in the end, he pushes her against a wall and injures her in a horrifying scene.
In other news, when Mrs. Cunanan asks Andrew whether he’s drunk, he responds: “Drunk on dreams,” which is a great response that I will certainly be using myself in the future.
4) Andrew’s greatest fear is being rejected.
“For me, being told 'no' is like being told I don’t exist,” Andrew reveals to Jeff Trail—who's still his good friend at this point in time—in a self-reflective moment. Ironically, we then see him summarily rejected by an escort agency. The no-nonsense owner unceremoniously asks Andrew for his attributes, his measurements, and his ethnicity—and balks when he gives the honest answer that he is Filipino-American. “This is about being what people want,” she says flatly. “I can’t sell a clever Filipino, even one with a big dick.” Stung but undeterred, Andrew tells her he’ll sellhimselfin that case—and does so pretty successfully.
5) Andrew meets both the love of his life—and the sugar daddy of his life—in this episode.
There’s a lot happening here. Andrew gets dressed up in a tux and goes to the theater by himself, where he successfully draws the attention of Norman Blachford, the sugar daddy whose relationship with Andrew we saw souring in last week’s episode. But at this early stage, it’s actually Norman’s friend Lincoln Aston whom Andrew ends up in a “relationship" with. In exchange for effectively being a 24/7 callboy who will hook Norman up with the San Diego gay social scene, Andrew demands a weekly allowance and an expense account.
But Lincoln tires of this arrangement pretty fast and cuts Andrew off—and shortly afterwards, Lincoln is murdered by a drifter he picks up in a gay bar. While Lincoln’s murder and the alleged circumstances are all apparently true to life, Andrew witnessing the murder and allowing the killer to escape are clearly a fictionalization. But if you’re looking at this incredibly grisly scene in which Lincoln is beaten to death with an obelisk and thinking “hmm, this seems familiar,”some peoplediddraw a comparison between the manner of Lincoln’s murder and that of Jeff Trail’sin real life. But Andrew was never a suspect in Lincoln’s murder, and the killer later confessed.
This is also the episode in which we finally see Andrew’s first meeting with David Madson, which was described in Episode 4. Andrew and his high-society friends are dining at a very ritzy San Diego bar, where David is drinking alone until Andrew invites him to join them. From there, the attraction seems instant, and David is just as bowled over by Andrew’s suite at the Mandarin Oriental—and the free slippers—as he said he was in that Episode 4 diner scene. This show really is unique in a number of ways, especially since it’s rare to watch a meet-cute where you’ve already seen the romance end in grisly murder.
Video: The Assasasination Of Gianni Versace Full Episodes capitulo 7 parte 7 "Ascent"
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