TV Reviews

American Crime Story Season 2 Episode 4: House by the Lake Review

If you would like to read my review of the last episode, click here.

Synopsis: Minneapolis architect David Madson is forced to go on the run with Andrew Cunanan. (IMDB)

Writer: Tom Rob Smith

Director: Daniel Minahan

Rating: TV-MA

Running Time: 42mins

Cunanan’s backward trajectory continues in another Versace-free episode anchored by another stellar performance by Darren Criss’ as Cunanan. The last episode saw him take his third and fourth victims and this episode saw him take his first and second victims, a Minneapolis architect named David Madson (Cody Fern) and a mutual friend of theirs named Jeffrey Trail (Finn Wittrock). As opposed to the previous episode where his connection to his third victim, Lee Miglin, was a little unclear, Cunanan had previously met Madson back in San Francisco in the first episode.

The episode started with Cunanan and Madson in Madson’s apartment. Cunanan had invited Trail up to the apartment. He made sure that Madson brought Trail up. He also asked Madson to marry him but he refused because he was in love with Trail. Trail wanted nothing to do with Cunanan and only came to get his gun which he stole. All of this was just a ruse so Cunanan could bash Trail’s face in with a hammer.

Madson was obviously in shock but Cunanan promised that he wouldn’t hurt him. He claimed that he had lost control earlier. The piano music helped to heighten the tension during what was an already tense situation. Madson wanted to call the police, however, Cunanan managed to convince him that he would just be charged as an accessory to the crime (Madson was close to his father and we got a flashbacks indicating as such). He also thought to call his father though he could be charged as an accessory. He tried to leave and was stopped by Cunanan. This was followed by a weird sequence where he watched and later helped Cunanan dispose of the body.

After being missing for an extended period of time, one of Madson’s friends from work showed up to his apartment. Cunanan used this as an opportunity for them to escape. At first, the police believed that the body was Madson’s before hearing about Cunanan. Then they believed that the body was Cunanan’s and Madson killed him until they learned that it was really Trail.

Cunanan mentioned to Madson that he knew Miglin and that he would get them enough money to get to Mexico. Madson couldn’t help but to think about his parents who were adamant of his innocence. He tried to escape again once they stopped at a bar though gave up after he couldn’t fit through the window. Meanwhile, Cunanan was getting emotional while listening to a performance of Drive by The Cars. His next escape attempt was thwarted again.

At a dinner, Cunanan and Madson talked about their first meeting and how Madson wanted to be like him. It was also there that Madson saw him for who he really was and called him out on it. He believed Cunanan killed Jeff for figuring out who he really was and wanted Madson to be a part of it. After trying to take control of the vehicle, they stopped near a lake where Madson pleaded Cunanan to stop this fantasy of his and then Cunanan shot and killed him as he was running away.

Overall, this was another great episode lifted by the great performances of Criss and Fern. They were compelling to watch while they spent the bulk of the episode together with Madson as Cunanan’s hostage. Criss has been stellar so far this season but Fern definitely held his own here. The whole episode was very tense to watch thanks to performances as well as a timely score and adept direction. The only problem with this season’s backwards storytelling is that the actions here came from nowhere as we only get to see the result and not what led to it (although the next episode appears to go in that direction) and this affected the plot here similarly to the last episode.

Score: 8.5/10

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