Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Lizzie Borden Chronicles - Episode 1.2 - Review

Remember when Christina Ricci played Wednesday in The Addams Family and Addams Family Values and she beamed with delight at the sight of electrocuting people with her electric chair? There's quite a look of delight in her eyes again when she portrays Lizzie Borden taking in a burlesque homage to her alleged hacking to death her daddy. Except there's no blood on stage; rose petals flutter through the air when the knife is slashed. In case you were not paying attention, the show reminds you of the ax incident with flashbacks... again, and again, and so on.

Following last week's "The Lizzie Borden Chronicles" debut, Lizzie signs the papers on a new house, not having to owe any debts of their father. The debts were wiped away when William Almy suddenly was murdered by, guess who? And who got blamed? William Borden, of course, but he's suddenly suicidal if you believe the inept Fall River Marshal's office.

Cut to Lizzie making friends with a woman named Adele (Kimberly-Sue Murray) who was injured in a factory. She turned to hooking when she couldn't get work with a right hand that just has a bit of scar make-up on it. Lizzie saves her from being assaulted in an alley after taking in an aftershow party with Emma Borden (Clea DuVall) in tow. She daringly clobbers the unsavory man called Skipjack and takes home, much to Emma's admonishment, Adele to take care of her. Lizzie shows her just how much she cares when she kisses Adele affectionately in a dress shop changing area the next day. In comparison to the graphic murder scenes, this scene with fully buttoned-up ladies kissing is quite tame.

Over the course of the episode, Lizzie enjoys tea with the person who pimped out Adele, Mr. Flowers (Jonathan Banks). Lizzie pays him off so she can keep Adele to herself. During her visit, Flowers teaches a lesson to a misogynist low-life while Lizzie agreeably waits patiently for the head bashing to end. Banks is basically "Breaking Bad's" Mike in the late 19th century.

Adele and Emma bond over soup, discussing as you may have guessed, aspirations for a husband and perhaps a family. Adele could be Emma's confidant as she makes the insightful recognition of Emma's having to practically raise Lizzie when their birth mother died. Emma clearly needs someone other than Lizzie to hang out with because the husband topic surfaces a second time and we're only halfway through the second episode. This is Lifetime, so settling down and having a family is the only way Emma's story remains within "The Lizzie Borden Chronicles."

The dashing superhero investigator, Charlie (Cole Hauser), continues privately investigating the blood trail Lizzie leaves everywhere she goes. He's had her followed.  Lizzie actually confronts him, introducing herself while he's dining alone. A few minutes of dialog lets us know Lizzie is not phased by Charlie's presence. It seems he's a man of many talents yet to be revealed. We've only just found out that his magic fingers can untwist Isabel Danforth's twisted ankle back at the B&B. [Danforth is portrayed by Olivia Llewellyn and appeared in Season One of "Penny Dreadful" (Showtime). We don't know yet if she's returning as Mina Harker in Season Two.]

Everything was going swellingly until Spencer (Frank Chiesurin), a playwright/con artist, convinces Lizzie to be a patron of the arts and, ironically, to fund his schlocky play. Planted in this scene is Adele and a coffin that just happens to be in the old barn at the old house. Coffins just are things people keep in barns back in the late 1800s. That Lizzie can sure pick them because he soon ties one on and, when he finds Adele alone, blowing out the candles in nearly every room, he decides to presume Adele will wax his own candle. Instead she nearly snuffs him out. Lizzie finds him outside, injured with a pitchfork and finishes forking him.

This is where I can spoil the rest, but I'll leave it up to you readers to catch up by next Sunday. I must advise you to always keep strike-anywhere matches in your pocket.

Monday, April 06, 2015

The Lizzie Borden Chronicles - Episode 1.1 - Review

"The Lizzie Borden Chronicles" debuted on Sunday, April 5. Lifetime Network is likely stepping up its "darker" programming on Sunday nights to win over some fans of horror who are missing "The Walking Dead." WGN premiered season two of "Salem" the same night. It seems smart that the networks waited until after season five of "The Walking Dead" ended.

This is the fictionalized telling of the story four months following Lizzie Borden's trial in which she was accused of killing her parents and acquitted. I tried to re-watch the re-airing of the movie, Lizzie Borden Took an Ax the night before. It's still difficult for me to like the sickening charm Lizzie (Christina Ricci) lathers on her father or her sister Emma (Clea DuVall). I also couldn't enjoy the modern rock music juxtaposed in the 19th century setting. Some think it's cool, but I think it is obvious that the creators are trying to be obviously different because the movie and, now, the TV series lack a few things. Character development being one of those things.

One of my favorite lines in the first episode subtly alludes to Lizzie being a lesbian when she's answering her sister Emma's question about what she has imagined her husband to be: "I never imagined a husband." If you didn't recall that Lizzie Borden had a half-brother in Ax, don't worry because he wasn't actually in it. He shows up suddenly in the TV series, stirring up trouble, of course, with flaunting a secret held by the sisters. Emma seems to be up for a back story in one of the seven more episodes in this eight-episode series.

There's a B-story involving an investigator named Charlie (Cole Hauser), who starts to look into the murders. Also, William Almy (John Heard) is suing the Borden estate for the debt owed by their late father. Other interesting characters include Lizzie's former elementary school teacher. She offers little insight into Lizzie's wrath on people. The series spends a lot of time repeating flash backs to scenes from Ax, and has lesser horrific moments of dead things in the dark.

Episode one wasn't terrible, but it makes me wary of the next seven. Little things stand out such as the noticeable historic inaccuracy: how is a character able to use a flashlight in 1893? I haven't spent loads of time searching, but what I've seen so far on the internet is that flashlights didn't become available until as early as 1896. Infrequent clever moments, as in Lizzie's reference to the Dickens story Bleak House. However, the charm act is old. I will still continue on in case Jonathan Banks saves a scene or two from being intolerably a drag.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

The Lizzie Borden Chronicles Begins April 5

"The Lizzie Borden Chronicles" is going to be a short TV series drama fictionalizing the life of Lizzie Borden and the people around her. Her story continues from where the movie left off.

Stay tuned for a review of this episode in the following week.