Romance is in the air in Fall River, but so are gushing sprays of blood. Episode five, “Cold Storage,” is the series’ halfway point, and Lizzie is now a full-fledged serial killer. Sure, she’s been coldly taking down anyone who dares get in her way for weeks now. But in this ep, she ups her psycho game considerably.
Before we get into the recap, let’s count the damage done up to this point. So far, Lizzie has killed: her father and stepmother, in the crime that made her famous; her father’s business partner, Mr. Almy; her scheming half-brother, William; randy playwright Spencer Cavanaugh, who leaves behind a most inconvenient corpse; naive ex-hooker Adele; gangster boss Mr. Flowers; New York City actress/Spencer’s sister, Nance O’Keefe; and gimlet-eyed Borden neighbor Mrs. Kenny. (This is leaving out, of course, anyone she offed while she was a child, as a previous episode alluding to youthful Bad Seed tendencies suggested.)
Most of Lizzie’s murders, after her parents, were to silence anyone who might reveal her crimes. But with Mrs. Kenny, she killed because the woman was mean to her dog (in addition to being an outstandingly unfriendly neighbor). Curiously, despite the woman’s bizarre “accidental” death while engaged in a public row with Lizzie, nobody’s talking about her death in “Cold Storage.” Instead, Spencer Cavanaugh’s moldering body gets star corpse status.
But first, we see Lizzie completely absolved of any wrongdoing in Nance’s death. Lizzie did indeed toss her down a flight of stairs, but it was self-defense, the judge declares — a decision helped along by the testimony of Officer Leslie Trotwood. Of course the kind but none-too-bright cop believes he’s telling the truth about Lizzie, but he has a more important truth to impart to Lizzie’s sister, Emma: he loves her! And he wants to marry her! Though Emma (outed as a Pride and Prejudice fan in the episode’s first scene) protests at first, visions of out-of-wedlock babies dancing in her head, she can’t help herself. She accepts! And — high off her successful day in court, no doubt — Lizzie takes it pretty well, surprisingly; she later agrees to host the wedding at Maplecroft (since no church wants a Borden, any Borden, getting hitched within its walls), and digs up their mother’s wedding dress for her sister to wear.
We know, of course, that this goodwill won’t last. But in the meantime, Siringo languishes in Fall River jail, wondering why the local law enforcement is so blind to Lizzie’s crimes. Suddenly, an unexpected ally appears: Marshall Hilliard, who’s willing to forgive Siringo’s shady-as-hell past so they can team up and “nail that bitch to the goddamn wall.” Did Siringo and Hilliard just become best friends? YEP!
Their buddy-cop adventures lead them first to the barn at the old Borden house to look for clues, but Lizzie happens to catch sight of them plotting against her. Sorry guys, but you’re gonna pay dearly for that. She overhears them discussing Mr. Perry, “Fall River’s local pornographer,” a known associate of sleazy Skipjack, the only living human with usable dirt against Lizzie, since he’s the only person who knows where Spencer’s body is hidden. (This is the only reason he’s still alive, you understand.) She goes to Perry’s studio to find Skipjack, and is once again forced to renegotiate the amount he’ll be requiring to keep quiet. Their meeting is interrupted when Siringo and Hilliard, always one step behind Lizzie, burst in looking for Skipjack while Lizzie hides behind a curtain.
Skipjack’s delight at having extorted more money from the only person in Fall River more ruthless than he is quickly cut short when he’s dragged away and Siringo (who, let’s not forget, Skipjack left for dead on the railroad tracks) rearranges his face with his fists. Torture proves effective, and Skipjack, who’s not much for keeping secrets anyway (see: all he blabbed to Nance last week), reveals that Lizzie killed Spencer, and agrees to show them where the body is stashed ... if they’ll arrange for him to get a full pardon for his many other crimes. The judge isn’t so sure he wants to let “Mr. Flowers’ factotum” off the hook, and he’s furious to learn that Siringo has stolen all of the state’s files on Lizzie Borden. He sends Siringo to fetch them from his hotel room, but in doing so, the already-angry Pinkerton notices that innkeeper Isabel’s face is nearly as battered as his own. It goes without saying that Isabel’s abusive husband pays dearly for that transgression.
This all takes time. Too much time, fellas, since Lizzie has already figured out that Skipjack isn’t the only soul who knows where Spencer is buried. Perry also knows, since he snapped the photo that Skipjack’s been using to blackmail Lizzie. The pornographer — who, it’s revealed, has a God-fearing wife, two kids, and keeps up a respectable front — agrees to show Lizzie where Spencer is, because she doesn’t give him any choice. “You and I are going to make this disappear,” she snarls, sweetly. And they do. And then she sets him on fire and leaves him to die a horrible death. Because DUH, that’s Lizzie’s way, as another character observes: “She’s nothing if not thorough!”
“That bitch is smarter than the three of us put together,” the men realize, sadly, when they finally get to the ice house and Spencer’s maggoty remains are nowhere to be found. After Lizzie gets rid of Perry, she goes to the hotel to eliminate the only thing Siringo cares about: Isabel. (While her husband is away, presumably recovering from 15 broken bones, they share a night of passion, in which he calls her “The only good thing in this whole town,” and she mulls over what being the wife of a Pinkerton would be like: “I’d be in constant fear for your life.”)
We don’t actually see Isabel’s grisly demise, but we see the aftermath: a Hannibal Lecter-worthy tableau of a slashed-throat victim, with Spencer’s wormy skull posed just so. Siringo freaks out. We freak out, because HOLY SHIT THAT IS DISGUSTING AND TERRIFYING AND WHAT DID ISABEL DO TO YOU, REALLY?
However ... Emma does make a lovely bride, doesn’t she?