Lifetime's Lizzie Borden Chronicles got off to a strong start last week, and this week's episode, "Patron of the Arts" — full of smirky stare-downs, cheeky exchanges, and plenty of gruesome special effects — suggests there's much more knowingly soapy, murderous mayhem to come. Yay!
A quick recap of last week's events shows us exactly how Lizzie faked the suicide of her meddling half-brother, William, and how she planted evidence on him to frame him for murdering the local businessman who was poised to seize her fortune. It's enough to fool the local lawmen, but Pinkerton detective Siringo has some serious doubts. Unfortunately for him (but fortunately for Lizzie), Fall River's finest don't take kindly to outsiders, and they certainly do not care for Pinkertons.
That won't deter Siringo, who's a determined enough snoop to break into the morgue and meddle with corpses, creep into the Borden family barn, etc. to collect evidence. But at episode's beginning, Lizzie hasn't yet met this particular foe; that will come later.
First, she's busy collecting her inheritance, reassuring her sister Emma (who remarks, woefully, "This family seems to lurch from one tragedy to the next"), and making sure something is carefully buried under a flagstone in their yard. Then, she and prim Emma are off to New York City to catch a performance that features a beautiful blonde woman in a corset fake-chopping off a man's head and holding it up as gold coins pour out. Emma is disgusted ... Lizzie loves it. (Ep's biggest WTF moment: The song in this scene is a showtune-y cover of Blu Cantrell's "Hit 'Em Up Style." Huh?) At the after-party, Lizzie's unabashedly enjoying her new celebrity status, and being fawned over by such luminaries as playwright Spencer Cavanaugh, who can't believe he's meeting "the Lizzie Borden" ... for reasons we'll soon learn aren't entirely on the up and up.
As the Borden sisters argue on their way home from the festivities (Lizzie: "The world is a circus!" Emma: "Fine, but do you have to play the freak?"), they encounter a man beating up a prostitute. Avenger Lizzie to the rescue! This time, she lets the guy live, and takes the woman, Adele, under her wing ("You know you can't keep her," snarks Emma.) When Lizzie makes a move on Adele, the other woman hesitates. She'll never be free, she explains, as long as "Mr. Flowers" has her under his thumb. Who's that? Well, he's a) played by Jonathan Banks, aka Mike from Breaking Bad, so you know he's a badass; and b) Fall River's toughest character ... at least the toughest character who isn't named Lizzie Borden.
"Lizzie Borden, the axe killer?" he asks. He's just earned her admiration for delivering a forceful warning to a man who's mistreated one of his girls.
"I prefer ... former Sunday school teacher," she demurs.
Though Mr. Flowers is insistent that Adele return into his employ, Lizzie's able to purchase her freedom, and one gets the sense that these two might partner up on future dirty dealings.
Decidedly not entering into any partnerships are Lizzie and Siringo, who finally meet in a scene brimming with tension. "I'm a private investigator," he tells her. "Oh? Are you privately investigating me?" He most certainly is, and unlike these timid Fall River cops, he's dealt with women who kill (and kill again) in the past.
Siringo's also unafraid to deepen his bond with Isabel, the hotel keeper's wife, aiding her with a twisted ankle (later, she'll return the favor by helping him with a hangover cure). But he's not making any friends anywhere else; even as he lays out his rather airtight case against Lizzie in the local US Marshall's office, he's told in no uncertain terms to git his nose out of everyone's business, and git outta town. (Doesn't seem likely.)
Another tenuous bond: Lizzie and the playwright Cavanaugh, who's come to Fall River seeking her investment in his new play. (His new play looks melodramatic and horrible. Emma, who's quickly becoming one of the show's best characters, knows it's crap, but Lizzie gushes over it. How long until these two sisters have it out, really and truly?) He takes a drunken shine to Adele after Lizzie rejects him, and it gets rapey fast. Lizzie steps in to help Adele, yet again, but this time, can the terrified Adele be trusted to keep Lizzie's bloodthirsty instincts a secret?
The episode's final scene has the Borden sisters excitedly moving into their new mansion. The neighbors aren't too pleased; the woman next door looks at the pie Lizzie brings over as if it's stuffed with poison. Which, you know, it might be. Last shot reveals the fate of poor, waify Adele. Lizzie's explained her absence by telling Emma the girl's struck out on her own ... but the truth is she's been buried alive, and is spending what will likely be her last moments on earth wailing her head off.
So! That's two for two for this show, ending with people screaming bloody terror. Well done, Lizzie Borden Chronicles. Well done indeed. Can't wait to see who falls under Lizzie's wrath next.