Lifetime’s Lizzie Borden Chronicles came to a poignant end last night with “Capsize,” guest-starring Michelle “Lady Catelyn Stark” Fairley as the fierce matriarch of the late Leslie Trotwood’s mobbed-up family. But if we’ve learned anything from this show, it’s that nobody is as fierce as Lizzie.
We’ve finally reached episode eight of this batshit crazy ride, and there’s another change of scenery necessitated after the events of last week’s detour to small-town Maine. Emma breaks out of the insane asylum after making sure her sleazy doctor will never, ever harm another patient (“I found the other one,” mutters the clean-up crew, holding aloft one of the doctor’s dismembered ears), but she doesn’t do a very good job covering her tracks, leaving a key piece of evidence tucked behind a photo of her and Leslie in happier times: a letter giving out his family’s Boston address, which Lizzie easily discovers.
But Emma gets to Boston first, and the Trotwoods, headed up by the widowed Adine (Fairley), are simply delighted to see the woman who was to have become part of the family. Leslie also has two younger brothers (dapper tough-guy types) and a much younger sister, who’s starstruck by Emma’s most famous relative (“Is Lizzie with you?” Not yet, sis. Just you wait, though.) Emma’s starting to feel at home when the tone suddenly shifts in the Trotwood’s tastefully-appointed living room. Seems someone’s been threatening the family, which means somebody’s got to get got. “Which leg should I break?” one of the Trotwood boys asks mama. “Surprise me,” she purrs, as Emma looks on in surprise.
As Lizzie preps to flee Maine in pursuit of her sister, she encounters a roadblock: Siringo avengers/Pinkerton gunslingers Tom Horn and Bat Masterson are in her house, looking for answers. First she denies she’s Lizzie, then she denies she knew Siringo, even under the gun (literally, being threatened in a little game o’ Russian Roulette. Lizzie is stone-cold, y’all). Then the clueless dad of one of her students — the one who has a crush on her — lopes in, causing enough of a diversion that she’s able to sneak out the door and zoom away in her waiting carriage.
In Boston, Emma assures Leslie’s youngest brother that “it’s really none of my business” how the Trotwoods handle their affairs. “Sometimes the way the family business is run can breed enemies,” he admits, visions of all the legs he’s broken no doubt dancing in his memory. And another thing: he’s being forced into a marriage for political reasons, and he’s none too thrilled. “None of us can help the families we’re born into,” Emma reminds him.
And indeed, the only family Emma has left soon catches up with her — in church, of all places. “I can’t be around you,” she tells Lizzie. To everyone else, she identifies her sister as “no one.” Burn! A pensive Lizzie lingers after their unhappy reunion, attracting the interest of a concerned priest. “Do you think God forgives all of our sins?” she asks. Only if we’re truly sorry and repentant, he answers. “Well, that’s a problem,” she sighs.
Adine tracks Lizzie down at her Boston hotel (“Word gets back to me about who’s doing what in Boston”) for some chit-chat that soon turns menacing. Though Lizzie tries to play the “Do you know who I am?” card, Adine ain’t having it. She knows exactly who Lizzie is, and she doesn’t take kindly to being threatened. After Leslie’s brother breaks a mirror with Lizzie’s head, Adine has some advice that we loyal viewers know will absolutely be ignored: “Stay away from me. Stay away from Emma. And stay away from Boston.”
Of course, the next scene is Lizzie crashing the fancy engagement party for Leslie’s brother at the Trotwood mansion. Emma, who’s already suffering PTSD at the sight of a caterer’s meat cleaver hacking away at the dinner meat, tells Lizzie that “the Trotwoods are not to be trifled with!” But neither is Lizzie, who informs Emma that the Pinkertons are hunting her in search of Siringo’s killer, which, as we all recall, was an axe-wielding Emma. Such good trackers are the Pinkertons that they soon roll up in the party, too, and the loudmouth of the pair, Tom, declares the assembled to be “Irish coal-crackers with their pinkies in the air.” OH NO YOU DIN’T!
Having insulted Boston’s most vicious family, a gunfight (helped along by Lizzie’s slyly timed balloon pop) soon breaks out, and for a moment, everybody forgets about the Bordens. But to recap: the Trotwoods want to protect Emma and kill Lizzie, while the Pinkerton pair wants to bring both Bordens back to Fall River to answer for their crimes (though they’d be OK with killing Lizzie, too, probably). After the melee and Mama Trotwood’s bellowed war cry of “NOBODY SLEEPS TONIGHT!”, Emma finds the detectives in their hiding place and turns herself in. She’s tired of hiding and besides that, “It’s time a Borden paid for her crimes.”
Well, jeez. That’s noble. But did you think Lizzie would let her go without a fight? “I want Emma,” she tells the Trotwoods, knowing they’re hot to nab the two men who busted up their party. Why not work together to get what they each want? Lizzie already knows the route they’ll take, and suspects they’ll make frequent stops because one of them was injured in the gun battle. Though one of the boys insists “She’s using us!”, Adine is impressed. “I don’t know whether to kill you or hire you,” she tells Lizzie.
A tense scene in an inn on the road to Fall River unfolds, with lots of creeping around in the dark, gunshots, and a couple of Lizzie one-liners, delivered after she swoops in with a knife to finish the work of a bullet wound. “I’m making sure your mother knows that taking my sister cost her her sons,” she announces before slicing a Trotwood throat. Then, to Tom Horn, “Tell Siringo no hard feelings!” At one point, she even sassily recites the “Lizzie Borden Took an Axe” nursery rhyme, but Emma stops her before she’s able to finish off the last two bleeding men.
“Let them live,” Emma begs, promising she’ll go anywhere Lizzie wants if Lizzie will prove, just this once, that she’s not a monster. Somehow, it works. Lizzie backs off. In the final sequence, we see the sisters boarding an ocean liner bound for Europe. Lizzie, who’s wearing bright red and blue in contrast to her usual black, seems happy and relaxed. She’s got Emma back, and Emma seems happy too. But it’s all a little too happy. When Emma suggests a yawning Lizzie take a nap, it’s clear something’s up (who among us thought she was gonna smother her with a pillow? No? Just me?), and when Lizzie opens her eyes, Emma is gone.
Rushing to the deck as the boat pulls away from shore, Lizzie spots Emma at the dock, watching. She turns and disappears into the crowd without a smile or gesture. There’s a close-up on Lizzie as one single tear traces down her cheek, coming to the realization that even though she got away with it all, she’s left without the only thing she’s ever cared about: her sister.
Ah, but it was fun while it lasted, wasn’t it?