We’re three episodes into The Lizzie Borden Chronicles’ eight-ep run on Lifetime, and last night’s episode, “Flowers,” was full of dramatic twists galore — including some very gory ones that sacrificed some key characters (or seemed to, anyway). Where the hell can this show possibly go next?
By now, a very clear pattern has emerged for Chronicles: piss off Lizzie, and you will get the axe (or the horseshoe-in-the-sock, the faked-suicide, the pitchfork-in-the-belly, etc.) “Flowers” — the title is a double meaning, referencing both Lizzie frenemy/Fall River underworld kingpin Mr. Flowers, and the abundant blossoms Lizzie orders for a housewarming party — begins with two funerals borne of Ms. Borden’s handiwork. There’s the classy affair for sleazy businessman Mr. Almy, whose deadly mistake was targeting Lizzie’s substantial inheritance, and the pine-box burial for the Borden sisters’ equally sleazy half-brother, William. Oh, and then there’s the third dead body, that of sleaziest-of-them-all playwright Spencer Cavanaugh, whose “funeral” consists of Flowers muttering “Just chop him up and toss him in the bay.”
All these deaths are certainly suspicious, but the only person who seems to be concerned is Pinkerton agent Siringo, who grills nervous innkeeper Isabel about what Lizzie was like as a child. (Surprise! People she didn’t like tended to die ... mysteriously.) Isabel, who might be the most perceptive character on the show, is willing to share information, but she reallllly doesn’t want to get involved: “These circumstances are gonna end bloody,” she predicts. Accurately, as we’ll soon see.
Oh hey, there’s a glamorous visitor to Fall River: New York City dame Nance O’Keefe, Lizzie’s actress crush, who’s worried and “looking for my brother.” Oh DAMN — Spencer Cavanaugh was her BROTHER?, we and Lizzie realize at the exact same time. Oopsies! Also still “missing” is wayward waif Adele, whose honor Lizzie was protecting when she pitchforked Spencer, but whose inability to lie under pressure inspires Lizzie to bury her alive for a few nights ... only to free her with a sweetly menacing “Promise me that you won’t misbehave again!” It’s pretty obvious that’s not a threat, that’s foreshadowing.
“Adele has come back to us!” Lizzie trills, which unamused sister Emma answers with the world’s most deadpan “How wonderful,” ever. Emma’s annoyed with her little sister for planning a lavish housewarming party which literally nobody in Fall River wants to attend. There is a knock at the door, though — it’s Mr. Flowers, who sends a freaked-out Adele quaking into the back room. As you’ll remember, he used to be her pimp, or “procurer,” as Emma calls him; she also observes that he “oozes menace all over the living room.” (This scene is filmed in frantic, handheld shaky-cam for reasons unknown. Dude, it’s already tense enough! And while we’re making stylistic quibbles, why must every soundtrack selection contain overtly devil-referencing lyrics? Lizzie is evil. We get it! Her actions speak louder)
But Flowers is not after his former “employee.” He’s there to talk business with Lizzie. Dirty, dirty business. The small price of 15 percent of her family business’ monthly take will suffice as “a retainer to keep me and my services at hand,” in case future bodies need dumping, etc. Lizzie’s not thrilled when he suggests it, but she agrees ... and she’ll figure out both a use for his “services” and a solution to his meddling ways before the episode ends.
Meanwhile, though, those other flowers need attention, and Adele is sent to the florist to pick up the party decorations. But there’s another customer who happens to be in the shop: Siringo! The detective isn’t about to fall for Adele’s canned, Lizzie-scripted story of the last time she saw Cavanaugh, but neither is the terrified Adele gonna hang around and get further grilled by him. The Borden sisters, running their own errands, are taunted by some local scamps until kindly Officer Trotwood intervenes, and Emma regards him with eyes that transform into two cartoon beating hearts. Emma has a crush!
Buuuut Emma also has a secret. A big one. In the episode’s second big reveal (after the whole Nance-is-Spencer’s-sister thing), we learn that Emma is the person who hired Siringo. But it’s not to dig up dirt on Lizzie — it’s to prove her sister’s innocence once and for all, so that all the stares and whispers that’ve continued since her high-profile acquittal will finally go away. But Siringo is really, really, really sure that Lizzie is actually a stone-cold killer (because she is). Emma’s not about to have that, so she fires him.
Before he can even check out of the hotel, though, Siringo picks up a new job, hired by Nance to find her missing brother. Nance has a hard time believing Lizzie had anything to do with it (“She’s notorious, but she’s not vicious,” she says ... wrongly), but Siringo plants some serious seeds of doubt in her blonde, huge-hatted head.
Back at the Borden mansion, party prep is underway, though Emma’s not convinced anyone will show up, and the next-door neighbor is all to happy to tell Lizzie “You are despised. The sooner you leave this neighborhood, the better” ... and by doing so, basically insuring that Lizzie will never, ever leave and will probably throw a huge loud party every week out of spite.
But before the swanky shindig begins, there are some loose ends to tie up. Lizzie’s got to get her money’s worth on that “retainer,” because 15 percent a month is a lot, so she lures Siringo into an alleyway where Flowers’ thugs are waiting, first to beat him bloody, then to drape him across some railroad tracks in front of an oncoming train. (Anyone else have a hard time believing Siringo kicked the bucket there? I suspect he’ll be back, if not next week, in time for the series finale.)
The biggest OH SHIT moment comes, though, when Lizzie gets Adele and Flowers into a room together to discuss, well, there’s no discussion, because in a span of a few seconds, Our Miss Borden has managed to shoot Flowers, slash Adele’s throat with “my father’s straight razor,” and arrange the bodies to look like each killed the other.
So, in the immediate moment anyway, there are no more problems for Lizzie, who’s free to enjoy her party, filled with “friends from New York.” Even ol’ Nance shows up, and though she might be gullible to fall for Lizzie’s assurance that “I am not a monster!” — we sure aren’t. Ain’t that why we love her, though?