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The Lizzie Borden Chronicles - The Mini-Series Event - Advance Preview: "She Has an Axe to Grind"

The Lizzie Borden Chronicles
Reviewed by Gavin Hetherington

Note: This is an advance preview of the first two episodes of The Lizzie Borden Chronicles. There will be eight episodes in total.

Lizzie Borden took an axe
She killed her mother with forty whacks
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one

It's probably important to note that the show is set four months after the acquittal of Lizzie Borden that was shown in the Lifetime Original Movie, Lizzie Borden Took an Axe. It is probably best to watch that movie before jumping into this show to get a true sense of the characters and story, though I guess if you're familiar with the Lizzie Borden trial that occured in 1892, you'll be fine. There are plenty of flashes to the murders and the show even starts with a sort of rock montage so you can be caught up to speed but it's still worth checking out the 2014 television movie.

Christina Ricci is just simply glorious in her role as Lizzie Borden. She did a fantastic job with it in the 2014 television movie and she carries that aura of quiet mystery into this mini-series. With a raise of an eyebrow, she can have kids fleeing. It's abundently clear that after the infamous death of her father and step-mother and her subsequent trial, the townsfolk still hold reservations about Lizzie. She was "proved" innocent in her trial, but it was revealed to us (and her sister at the end of the movie) that she did, in fact, kill her father and step-mother. That was never proved in real life though even if it does seem obvious, but there are always theories about who killed Abby and Andrew Borden. We may never know the truth behind it, but for the purpose of this retelling of the story, Lizzie did it. It's the most logical explanation.

"I'm not afraid of you."
"Then you haven't been paying attention."

Clea DuVall is also a favourite of mine. Her dedication and unconditional love for her sister Lizzie, despite the dark cloud of murder looming over their heads, is very admirable. Beautifully portrayed, Emma Borden is also an interesting character who tries to see the best in situations. Her bond with Lizzie is a big highlight of the show and I love their interactions. Part of the storyline in the pilot is that the Bordens become in debt to someone who was owed a great sum of money from their father, Andrew. His debt is now theirs and it's going to completely wipe them out.

If you're unsure about the storylines in this because the whole murder story was played out in the movie, there's still a lot to enjoy here. The girls want a fresh start but it's so hard considering they're under constant scrutiny. And who knew the Bordens had a brother? He's a very sketchy character who dives right into the sisters' lives at the most inopportune time. We are introducted to a private investigator (Cole Hauser) who is quietly investigating the murder case and couple potentially unravel everything for Lizzie. The man trying to bleed the Bordens dry of their money, William Almy (John Heard) is also a nice little adversary for the girls. The pilot episode actually ends in two deaths. Lizzie may or may not be responsible for them but I can tell you, it was a very sweet ending. Lizzie still manages to say cryptic things that could definitely incarcerate her yet she doesn't seem to care, whether she's innocent or not. She's free to speak her mind and she has no fear in doing so.

"You play that card. See where it gets you."

The soundtrack sounds very modern with guitar riffs and drums but it actually fits this show well, even though it's set in the early 1900s. It feels a little out of place, providing a weird and almost freaky take on this story that goes well with the themes of the show, if that makes sense. It sort of juxtaposes the setting to help make it a little more contemporary to audiences.

The second episode introduces Jessy Schram as the actress Nancy O'Keefe (I think she's supposed to be actress Nance O'Neil who Lizzie was friends with in real life). We get signs of people who actually admire Lizzie in this episode after she's been looked at and silently judged by the other townfolk. It also helps Lizzie to show some genuine kindness to strangers so we have that shade of good and bad from this ever-complex character. There's actually an amazing moment between Lizzie and someone she saves, Adele. It made me go "woah" but it just made Lizzie even more three-dimentional and interesting. She's discovering herself as we discover her and it was a surprise to all.

"Lizzie Borden, the axe killer?"
"I prefer former sunday school teacher."

More entertaining developments happen as the episodes progress. What a treat to have Breaking Bad's Jonathan Banks here too and he plays a character who connects with Lizzie on a certain, violent level. There's another crazy death in the second episode that further provides a look at the psychology of the characters, not just Lizzie but the others. It seems murder is the solution to every problem in the Lizzie Borden Chronicles, so you can expect to see quite a bit of bloodshed in the first two episodes and I'm expecting more to come in the following six episodes. Episode two ends with a potential death and the cliffhanger was very exciting, I hate that there's no screener available for episode three!

Show Verdict

Overall, I really, really enjoyed the first two episodes of Lifetime's newest mini-series. The acting by the leading actresses is fantastic and I see now why they decided to make this. I was wondering what the point was after the film covered the murders and the trial, but there's plenty of material here to sustain an 8 episode series that promises to get more and more exciting as the episodes roll on. The writing is fantastic and Christina Ricci is a pure gem. I definitely recommend this if you love shows about murder with great, complex characters.

Are you looking forward to The Lizzie Borden Chronicles? Have any questions about the first two episodes? Let me know in the comments and be sure to watch the mini-series event premiere on April 5th on Lifetime!

About the Author - Gavin Hetherington
Award-winning author of 'Abyssal Sanctuary: Remnants of the Damned'. Gavin joined SpoilerTV on August 9, 2014 and will be reviewing 2 Broke Girls, Mistresses, Orange is the New Black, Pretty Little Liars, Salem and Sleepy Hollow in the 2014-15 season. Gavin's favourite shows include Charmed, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Desperate Housewives, The Walking Dead, Once Upon a Time, Revenge, Scandal and much more. You can contact him at gavin@spoilertv.com.
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