Lizzie Borden Chronicles (2015)
Reviewer: Charity Bishop
Lizzie Borden took an axe, gave her mother forty whacks; when her father saw what she had done, she gave him forty-one...
Everyone in town, except her faithful sister Emma (Clea DuVall), knows Lizzie Borden (Christina Ricci) got away with murdering her father and stepmother. Alas, no one can prove it. And when bodies mysteriously keep piling up around her, it attracts the attention of a Pinkerton, Charlie Siringo (Cole Hauser). Ruthless and known for "always getting his man" (even if it requires illegal methods), Siringo becomes convinced Lizzie is a psychopath who must be stopped.
Eager to escape her reputation and leave her old life behind, Lizzie intends to purchase a grand house in a much nicer part of town. Problem is, her estranged brother returns intent on taking whatever money there is, and her father's banker has no intention of letting them out of the Borden family debts. Why, one might think Lizzie could kill two birds with one stone, and ensure her future in the process! When two bodies turn up, and it looks like one killed the other before committing suicide, Lizzie is in the clear... or is she?
Audiences find psychopaths fascinating. They are frightening because no one and nothing commands their loyalty, and they lack any empathy or compassion, so no one in their life is safe. This lends a sense of tension to this series, which revolves around weekly murders but also follows a larger arc of the Borden family dynamic. One has a sense Emma isn't safe, even though Lizzie believes she is protecting them both from harm. Don't get too attached to anyone, since few people make it out alive. Lizzie comes up with increasingly creative ways to end their lives, her only consequence an eventual life of solitude. The writing is fairly consistent, but it doesn't paint the Pinkertons in a very good light. Far from decent lawmen, they're violent, torture-inflicting bullies as inclined to put a bullet in someone's head as listen to them. Since there's no one with any moral depths, there's also no one to root for, so the series becomes an exploration of murder rather than a character piece.
The cast is excellent and for the most part, the scripts, scenarios, and crimes are inventive and engaging. The musical selection is odd, however, sometimes a bit modern, and the camera work started to irritate me after awhile. Far from being an "artistic choice," the use of out of focus shots that blur in and out is annoying. The costume design is brilliant in concept, but has poor execution. Everything is either ill-fitting on the actresses, or makes them look unattractive (even the petite Ricci can look like a plump linebacker in six layers of badly sewn garments). But the hats are masterpieces.
A photographer is known for taking "dirty pictures"; he urges two prostitutes to become more "intimate" and "creative" with one another. A woman kisses Lizzie on the mouth; Lizzie responds by kissing her a second time. A reference is made to a child out of wedlock. Sexual remarks. One brief, clothed sex scene; implied affair between a man and a married woman (she's in bed with him after passionate kissing).
A half dozen uses of Jesus / Christ / God. G--d-mn is used a few times. General profanities.
Many gory murders. Lizzie has flashbacks of dismembering her parents with an axe / beating them to death with an axe. She strangles people, shoots people, cuts people's throats, sets them on fire, electrocutes them, poisons them, stabs them, slits their wrists, hangs them, etc, often with bloody results. Shoot-outs spurt blood.