Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done,
she gave her father forty-one.
OK, whoever wrote this infamous rhyme may have embellished the number of whacks, but you get the point. Based on the 1892 murder trial and ultimate acquittal of Lizzie Borden, who was accused of brutally killing her father and stepmother in Fall River, Massachusetts, Lifetime gave viewers a TV-movie last year, Lizzie Borden Took an Ax, starring Christina Ricci as Lizzie. Its success has now spawned a mini-series, The Lizzie Borden Chronicles, currently airing on Sunday nights, which follows life after the murders for Lizzie and her sister, Emma (played by Clea DuVall). In this fictionalized account, Lizzie becomes a serial killer, dispatching anyone who gets in her way in a variety of diabolical and bloody scenarios.
Christina Ricci is devilishly delightful as the murderous Lizzie. Imagine her Wednesday Addams all grown up and ratcheting up her sadistic tendencies to a new and lethal level. As the bodies continue to pile up each episode, the proceedings reach an almost comical magnitude in the way the diminutive Lizzie slices, stabs, hangs or burns her victims. The rare times she doesn’t commit said acts herself, she manages to manipulate others into carrying out her schemes instead.
The show might not work as successfully as it does if Lizzie was just an outright psychotic murderer who acts with no rhyme or reason. While another TV serial killer, Dexter, invoked empathy by killing other, more dangerous serial killers, Lizzie goes after anybody who stands in the way of her and her sister trying to establish their lives post-murder trial. And while a great many of her victims are despicable characters who maybe deserve their fates, others are more innocent and are guilty of nothing other than crossing paths with the fiendish Lizzie at the wrong time. Yet Lizzie does have a heart, whether trying to help others in need, or in the loving relationship she has with her sister. Besides Duvall as Emma, the cast includes Cole Hauser as a Pinkerton detective who is relentless in his attempts to prove Lizzie’s murderous ways, Dylan Taylor as an officer sympathetic to the Borden sisters’ plight, and the always awesome Jonathan Banks (Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul) as a local crime lord.
With only three episodes left, the body count rising and no word yet by Lifetime if they plan on adding to Lizzie’s adventures, one wonders if there will be anyone left if they were to continue the show. The Gore 4 hopes they do, as watching Ricci do her dastardly deeds is just too much fun to end so soon. Just as other present-day shows have taken iconic characters from horror, whether real or fictional (Hannibal, Bates Motel), and created fully realized worlds around them, rich in character and atmosphere, The Lizzie Borden Chronicles has managed to do the same, but from a female perspective. Let’s hope Lizzie continues keeping the population of her town from getting too out of hand for a while to come.
— review by Brian de Castro