The 2014 television film “Lizzie Borden Took An Ax” garnered well over four million viewers for the Lifetime Movie Channel. The success of the film prompted Lifetime to bring Borden’s exploits back to television, with a six episode mini-series; the order was later increased to eight. Original star, Emmy and Golden Globe nominee, Christina Ricci (Monster) signed on to reprise her role of the cold, manipulative, and not to be trifled with, Lizzie Borden. In addition, returning to the part of Lizzie’s older, good hearted, loving sister, Emma, is Clea DuVall (Argo). The television film centered on the murder of Lizzie Borden’s father Andrew and her stepmother Abby, at her hands, as well as the subsequent trial, where she was acquitted. Instead of retreading that storyline, the series picks up four months after those events.
Although a free woman, Lizzie is an infamous celebrity. She is anything but beloved by the residents of Fall River, Massachusetts, where she lives, many of whom feel she got away with murder. She can’t walk down the street without people speaking in whispered tones. In one scene, a group of children are singing the unflattering nursery rhyme associated with Lizzie Borden. She gets hold of a fake hatchet, and scares all of them away, except for one girl (Gabrielle Trudel) who informs Lizzie that she’s not afraid of her. Lizzie replies: “Then you haven’t been paying attention.” Emma, for the most part, with the exception of a doting, love struck, police officer, Leslie Trotwood (Dylan Taylor) is also not looked upon favorably.
At the beginning of the series, the sisters are still taking up residence in the house where the horrific murders occurred. Lizzie and Emma are also attempting to claim their father’s inheritance. The problem with that is, he owed a tremendous amount of debt to his business partner, the arrogant, Mr. Almy (John Heard). The money they owe Almy is going to leave the sister’s bankrupt. Further complicating matters, is the arrival of the Borden sisters’ shady, half-brother, William (Andrew Howard), who returns home wanting his share. As the initial episodes set up, anyone who becomes a problem to Lizzie is going to meet an untimely demise. Her half-brother and Mr. Almy, will not be exceptions to that; nor will others, throughout the series, who Lizzie will dispose of in a variety of ways. She has the ability to use against those who seek to do her harm, their own criminal activities, secrets, and human failings.
Members of the cast include, Cole Hauser (Good Will Hunting), who plays Charlie Siringo. He is a Pinkerton detective who can be charming or deadly, depending on a given situation, and he is not above breaking the law to see that justice has been served. John Ralston (Pound of Flesh) portrays hotel owner Ezekiel Danforth, who runs the establishment with his wife Isabel, played by Olivia Llewellyn (Enchantress). She will wind up becoming an unanticipated problem for Siringo, who takes an intense liking to her, and doesn’t care for the way her husband treats her. Siringo is in Fall River because he has been hired by someone to look into the Borden murders. He becomes a real thorn in Lizzie’s side, as he digs deeper than the initial investigators to find out the truth of what happened. Siringo is not the only law man of prominence in town. There is also Jeff Wincott’s character of Marshal Hilliard. On the opposite side of the law is Skipjack (Bradley Stryker) a criminal thug, and Chester Phi (Rhys Coiro), a photographer by trade, who unbeknownst to his family, not only works for criminals on occasion, but photographs and distributes pornographic photos. Jessy Schram plays attractive actress and dancer, Nancy O’Keefe, who upon meeting Lizzie, after the performance of one of her stage shows, is star struck by Borden. The two become fast friends. The actress informs Lizzie that she has read all about her and the trial in the papers, and tells Lizzie that she is more famous than the President. Through Jessy, Lizzie meets Broadway producer, Spencer Cavanaugh (Frank Chiesurin), who is interested in getting Lizzie to finance his latest production. The series also included guest stars such as “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul’s” Jonathan Banks, “Game of Thrones” Michelle Fairley, as well as “True Blood’s” Chris Bauer.
Comprised of the genres of crime, drama, and horror, the mini-series features a modern soundtrack. Those looking for any sort of semblance to historical accuracy as to what happened to Lizzie Borden after she was found not guilty at her trial, this is not the show for you. While several of the characters that appear on the show existed in real life, such as Charlie Siringo and Bat Masterson (Matthew Le Nevez), most are fictional. The series, in my opinion, is meant to be viewed as a campy, guilty pleasure, nothing more. As a fan of Ricci, I enjoyed watching it. I found it to be the perfect number of episodes for what it was, and I will return to it, if it is renewed for a second season.