Two shows about forceful women grace TV screens this weekend: Famed killer Lizzie Borden gets her own series on Lifetime and Claire Randall, the healer, lover, and time-traveler at the center of Starz's Outlander returns for five more episodes.
Outlander hasn't occasioned the same media fuss as Game of Thrones, but the powerful period romance has flourished and soared over the course of the season, steadily, stealthily becoming one of cable's most compelling shows.
Adapted by Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica) from novelist Diana Gabaldon's gazillion-selling fantasy-romance series, Outlander's freshman season is back after taking a six-month break. The season will wrap up with eight new weekly episodes, beginning at 9 p.m. Saturday.
A densely packed, multilayered epic about a World War II nurse named Claire (Caitriona Balfe) inexplicably transported back in time to 1743 Scotland, the genre-defying drama has a way of getting under your skin.
In former episodes, Claire found herself in the middle of a conflict between England's redcoats and Scottish rebels. She was taken in by the Scots. Just before the hiatus, she wed one of their most strapping warriors, Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan).
The new episodes will explore the newlyweds' life together, including Jamie's attempt to rule his wife by taking a belt to her derriere. Not a wise move.
Their commitment to each other will be tested when Jamie's nemesis, the sadistic English officer Capt. Jack Black (Tobias Menzies) goes after Claire. We also learn how the wickedly perverse Black once held Jamie prisoner and took delight in personally subjecting the Scot to 100 lashes of the cat o' nine tails.
Plenty of bodices get ripped in Outlander, but it tries hard to give equal time to eroticizing men and women. Jamie is especially fetching when shirtless - until one looks at his back, which bears the mark of those dark days.
Always fascinating and often quite odd, mad, and weird, Outlander has the most peculiar mix of gothic horror, swashbuckling adventure, magical fantasy, and romance you're likely to experience on TV.
That, according to the popular ditty, is the number of times Lizzie Borden smashed her ax into her father Andrew Borden in 1892. We saw it all happen last year in Lifetime's hit TV movie Lizzie Borden Took an Ax, which featured a seriously preposterous, perverse, and awesome performance by Christina Ricci as the killer who butchered her parents. The mediocre film ended with Lizzie's trial - and acquittal.
Lifetime is capitalizing on the film's popularity with the six-part mini-series The Lizzie Borden Chronicles, premiering at 10 p.m. Sunday with Ricci reprising her starring role.
The series is no less absurd, but it's far more fun than the movie: We all know about the ax murders. It's more fascinating to watch Lizzie continue to weave her web of evil after her trial. Clea Duvall also reprises her role as Lizzie's mega-Christian sister Emma, and Borden newcomer Cole Hauser plays a detective sent into town to reinvestigate Lizzie's crimes.
A grisly good time will be had by all.
Premieres 9 p.m. Saturday on Starz.
The Lizzie Borden Chronicles
Premieres 10 p.m. Sunday on Lifetime.