If a man is handsome, he is rich and charming, he’s probably trash.
That’s definitely the case with Lifetime Flowers in the Attic: The Origin, which explores Olivia Winfield’s twisted backstory and the complex reasons that led her to lock her grandchildren up in an attic.
A prequel to 2014 flowers in the attic and its continuation petals in the wind, The origin begins 1920 with a younger Olivia Winfield (played by The girlfriend experience‘s Jemima Rooper) works in her father’s office and is looking forward to the freedom of choice soon.
Dad invites her to dinner with a potential suitor named Malcolm Foxworth (condor‘s Max Irons), to which she reluctantly agrees. Oh, they’re also joined by their creepy cousin John Amos (the Vampire DiariesPaul Wesley), who explores her private life as well as his religious studies.
In classic “This Is a Very Bad Man Pretending to Be Good” style, Malcolm does all To the right. He asks questions about her father’s business during their lively discussions, takes her on romantic walks, rearranges his plans to show interest in her, and even gives her a book he thought she might like.
But he is also reserved when it comes to his private life and reveals few details: his mother died when he was five years old and he lives in a large, empty mansion because his father Garland (Kelsey Grammer) has retired . Olivia quickly learns that Malcolm lied about his mother’s death, but the easygoing bachelor has a good excuse for it.
“When I said my mother died when I was a boy, I wasn’t lying. she did die – at least for me,” he tells her. Olivia apologizes for asking, and the next moment Malcolm is on his knees proposing. (Olivia, girl, you’re in danger.)
They quickly marry and more red flags surface: on the way to Foxworth Hall, Malcolm coldly tells Olivia that her job is to keep house; the mansion is dark and desolate; Malcolm avoids her on their wedding night and disappears the next morning; her assigned office space is tucked away in a windowless room; Housekeeper Mrs. Steiner (Kate Mulgrew) tells Olivia that Malcolm doesn’t like roaming people and refuses to reveal more details about the family, despite having worked there since birth; and maid Nella (T’Shan Williams) is reluctant to show Olivia the attic (where she will eventually lock up her grandchildren).
Olivia ventures there anyway, and that’s when we learn of Malcolm’s severe mothering problems. He keeps Corrine’s portrait locked away in the attic, and her old room has been preserved like a spooky museum. Malcolm loses his composure when he catches Olivia going through his mother’s belongings, but then shows her the room and reveals more details, such as the fact that Corrine was 17 when she married Garland. Also, she was proud of her looks, which means Malcolm despises women who wear makeup.
To outsiders, Olivia and Malcolm are the perfect couple. They dance closely during their wedding reception, but no one can hear him whisper in her ear that he thinks she looks like an ordinary prostitute because she wears a fitted dress and makeup. At the end of the night, Olivia retreats to her room (they don’t sleep in the same bed) to cry, and then Malcolm leads her into his mother’s room and attacks her.
Olivia plans to leave her husband, but soon learns from Amos that her father died in deep debt. With no inheritance or home to flee to, she is stuck with Malcolm. The attacks continue and she eventually announces her pregnancy. When she gives birth to a child, Malcolm is disappointed it’s a boy as he wanted a girl – who he would name Corrine after his mother – and immediately asks how soon they can try one. Olivia eventually gives birth to another boy and Malcolm loathes her as she cannot bear any more children and has denied him “the only thing I want”.
Garland returns to the mansion with his new wife, Alicia, who is also super young but madly in love with him. She is pregnant and Olivia is jealous of their loving relationship. Garland is affectionate and even sleeps in the same room as his wife. The couple are over the moon when their son Christopher is born.
But Alicia is young and beautiful, and Nella warns Olivia to take care of her because Malcolm “loves beautiful things.” Cue the sustained stares and Malcolm following Alicia to the pond when she goes swimming. One night, Olivia finds Alicia screaming, Garland dead on the floor, and Malcolm covering a scratched wrist. Suspecting that Malcolm murdered his father, she bribes the doctor not to do an autopsy, and Garland’s death is ruled a heart attack.
Months later, a depressed Alicia reveals more details from the night Garland died. Malcolm attacked her and then got into a scuffle with his father, choking him against the wall. After that, he continued to attack Alicia and took her to his mother’s room, just like he did with Olivia. Horrified by this, Olivia tells her to take Christopher and her inheritance and start over somewhere else. But it’s too late to leave because Alicia is pregnant, and it’s definitely not Garlands.
This really upsets Olivia and she kills Malcolm’s treasured lamb before serving it to him for dinner. Later, Olivia confronts her husband about Alicia and sarcastically tells him, “Congratulations. you are the father and the stepbrother.”
She points out that she knows Malcolm killed Garland and what he did to his stepmother. She wants to destroy him and ruin his name, but she tip since they are irrevocably linked. To protect her reputation, she devises a plan to publicly turn Alicia away and smuggle her back in later that night. The young woman will be isolated in the attic in the east wing and Malcolm must not go near her or Olivia will tell everyone what the hell happened.
Oh, and Malcolm needs to set up a $2 million endowment for her two sons so they can one day be free of him.
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