Alias Grace (miniseries)
Alias Grace is a Canadian television miniseries directed by Mary Harron and written by Sarah Polley, based on Margaret Atwood’s 1996 novel of the same name. It stars Sarah Gadon, Edward Holcroft, Rebecca Liddiard, Zachary Levi, Kerr Logan, David Cronenberg, Paul Gross, and Anna Paquin. The series consists of six episodes. It premiered on CBC on September 25, 2017 and appeared on Netflix on November 3, 2017.
|Based on||Alias Grace|
by Margaret Atwood
|Written by||Sarah Polley|
|Directed by||Mary Harron|
|Ending theme||"Let No Man Steal Your Thyme" by Anne Briggs|
|Country of origin||Canada|
|No. of episodes||6|
|Original network||CBC Television (Canada)|
|Original release||September 25 –|
October 30, 2017
The series was the third adaptation of an Atwood novel broadcast on television in 2017, after The Handmaid's Tale (adapted for Hulu) and Wandering Wenda (adapted for CBC Television's CBC Kids lineup).
- Sarah Gadon as Grace Marks
- Edward Holcroft as Dr. Simon Jordan
- Rebecca Liddiard as Mary Whitney
- Zachary Levi as Jeremiah the Peddler
- Kerr Logan as James McDermott
- David Cronenberg as Reverend Verrenger
- Anna Paquin as Nancy Montgomery
- Paul Gross as Thomas Kinnear
|No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date||Canada viewers|
|1||"Part 1"||Mary Harron||Sarah Polley||September 25, 2017||0.442|
|Dr. Simon Jordan is hired to do a psychiatric evaluation of "celebrated murderess" Grace Marks, who supporters hope will be set free as a result of Jordan's report. Grace has been imprisoned for murder for the past 15 years. Her co-conspirator McDermott was hanged. Though she has no memory of the actual murders, she tells Dr. Jordan about immigrating from Ireland to Canada and finding employment as a maid. Her mother passed away on the voyage, and once arriving to Canada, her abusive and alcoholic father demonstrated romantic interest in Grace. He finally demands that she go to earn a living and support the family. She is distressed at the idea of leaving her younger siblings alone, and says she had promised to come back, as at the time she had meant it. She leaves to find work in Toronto. Throughout their conversations, she has flashbacks involving the murders and her subsequent trial and conviction.|
|2||"Part 2"||Mary Harron||Sarah Polley||October 2, 2017||N/A|
|Dr. Jordan appears to have developed an interest in Grace, and fantasizes about holding her. Grace tells Dr. Jordan about her friendship with Mary Whitney, another maid. Mary is outgoing and an advocate for equality regardless of class status; she attempts to impart these ideas to Grace. Mary and Grace buy trinkets from a peddler named Jeremiah who reads Grace's fortune, telling her that she will encounter difficulties, but all will be fine. She and Mary develop a strong relationship, and become close very quickly. Mary becomes pregnant but refuses to tell Grace who the father is, although it is implied that it is the son of the master of the house. Mary dies of complications after an abortion, and Grace hallucinates that she hears Mary speaking with her. Following Mary's death, she is unconscious for a period of time and relates she doesn't have any memory of what the other women told her in the house she had said and did.|
|3||"Part 3"||Mary Harron||Sarah Polley||October 9, 2017||N/A|
|Dr. Jordan continues to think of Grace. Grace and Dr. Jordan continue their sessions, speaking of the events after Mary's death. Grace meets Nancy, a housekeeper for Mr. Thomas Kinnear. Nancy offers Grace a job with more pay. Though another maid warns Grace not to take the job, she accepts, in part because Nancy reminds Grace of Mary. After arriving at the farm in Richmond Hill, Ontario, Grace meets McDermott, a farmworker, as well as Jamie, a younger farm boy. Nancy gives Grace a tour of the house, including the cellar where the murders will take place. McDermott flirts with Grace, who does not reciprocate. Grace demonstrates loneliness, missing Toronto. McDermott is disliked by Nancy for his abrupt and explosive personality, and Nancy shows a strictness on the way that things should be handled in the home.|
|4||"Part 4"||Mary Harron||Sarah Polley||October 16, 2017||N/A|
|Dr. Jordan develops a crush on Grace, and she continues to recount her life's story to him. Nancy decides to dismiss McDermott. McDermott confirms to Grace that Nancy and Mr. Kinnear are sleeping together. Grace loses respect for Nancy, and they quarrel. According to Grace, McDermott says that they should kill Nancy and Mr. Kinnear and throw their bodies down the cellar. However, according to McDermott's written confession, Grace wanted to murder Nancy and Mr. Kinnear by poisoning them; McDermott refused to help her. Grace discovers that Nancy is pregnant. Jeremiah comes to say goodbye, and asks Grace to run away with him, but she refuses when he admits he does not want to marry her. Grace overhears Nancy saying that Grace is quarrelsome, talks to herself, and that Nancy is considering dismissing her. Grace hears Mary whispering to her, sleepwalks, and dreams that she is assaulted by men including McDermott and Mr. Kinnear. She dreams of headless angels in bloody robes, which she interprets as a sign of God's judgment against Mr. Kinnear's household.|
|5||"Part 5"||Mary Harron||Sarah Polley||October 23, 2017||N/A|
|In the present, Jeremiah is now a "neuro-hypnotist" known as Dr. DuPont. He arrives at the Governor's mansion and suggests putting Grace into a trance to try and access her memories. Though Dr. Jordan disagrees, Grace agrees to allow Jeremiah to hypnotize her. Dr. Jordan also becomes concerned as his recently separated landlady, Mrs. Humphrey has developed an attraction to him. That night, Grace ponders her contradictory statements and her trial, and debates what she should tell Dr. Jordan about the day of the murders. She hears Mary whispering to her. The next day, Grace tells Dr. Jordan that Mr. Kinnear went away on a trip, and Nancy uses this opportunity to fire both McDermott and Grace. McDermott tells Grace he plans to kill Nancy and Mr. Kinnear. Grace warns Nancy, who does not take the threat seriously. That night, Grace sees a vision of Mary, as well as Nancy's death. Grace's confession says that McDermott hit Nancy and threw her into the cellar, where he strangled her with Grace's kerchief. Grace claims she cannot remember this, and that her lawyer dictated her confession. The next thing she remembers is Mr. Kinnear arriving home and McDermott shooting him. Grace tries to run away; McDermott shoots at her and she faints from fright. Another period of amnesia follows. Jamie's statements say that he saw Grace in the yard, and that she lied to him about the Grace of the victims. During her hearing, she fainted forwards onto a stake of the railing in front of it after hearing her initial sentencing to death. She begins to unbutton the top of her shirt to show Dr. Jordan her scar, but he grabs on to her hand to stop her and it lingers. That night, Dr. Jordan fantasizes about Grace coming to visit him in bed, only to realize that 'Grace' is Mrs. Humphrey, and distressed, he leaves the city by train the next day. Grace recalls riding away with McDermott while wearing Nancy's clothes. McDermott says that Grace promised her hand in marriage in return for the murders and attempted to have relations with her; Grace claims that she cannot remember this. Grace and McDermott are arrested.|
|6||"Part 6"||Mary Harron||Sarah Polley||October 30, 2017||N/A|
Dr. Jordan visits Grace's lawyer in Toronto, who tells Dr. Jordan that Grace is likely guilty and only speaking to him because she is in love with him. Once he returns to see Grace, he is astonished to find her hair cut short. She explains it is a punishment for speaking. He also brings up the idea of hypnotism to Grace, who while reluctant, agrees if Dr. Jordan says so. Jeremiah hypnotizes Grace, who takes on the persona and voice of Mary. After witnessing another woman grab hold of Dr. Jordan's hand, she demonstrates jealousy of her, calling her a 'slut'. Dr. Jordan asks her if she ever had relations with McDermott, and she, as Mary, claims that the two kissed passionately, which is alluded to be a method to anger and make Dr. Jordan jealous. She attempts to provoke him, saying that she knows of his feelings for her. She also claims to have tried to string both McDermott and Kinnear along. Mary claims that she murdered Nancy, but that Grace does not know of Mary's existence, insinuating that Grace did not kill anybody. During this, there are various flashbacks/versions of the murder played, some in which Grace is distressed by the deaths and others in which she participates. Mary's presence is apparently due to a Catholic superstition that Grace previously spoke about in which after a person dies, you must open the window to let their soul out, which Grace didn't properly do for Mary. Once Jeremiah breaks her out of her trance, Grace appears to not have any awareness of what she said, and says she must have been asleep. Jeremiah says that it appears to be two separate personalities in the same body. Dr. Jordan is personally offended by this turn of events, and decides to leave town and go see his mother. He refuses to write a report about Grace's case because he cannot be sure if she is faking or not. He goes on to succumb to Mrs. Humphrey's attempted seduction, and they have sex. Grace is hurt by Dr. Jordan's departure from town without any explanation. Dr. Jordan continues to ponder and think of Grace. He joins the army, in an attempt to consume his mind of something else.Eleven years later, Grace receives a pardon and is released from prison. Grace is told that there is a surprise waiting for her involving a gentleman, whom she believes to be Dr. Jordan. However it is Jamie Walsh, the farm boy, who apologizes for his role in her conviction and asks her to marry him. Grace is stunned, and tells him there is nothing to forgive. She hesitates, but realizing she has very few options, she decides to accept his proposal. The two lead a pleasant life, and Grace now has the Jersey cow and Leghorn chickens she and Mary fantasized about in their youth, implying that she is living Mary's life. The narration now becomes known as a long letter Grace is writing to Dr. Jordan. Grace declines Jamie's suggestion of hired help. She is also troubled by his constant questioning on her life in the asylum, and his apologies for the pain he's caused her. She says that all of his questions remind her of Dr. Jordan. She says she held rage against Mary and Nancy for "dying in the ways they did." Unbeknownst to her, he was severely injured in the American Civil War and was left in a semi-catatonic state. His mother reads him the letter, and Jordan, who has not uttered a word in years, emits the single word: "Grace". The series closes with Grace sewing a quilt of her own, representing her life story.
Public domain paintings from Statens Museum for Kunst (SMK - the national gallery of Denmark) decorate central locations in the series, among them the house of the Parkinson family where Grace Marks works as a maid, and the governor's mansion where she meets with Dr. Jordan. SMK provides free access to its public domain collection, and the scenographers have used a range of the museum's paintings, primarily from the 18th and 19th centuries.
Seen in Parkinson's house: Christen Købke, View of a Street in Østerbro outside Copenhagen. Morning Light, 1836.
Seen in Parkinson's house: Jens Juel, Niels Ryberg with his Son Johan Christian and his Daughter-in-Law Engelke, née Falbe, 1797.
Seen in Parkinson's house: C.A. Jensen, Cathrine Jensen, née Lorenzen, the artist's Wife, Wearing a Turban, c. 1842–44.
Seen in Parkinson's house: Johan Thomas Lundbye, Kolås Wood. Vejrhøj, 1846.
Seen in Parkinson's house: Carl Gustaf Pilo, Portrait of Frederik V in Anointment Robe, about 1750.
Seen in the governor's mansion: Rembrandt's workshop, Willem Drost?, Young Woman with a Carnation, 1656.
The prison scenes were shot on location at Kingston Penitentiary where the real Grace Marks, who formed the basis of Atwood's character, was incarcerated. Scenes were also filmed at the Correctional Service of Canada Museum in the old Warden's residence.
On Metacritic the series received a score of 82 out of 100 based on 30 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim". The miniseries has a 99% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 8.01 out of 10 based on 79 reviews. The site's critical consensus is: "Biting social commentary and Sarah Gadon's hypnotic performance make Alias Grace a worthy addition to the Margaret Atwood adaptation catalog".
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Last month, CBC announced its fall lineup, doubling down on Canadian author Margaret Atwood with the historical drama Alias Grace, which joins children's show Wandering Wenda on the network.
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