Alias Grace is a Canadian-American television miniseries directed by Mary Harron and starring Sarah Gadon. It is based on the 1996 novel of the same name by Margaret Atwood and adapted by Sarah Polley. The series consists of six episodes. It premiered on CBC on September 25, 2017, and appeared on Netflix on November 3, 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).
|No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date||Canada viewers
|1||"Part 1"||Mary Harron||Sarah Polley||September 25, 2017||N/A|
|Dr. Simon Jordan is hired to do a psychiatric evaluation of "celebrated murderess" Grace Marks, whose supporters hope that his report will set her free. 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. 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|
|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. Mary becomes pregnant but refuses to tell Grace who the father is. Mary dies of complications after an abortion, and Grace hallucinates that she hears Mary speaking with her.|
|3||"Part 3"||Mary Harron||Sarah Polley||October 9, 2017||N/A|
|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.|
|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. 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 handkerchief. 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 whereabouts of the victims. Dr. Jordan 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; 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. Jeremiah hypnotizes Grace, who takes on the persona of Mary. Mary claims that she murdered Nancy, but that Grace does not know of Mary's existence. Dr. Jordan is personally offended by this turn of events, and decides to leave town. He refuses to write a report about Grace's case because he cannot be sure if she is faking or not. Eleven years later, Grace receives a pardon and is released from prison. Jamie Walsh, the farm boy, 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. The narration now becomes known as a long letter Grace is writing to Dr. Jordan. 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 8.13 out of 10 based on 63 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".
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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