Alias Grace (miniseries)

From Wikipedia the free encyclopedia

Alias Grace
Alias Grace.png
Based onAlias Grace
by Margaret Atwood
Written bySarah Polley
Directed byMary Harron
Ending theme"Let No Man Steal Your Thyme" by Anne Briggs
Country of originCanada
Original language(s)English
No. of episodes6
Original networkCBC Television (Canada)
Netflix (international)
Original releaseSeptember 25 (2017-09-25) –
October 30, 2017 (2017-10-30)
External links

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.[1] It premiered on CBC on September 25, 2017, and appeared on Netflix on November 3, 2017.[2][3][4]

In advance of the series premiere, the first two episodes received a preview screening at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival in its Primetime lineup of selected television programming.[5]

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).[6]





No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateCanada viewers
1"Part 1"Mary HarronSarah PolleySeptember 25, 2017 (2017-09-25)0.442[10]
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 died on the voyage, and her abusive and alcoholic father sexually assaults her. 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, trial and conviction.
2"Part 2"Mary HarronSarah PolleyOctober 2, 2017 (2017-10-02)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; 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 to her. She then faints, lies unconscious for a period of time, wakes up in distress looking for Grace and saying she is Mary, then faints again. Once she regains consciousness the second time, she relates she doesn't have any memory of what the other women in the house told her she had said and done.
3"Part 3"Mary HarronSarah PolleyOctober 9, 2017 (2017-10-09)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 HarronSarah PolleyOctober 16, 2017 (2017-10-16)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 decides not to when he reveals that he does not believe in marriage, and Grace recognizes that misogyny in society would make this choice unsafe for her if they did not marry. 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 HarronSarah PolleyOctober 23, 2017 (2017-10-23)N/A
Jeremiah reappears in the present, fashioning himself a "neuro-hypnotist" known as Dr. DuPont. He arrives at the Governor's mansion and Grace faints when she recognizes him, but only she is aware of his true identity. He 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 whereabouts of the victims at that time. In the courtroom, after hearing her initial sentencing to death, she faints onto the railing. While being interviewed by Jordan, she begins to unbutton the top of her shirt to show the scar, but he grabs hand to stop her. 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 attempts to rape her. Grace and McDermott are arrested.
6"Part 6"Mary HarronSarah PolleyOctober 30, 2017 (2017-10-30)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. 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, and it turns out to be 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. After hesitating, she accepts his proposal. The two lead a pleasant life, and Grace now has the Jersey cow and Leghorn chickens Mary predicted she would have when they were teenagers, as well as a husband whose name begins with 'J,' as Mary foresaw. 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, which includes pieces of fabric worn by Nancy and Mary, so that the women remain close to her.


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.[11][12]

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.[13]


On Metacritic, the series received a score of 82 out of 100 based on 30 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[14] 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".[15]


  1. ^ Maane Khatchatourian (June 21, 2016). "Netflix Nabs Sarah Polley Miniseries Based on Margaret Atwood True-Crime Novel". Variety. Retrieved June 30, 2016.
  2. ^ "CBC, Netflix to screen miniseries based on Margaret Atwood novel Alias Grace". The Globe and Mail. The Canadian Press. June 21, 2016.
  3. ^ "Netflix Debuts First Look Images from New Miniseries based on Margaret Atwood novel, Alias Grace". Netflix Media Center. Retrieved May 19, 2017.
  4. ^ "Alias Grace Teaser Netflix". YouTube. Retrieved July 24, 2017.
  5. ^ "Vince Carter documentary and a preview of CBC’s Alias Grace join TIFF’s 26-title Canuck lineup". Toronto Star, August 9, 2017.
  6. ^ Wong, Tony (June 6, 2017). "City TV unveils a Canadian 'Sopranos' for the fall". The Hamilton Spectator. 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.
  7. ^ Lesley Goldberg (June 28, 2016). "Sarah Gadon to Star in Netflix's Margaret Atwood Drama 'Alias Grace' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 30, 2016.
  8. ^ Michael Ausiello (July 22, 2016). "Zachary Levi Joins Alias Grace, Netflix and CBC's 6-Hour Miniseries". TVLine. Retrieved July 23, 2016.
  9. ^ Nellie Andreeva (August 16, 2016). "Anna Paquin To Star In 'Alias Grace' Netflix & CBC Miniseries". Deadline. Retrieved August 16, 2016.
  10. ^ Bill Brioux [@BillBriouxTV] (September 26, 2017). "MON o'nites CTV #BigBang 2952k YoungShel 2553k MeMyself&I 952k GoodDoc 1820k CBC #MurdochMysteries 978k #AliasGrace 442k GLO #TheBrave 874k" (Tweet). Retrieved May 20, 2018 – via Twitter.
  11. ^ Sanderhoff, Merete (November 8, 2017). "Danish art takes Netflix". SMK Open. Retrieved November 10, 2017.
  12. ^ "Dansk kunst på Netflix". (in Danish). November 7, 2017. Retrieved November 10, 2017.
  13. ^ Grubbs, Jefferson. "Is Kingston Penitentiary A Real Prison? 'Alias Grace' Filmed On Location". Bustle. Retrieved November 10, 2017.
  14. ^ "Alias Grace". Metacritic. Retrieved November 26, 2017.
  15. ^ "Alias Grace: Miniseries". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved February 25, 2019.

External links[edit]