A Review of the new Netflix series ‘Alias Grace’

I happened to chance upon a preview of this particular new show when I opened my Netflix homepage last evening. I was hoping to watch something fresh and appealing to me having previously watched some serious movies over the course of last week. That is when the preview of Alias Grace beheld me and I made my way through it.

I found that it is an adaptation of the book of the same name written by Margaret Atwood, whom I had earlier found out about through Google as being a prominent writer of literary fiction in modern times. I had seen a sample of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ written by her on my Kindle reader and now I found a copy of ‘Alias Grace’ as well.

Well, coming to the storyline, the show consists of six episodes which tracks the early teenage to late adult life of a woman called Grace Marks, an ordinary maid working in a 19th century set-up in upper Canada. She was a poor Irish immigrant who was stationed at the Kingston Penetentiary at Kingston, Ontario for 15 years having spent her early childhood years in Ireland. The central idea of the story is her imprisonment for the convicted murder of her employer Thomas Kinnear whom she used to work for after the death of her dear friend of early teenage Mary Whitney when she was serving in the Kingston Penetentiary. Mary had died of uncontrolled bleeding after her to-be husband refused to take her in, knowing that she was expecting and needed care and support. He refused to marry her and so she went to a doctor who cut her up and told her that everything would be fine, but later that night she bled to death. The next morning, while clearing the room, Grace forgets to open the window to ‘let Mary’s soul out’. This has repurcussions later on because at the end of the tale, the spirit of Mary possesses Grace when she is hypnotized before the Committee who had charged her of murder.

The most amount of screen time is given to the conversations between Dr. Simon Jordan, the therapist who is hired to determine whether Grace is actually responsible for the murder of her employer or whether she is just a hysteric and not a criminal. Grace tells the doctor the entire story of her life including her alliance with James McDermott with whom she was accused of killing Kinnear and his mistress Nancy Montgomery. The doctor is even somewhat smitten by her beauty and gentle manners but he cannot reveal this to her. Finally, at the end of the entire series of events, Grace is hypnotized and ‘put to sleep’ by Dr. DuPont, a neuro-hypnotist who is actually previously known to her as a peddler during her young years. She sits before a committee of people who were involved in her trial, including Dr. Jordan, who wishes to see what she speaks of while in a trance. This is when she starts to speak in a different tone of voice and everyone realizes that she is possessed by a spirit. The spirit actually turns out to be that of Mary because Grace had forgotten to free her soul after her death that fateful night. Mary explains that she had possessed Grace on the day of the murder and driven McDermott to kill the landlord and his wife, while Grace did not remember anything. Dr.Jordan concludes that Grace had a double personality with two people residing within her but refuses to present a report before the Committee about it.

Eventually, Grace does gets pardoned and is freed from captivity in the asylum. She changes her name and is taken to the United States where she re-unites with an old admirer of hers during her working days, Jamie Walsh who wishes to marry her. She lives the rest of her days living in the farm taking care of the animals and sewing quilts.

I found the show quite engaging and thought-provoking and was a change from present-day TV series which focus on superheroes and their powers as opposed to this one which is set completely in the Victorian era of the 19th century and employs old English and Scottish accents. The storyline was actually full of elements of mystery and suspense. I am sure that the book must be as engaging as it’s adaptation on screen and am planning to read it when time permits.