If you’re the kind of person who loves watching mystery movies or TV shows and trying to figure out who did it before it’s revealed, you’ll love Alias Grace. This show keeps you on the edge of your seat, flipping back and forth between thinking the main character, Grace Marks, is innocent or guilty.
Alias Grace is an original limited series by Netflix, based on Margaret Atwood’s novel by the same name. And if the name Margaret Atwood sounds familiar to you, it might be because of her other wildly popular book series that was turned into a TV show—The Handmaid’s Tale.
The novel, Alias Grace, is a fictionalized retelling of the real-life murders of Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper, Nancy Montgomery, in 1843. Two servants working on Mr. Kinnear’s property, Grace Marks and James McDermott, were convicted of committing the murders. Atwood’s novel is based on factual events, but she invented a new character, Dr. Simon Jordan, to evaluate Grace Marks’ story and determine whether she was innocent or guilty.
Although the TV show aired in September 2017 on CBC Television in Canada, it aired internationally on Netflix in November 2017. There are only six episodes that are 45 minutes each, so it’s a super quick weekend watch.
I loved the novel iteration of Alias Grace so much; Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite authors, and this is my favorite book of hers. Because of this, I had high standards when I started watching the TV show iteration. I still think the book is better, but then again, no movie or TV show can ever really compete with a novel.
That said, I think the TV show was a beautiful interpretation that stayed true to Atwood’s vision. One of the reasons the show might have done so well in adapting the novel is that Margaret Atwood herself was a supervising producer. (She even had a teeny tiny cameo in the show, just as she did in The Handmaid’s Tale, which was exciting to see!) The show is so good that people might even be convinced to read the book after binging it just because they want to know more about Grace Marks.
As I mentioned above, the doctor character (Simon Jordan) is a fictionalized creation of Atwood’s. Still, with how well he’s incorporated into the story, he may as well have been in Canada West in 1843 when the murders were committed. Adding Dr. Simon Jordan to the tale was Atwood’s brilliant way of evaluating the story along with you through the eyes of the doctor. Edward Holcroft, the actor who plays Dr. Jordan in the TV show, helps readers sympathize with the frustrations of not being able to figure Grace Marks out.
Although Holcroft adds a special something to Alias Grace, the real shining star is Sarah Gadon, the actress who plays Grace Marks. First off, she pulls off an Irish accent so well. I didn’t even know Gordon was Canadian until I watched her interviews after binging Alias Grace. But more importantly, she does an excellent job of teetering that line between innocence and guilt. And you can’t quite put your finger on whether she’s actually guilty or not, especially since you can hear both her spoken words and her thoughts throughout the show.
Alias Grace is one of Netflix’s many limited series, and I’m thankful that it wasn’t turned into a longer show just because it was good or grew a fan base. Some shows need to be short and sweet, and just tell the story they set out to.
You can watch Alias Grace on Netflix right now. There are six episodes, each around 45 minutes long.