Alias Grace

Rating 8.5
Streamer Netflix
Seasons 1
Episodes 6 x 45 mins

Netflix and true crime go together like murder and deceit. Their standalone series Alias Grace is an adaptation of the Margaret Atwood novel of the same name, which is based on a true Canadian murder case from 1843.

The case concerns Irishwoman Grace Marks and her fellow servant James McDermott, who were convicted of killing their master, Thomas Kinnear along with his housekeeper/bit-on-the-side, Nancy Montgomery. Whilst McDermott was sent to the gallows, Marks was sentenced to life in prison at Kingston Penitentiary. As far as the show goes, that’s all the true facts we have – from here on out, we’re in the not-very-comforting hands of Atwood’s vivid imagination. In that way, this adaptation is fiercely loyal to the book, which follows Grace and the question of her innocence – something it seems she is not entirely sure of herself – amongst the chaos of her infamy.

And it wouldn’t be an Atwood without some nuanced points about society: Grace is an immigrant, a prisoner, she’s at once powerful and vulnerable, there are class distinctions scattered throughout the story, and press running lies in the headlines. For a story set in the nineteenth century, there sure is a lot in the way of relatability. And among all this cerebral goodness, there’s an entertaining and gripping story which is beautifully produced. So, we’re a bit miffed that this gem has been overshadowed by its Handmaid sister, because if you ask us, Alias Grace is just as good, if not better.

Decide for yourself by reading our review for The Handmaid’s Tale

Lucy Mangan in The Guardian says that Alias Grace is “just as masterly” as The Handmaid’s Tale, and is “brilliantly adapted by Sarah Polley.” The New York Times’ James Poniewozik agrees, saying Polley’s script “is constantly aware of what is being said, to whom and why,” making for a “transfixing” series. Ben Lawrence in The Telegraph says the series “feels both obsessively faithful [to Atwood’s text] and cinematically ambitious,” calling it “literate film-making of the highest order.”

First shown November 2017. You can watch the trailer by pressing play on the show image, or by clicking here:

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