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Series / Alias Grace

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"I'd rather be a murderess than a murderer, if those were the only choices."

A CBC-Netflix coproduced dramatic miniseries based on a novel by Margaret Atwood, which was itself Based on a True Story about an Irish-Canadian maid convicted of murdering her employer in the 1840s.

Alias Grace includes examples of:

  • All Love Is Unrequited: Multiple people fall in love with Grace, but she does not reciprocate their feelings. Even though she eventually marries Jamie, she feels only friendship towards him.
  • Ambiguous Ending: So very much. Did Grace do it or was it her alternate personality? For that matter, did the hypnosis really work and bring up her Mary Whitney persona, or did it just give her an excuse to say everything she'd always wanted to? How much of what Grace told Dr. Jordan is actually true?
  • Artistic License – History: Many of the details are right, but since so much information about the case is contradictory or simply missing, this was inevitable to tell a full story.
  • Barred from the Afterlife: Following her mother's death Grace picks up a superstition about opening the window after someone dies, to make sure their soul is able to escape the room, from a woman on the ship.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Nancy is not half so kind as she likes to appear.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Although Grace eventually gets out and marries Jamie, she has no romantic feelings for him. Meanwhile, Dr. Jordan is seriously injured fighting in The American Civil War shortly after interviewing Grace, and spends the rest of his life in a vegetative state.
  • Brick Joke: When Mary and Grace talk about what they want when they're married and do the apple peel trick, Mary says she wants a farmer for a husband, with specific kinds of cows, and Grace's apple peel falls like a J. After being pardoned, Grace marries Jamie, and has a farm with exactly those animals.
  • Creator Cameo: Margaret Atwood appears briefly as a woman in church who disapproves of Nancy and Dr. Kinnear.
  • Dies Wide Open: Poor Mary, after a botched abortion.
  • Faint in Shock: Grace faints frequently, at situations such as being sentenced to death or running for her life and hearing a gunshot that she mistakenly believes has hit her. Each time, she goes extremely deeply unconscious, and, upon waking, experiences some degree of amnesia from how long she spent with her brain thoroughly shut off. Her most significant faint, however, is when she faints from the grief and shock over the traumatic death of her dearest friend Mary: in the book, she stays completely out cold for ten hours, whereas in the show, her faint lasts even longer, as she faints in the morning right after the discovery of Mary's death, and stays dead unconscious throughout the afternoon and the entire night despite her fellow maids' continued efforts to revive her. By the time she wakes up, it is already broad daylight the next day, whereupon she has a brief episode of being evidently possessed by Mary's soul before promptly passing out again. When she wakes up from this second faint, it is once again late into the night, and, if her narration is to be believed, yet another day later.
    • Dr. Jordan's landlady faints from overexertion, and he was able to quickly restore her since he always carried the necessary remedies with him due to his being tasked with interviewing Grace, whose reputation as a frequent fainter precedes her. Ironically, no remedy of any kind is shown to actually work on a fainted Grace, as every time Grace faints, she seems to faint into profound comas that she must wake up from naturally. Even Grace's shortest faint (from the shock of seeing Jeremiah for the first time in ages) is one from which she wakes up on her own some minutes after all attempts to revive her have failed and those trying have given up.
  • The Film of the Book: Based on a Margaret Atwood novel Based on a True Story.
  • Florence Nightingale Effect: A one-sided version, it's implied that Dr. Jordan has feelings for Grace.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Nancy quickly becomes jealous and insecure because of the young and pretty Grace. Their employer is certainly interested in her, but whether Grace actually responded to his advances (as she suggests in her hypnosis scene) or not is left ambiguous.
  • Mirror Monologue: The opening of the series shows Grace practicing expressions for the different personas she could present, depending on what people think of her.
  • My Greatest Failure: Jamie was led into testifying against Grace by a lawyer. He spends the rest of his life regretting it.
  • My Secret Pregnancy: Mary, as a result of buying probably George Parkinson's spurious promises of marriage.
    • Later, Nancy as well. According to Grace's words to Simon, Thomas Kinnear was oblivious that his and Nancy's sex resulted in an illegitimate pregnancy.
  • Only Friend: Due to their limited social circle and economic status, Mary Whitney and Grace Marks are each other's only friend. Mary is gregarious and outgoing and overcomes Grace's reserve. It helps that they spend all day, every day together, including sharing a bed at night.
  • Out of the Frying Pan: Grace has to leave the Parkinson household quickly when the eldest son George, serial harasser of maids, takes a term off college. Unfortunately, Kinnear is just as bad, Nancy, his housekeeper and lover, plays Alpha Bitch mean-girl games because she's jealous, and the hired hand is an asshole.
  • Poor Communication Kills: If Cook had only been specific in her warnings against taking the position with Dr. Kinnear (namely, if she'd mentioned that Mary had left his household due to sexual harassment), Grace might not have gone, thus avoiding the events of the show.
  • Punishment Box: One of the punishments at the prison.
  • The Rashomon: The crime Grace was convicted of is shown more than once according to different narrators, from McDermott's testimony and Grace's recounting to Dr. Jordan.
  • The Shrink: The story is told through Grace's conversations with an alienist, Dr. Simon Jordan.
  • Split Personality: While not explicitly confirmed, it is suggested that Grace suffers from this. It may explain her bouts of amnesia and the manipulation claims from McDermott. Beside her main personality, demure and conservative, she carries an alternative persona inspired by the rebellious Mary Whitney and Nancy. It is enforced at the end where Grace is shown sewing a quilt that combined elements of the clothes of the three women.
  • Traumatic Haircut: One of the punishments at the prison is cutting off an inmate's hair if she talks too much, which happens to Grace around part 6.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Grace explicitly states that she changes parts of her story to suit Dr. Jordan's sensibilities.
  • Uptown Girl: Mary's "gentleman", although he was lying about the romantic aspects. Also, Dr. Kinnear to Nancy, his housekeeper.
  • The Vamp: Grace's alternate personality, at least if you believe what she said while hypnotized.