R29 Binge Club: Alias Grace Season 1 Recaps

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
If Mindhunter and The Handmaid’s Tale had a baby, and covered that baby in solely 1800s-ready petticoats and bonnets, you would get Netflix’s newest series, Alias Grace. The six-part miniseries, inspired by real events, introduces us to Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon) a young woman imprisoned for nearly two decades for a violent, bloody double homicide in 1843 Canada. Despite the visceral nature of Grace’s crimes, she has lost her memory of the gruesome events. Enter Dr. Simon Jordan (Edward Holcroft) a psychologist bent on helping his new patient recover the memories she lost — or, possibly, the memories she’s repressing.
If none of this Victorian era murder and psychology sounds very Handmaid’s Tale, we should mention Alias Grace is this year’s second streaming TV series that happens to be a Margaret Atwood adaptation. While the story of Offred (Elisabeth Moss) showed us where the danger of misogyny could drag society in the not-so-distant future, Grace reveals the harsh realities of being a woman in the past, and, sadly, in the present. Also, there's also a whole murder mystery to be solved here.
With a description like that, it’s no surprise Alias Grace is so darn bingeable. Keep reading for the live recaps of the Atwood-produced series, and keep checking back since I’ll be updating throughout the day.
“Part 1”
It’s time to meet Grace Marks, everyone. Within our first seconds of knowing the celebrated murderess, as she prefers to be called over “murderer,” it’s obvious Grace is stunningly self-aware. In voiceover, we hear her describe the many ways she has been written about by strangers since her conviction 15 years prior. She corresponds her face to the identities other people have foisted upon her: coldly intimidating for “inhuman female demon,” wide-eyed for “innocent victim,” cunning and devious for, well, “cunning and devious.” You get the gist. Grace easily fits all of these tropes with just a small adjustment of her facial muscles. Immediately, it’s unclear who the real Grace Marks is among all these personalities.
Thankfully, it is Dr. Simon Jordan’s job to find the real Grace amid all of these choices. The residents of the prison governor’s house have taken Grace up as a sort of charity case, and hope Dr. Jordan will be able to write a report on the convict that will set her free. While the guards of Grace’s prison detest her, these members of high society want her pardoned. This is because Grace cannot remember large chunks of time surrounding the day she and her co-worker James McDermott (Kerr Logan) supposedly killed their employer Thomas Kinnear (Paul Gross) and his housekeeper Nancy Montgomery (Anna Paquin). If Grace can’t remember anything, could she have even committed the crime?
As Dr. Jordan begins studying Grace, we get glimpses of her memories, which, obviously, the doctor can’t see. There’s a flash of Nancy falling down a set of stairs — we know it’s Nancy because any True Blood fan can recognize Anna Paquin in anguish — there’s a quick scene of a younger Grace playing a girlhood marriage-predicting game with a friend, another of Grace screaming in an asylum, and a very quick look at a man apparently axing someone’s bloody leg. At other points there are also literal buckets of bloody water.
During a conversation between Jordan and Grace’s staunchest supporter, a local reverend (the famed writer-director-producer David Cronenberg), we get important details on Grace’s trial, including the fact she dressed in a ridiculous all-pink outfit. I assume the comically feminine ensemble was meant to garner leniency due to the obvious inherent weakness of women. Eyeroll. During the trial, Grace claimed she saw James McDermott drag the aforementioned Nancy by the hair and toss her down a cellar. James, on the other hand, used his final words before a hanging to say Nancy made him commit the murders. I feel this information will come in handy later.
Speaking of handy information, Dr. Jordan notes there is an extra name written under her confession’s portrait. The caption reads, “Grace Marks, alias, Mary Whitney.” Grace first says the alias is “just a name” she gave when McDermott was running away with her. But, upon further coaxing, she explains Mary Whitney was “a particular friend” of hers who had died by the time of Grace’s murders. “Without her, it would have been a different story entirely,” Grace admits. So, let’s all remember the name “Mary Whitney” going forward.
The story-setting continues as we get a flashback-heavy look at Grace’s early life. She hails from Northern Ireland, although her father is English. Grace’s father, a Protestant, seemingly started attacking fellow Protestants who sided with the Catholics, so the family fled to Canada. On the boat to a new continent, Grace’s mother predicts she will die on the voyage. She is correct. Grace falls asleep next to her living ailing mother, but wakes up next to her corpse. Color Grace traumatized. To make things worse, an old woman on the boat tells Grace a window needs to be opened wherever a dead body is to let the soul out to heaven. There are no windows to open in the hull of a foul ship.
And, so, Grace finds herself into Toronto with the her physically abusive father, who also tries to sexually assault her at least once. Grace is so fed up with the constant torture, the then extremely young woman considers killing her dad. Now we know Grace has come close to murder at least once. Although Grace’s father has no idea he was almost suffocated by his own child, he still sends her out into the world to act as a maid at a “fine” Toronto house. This, ladies and gentleman, is how Grace meets one Mary Whitney. Mary is Grace’s rebellion-obsessed, gregarious co-maid and guide to the Parkinson household. I love Mary Whitney.
While those are the plot highlights of Alias Grace, I would be remiss if I did not mention the true shining part of the series, which is when the titular character shades Dr. Jordan via voiceover. In their first meeting, the doctor gives his new patient an apple and asks if there’s any kind of apple “you should not eat.” Grace responds, “A rotten one, I suppose?” The answer could be read as sarcastic or earnest, depending on which Grace you believe in. It seems we should all lean towards the former, as our anti-heroine says in voiceover upon Simon’s exit, “The apple of the tree of knowledge is what you meant. Good and evil. Any child could guess it.” See, we don’t really know what kind of person we’re dealing with.
This episode’s opening quote: Every episode of Alias Grace begins with a poem, a few lines of a poem, or a quote from a poet. Alias Grace is wild about poetry. The premiere quotation comes from a stanza of Emily Dickinson’s “LXIX,” explaining the horrors of an assassin hiding in one’s apartment is nothing compared to the horrors we hide in ourselves.
As someone who lives in an apartment, I cannot quite agree. But, I see what you’re saying here, Alias Grace.
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
“Part 2”
If this episode were to have a theme, it would be prophecies. Before even hitting the halfway mark of the installment, we get five big ones: Mary and her apple skins, Grace being told not to go alone to the outside privy, Mary’s pretend death, the icicle, and the actual, literal prophecy from local handsome peddler Jeremiah (Zachary Levi). All together, it makes sense we close “Part 2” with the traumatizing, horrific death of the lovable Miss Mary Whitney, who bleeds out following a botched abortion. The image of a perished Mary, which was a sad reality for women at this time, is one of the strongest nods to the unblinking, fearlessly realistic feminist undertones of fellow Margaret Atwood streaming adaptation The Handmaid’s Tale. So, let’s get into how each of these five moments play into the young woman’s bloody, upsetting death.
The apple skins
We get a glimpse of Mary and Grace throwing the apple skins over their shoulders while giggling and wearing their nightgowns in “Part 1”, but, it’s unclear what’s actually going on. In “Part 2,” we get our answer. Mary introduces Grace to an old superstition, where a young woman cuts the complete peel of an apple in one piece and throws the peel over her shoulder. The girl will marry a man whose initial is the same as whether letter the fallen peel resembles. When the pair do this late at night in their shared room, Grace comes out with a J. That means she could be destined for the dashing Jeremiah, or, even Dr. Jordan, who keeps having very inappropriate fantasies her.
When Mary attempts to do the same trick, she fails three times, which means something is definitely cosmically up, according to the laws of television. Mary can’t even get to the peel-tossing portion of the old wives’ tale, as she keeps cutting her peel short. The one time it looks like the young woman will succeed, the knife botches the job half-way through. Yes, this is supposed to be a brewing metaphor for how Mary’s own life will go.
Jeremiah's prophecy
Anytime someone “pretending” to have The Sight shows up on television expect for every single thing they say to be utter nonsense… except for their final, ominous warning to the lead character. That sole alarm will be the real deal of witchery. This universal TV truth applies to Jeremiah, who claims to know how to tell fortunes and read palms. Clearly, he’s just an expert grifter. That is until he expertly read’s Grace’s palm in a quick, private chat, which he goes into slyly smiling. “There are sharp rocks ahead,” Jeremiah reveals, his face dropping into actual panic. “A disaster … you will have much trouble.”
The imminent death of Mary is surely a disaster that causes unforeseen trouble for Grace.
The privy
The next prophecy comes courtesy of Mary herself, who very portentously tells Grace to never go to the bathroom alone. Grace doesn’t listen and is eventually followed outside by Mary, who wants to keep her safe. Although the only person who ends up outside of the outhouse is an unexpected Mary, for a moment both the viewers and Grace have no idea who’s lurking outside the privy in the dark. It is the moment I assume many women, who are raised to fear the dark and all the dangers hiding in it, realized any man could have attacked a vulnerable Grace in that moment.
This reminds us the men closest to Mary and Grace could hurt them at any time, which makes sense, since the man who impregnates Mary and then abandons her is George Parkinson, the high-society son of the young women’s employers. Although Mary willingly slept with George, the older girl clearly understood upper-crust men with hungry sexual appetites were right outside of her shared bedroom. The only thing that truly kept Mary and Grace safe was their door and its lock.
Mary’s fake death
As Mary and Grace have a bit of fun during their daily chores, the former decides to play a prank on the latter. After Grace playfully tosses her friend on the ground, Mary lays completely slack, pretending to have immediately died from blunt force trauma. As Grace says in the present time of Mary, “She was a fun-loving girl and very bold and mischievous in her speech.” Thankfully, Mary’s head eventually pops up and she reveals she was just playing.
In the exact moment Mary wakes up from her faux death on the kitchen floor, George strides into the room singing a song about loving Mary. It’s obviously a song written by another man about another Mary, but George is talking about this Mary. It’s a subtle way to connect George, Mary, and death, since the man will forsake his servant girlfriend the moment he finds out she’s carrying his baby. Once that happens, Mary will feel driven to get an abortion, which will cause her to fatally bleed out in the middle of the night. On the morning of Mary’s death, the young woman will look much the same as when she played dead.
The icicle
When Mary describes her abortion, she says the doctor took a knife to her “and cut something inside.” Interestingly, it feels like sharp objects follow her around before the procedure, from the apple-cutting knife that wouldn’t work to the needles case Grace gives her for Christmas, which is filled with needles, duh. The most foreboding sharp object, though, is the icicle Mary notices, which is hanging right over her head.
After all of these portents of doom, Grace does find her friend tragically dead, and suffers a breakdown. Again, the superstition of opening a window to let a soul out rears its ugly head, as Grace hears Mary whisper, “Let me in.” Soon enough, Grace is suffering two back-to-back fainting spells, cannot be woken for a full day, and doesn’t even know who she is for a period. In fact, she lost all memory of the entire episode. Suspicious indeed.
This episode’s opening quote: The second episode’s quote hails from The Courtship of Miles Standish & Other Poems by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The line, by a man, explains a “woman’s fate” is to wait through life, as quiet as a ghost, until some “questioning voice” shatters all that silence. “Let me in,” indeed.
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
“Part 3”
This is a stage-setting installment if I’ve ever seen one. “Part 3” marks a major transition in Grace’s life, as she leaves the Parkinson estate for the home of Thomas Kinnear, whose murder she will later be convicted for. Watching her agree to leave the loving embrace of the Parkinsons’ — even with the metaphorical ghost of Mary hanging around — for the unavoidable murder den of Mr. Kinnear’s is a lot like the luxurious period drama's version of telling a group of horror movie teens not to go into the house. You know they can’t hear you and they’re not going to listen, but wouldn’t it be nice if they did?
Before Grace can flee Toronto for the country air of Richmond Hill, she has to deal with the death of Mary. She marvels at her friend’s dead body and sobs at her funeral, which a quiet scene proves Grace paid for with her own money. If you’re wondering where a maid like Grace, who makes $2 a month, has the cash to afford a funeral, know she traded some jewelry to peddler Zachary Levi to get some coins. By the way, speaking of Mr. Levi, I do not see him as Jeremiah the kindly scamp; I see him him as old-timey Zachary Levi with an ascot and fingerless leather gloves. Good old Chuck Bartowski does not disappear into this role and no one can tell me differently.
Now that Grace has fully mourned her dearest friend in the world, her employer believes it’s the right time to bribe the young woman. Mrs. Parkinson grills Grace about whether or not she knows the identity of the “the man” who, you know, put the late Mary in her delicate situation, so to speak. Technically, Grace does't know who impregnated Mary, although Mrs. Parkinson has quickly and easily figured out her own son is the culprit. That would also mean George is the man who drove Mary to get a fatal abortion and die under the Parkinson roof.
All together, this spells scandal for the family. So, Mrs. Parkinson offers to double Grace’s salary to ensure she will never speak of Mary’s pregnancy and the subsequent deadly termination of that pregnancy. Grace agrees because, again, she has no concrete evidence as what kind of drama is afoot in the Parkinson home. Yet, it’s clear the maid does understand on some level George is at fault, since she shrieks and falls to the ground when he surprises her in a hallway. Immediately Mrs. Parkinson is fed up with her son, because she finds George fondling a bewildered Grace’s hand. Later, Grace says fled Parkinson to get away from George.
Thankfully for Mrs. Parkinson, Nancy finally arrives to poach Grace by offering her $3 a month, as opposed to $2. Grace is happy to to leave the place where her best friend died while also making an entire dollar more every 30 days. Also, she believes Nancy resembles Mary at this point. So she packs her bags and heads to Richmond Hill, despite an excessively vague warning from a fellow Parkinson servant. If only Cook (Claire Armstrong) had been more prone to gossip, maybe everyone would still be alive and Grace wouldn’t have spent the last 15 years of her life in jail. See, don’t let anyone tell you gossip is bad — it can save lives.
When Grace makes it to Richmond Hill, Mr. Kinnear makes quite the explosive, galant entrance. A drunkard who joined Grace on the coach to her new home gets aggressive with her and demands she join him in his hotel room. Kinnear appears to tell the creep to back off. When the booze-filled man instead responds by calling Grace “a whore” for no understandable reason, Kinnear punches him in the face, knocking the man out. The Scottish gentleman then escorts Grace to their carriage and lets her sit in the front, since she’s a human person. Thanks to the long parade of cruelty that has followed the young woman throughout her life, she is shocked by the small act of kindness. Even though Kinnear is a dreamy older man, that horror movie “Don’t open the door” vibe still hangs over this genuinely nice moment since he would soon be dead and Grace will be jailed for murder.
When the ill-fated pair reach Kinnear’s home, Nancy’s true colors begin to show through. She barely acknowledges Grace upon her arrival and is consistently dismissive or all-out mean to her as she adjusts to the new space. Bizarrely, when Nancy isn’t shading Grace, she’s extremely sweet, as if she hadn’t basically told the new employee to “shut up and clean” mere minutes before.
At least there is young farm hand Jamie Walsh (Stephen Joffe) to add some guileless sweetness to the place. There is also fellow Irishman and servant — and future murderer – James McDermott, who is sexy in a truly dangerous way. McDermott also angrily dances in the barn and hops around on fences, which is hilarious. On a less funny note, the very proud McDermott, an army deserter, truly hates having a woman for a boss. James is a misogynist.
In the present timeline, Dr. Jordan continues to ask questions Grace finds slightly ridiculous. The people who hope the doctor’s upcoming report will free Grace feel he’s not working fast enough. But, Dr. Jordan loves talking about the importance of his methods.
This episode’s opening quote: It’s time for a little Lord Tennyson, friends. The “Part 3” quote hails from “Maud (Part II).” The speaker wishes to see the soul of a lost loved one to find out where they are and, frankly, what they are now that they’ve shuddered off this mortal coil.
Interestingly the quote also mentions witnessing a shadow like the deceased, but not exactly the deceased. The Nancy Montgomery to the late Mary Whitney?
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
“Part 4”
While there is a lot going on in this episode — it’s Grace’s birthday! Grace is sleepwalking! Zachary Levi The Old-Timey Peddler is visiting the Kinnear house! — it’s truly punctuated by two seemingly insignificant, quiet conversations. But, as Alias Grace is showing us, looks can be deceiving. In reality, these are two of the most important exchanges in the entire miniseries.
The first conversation arrives at a dinner party Mr. Kinnear is hosting for his army friends. Grace goes into the dining room to serve the men and overhears a particularly cruel walk down memory lane. “She was screaming, ‘My farm! My life!’ And … Tom says, ‘Your burning farm is not your problem — it is your disgusting rebel husband,’” Mr. Kinnear’s friend Captain Bridgeford (Bruce Dinsmore) recollects. The “Tom” of which Bridgeford speaks is Mr. Kinnear, who apparently burnt down a woman’s entire livelihood due to her husband’s support of the pro-farmers rebellion. This fact is made even worse by the fact Kinnear and his friends remember something that sounds a lot like a Victorian-era war crime with a deep hearty laugh, and change the conversation as if it’s all no big deal.
Although this would be enough to upset anyone, but we have to remember Mary Whitney worshiped the rebellion more than anyone. She was the first person who told Grace about it, and, before going to sleep after her abortion, had Grace recite the entire speech she had taught her from rebellion hero William Lyon MacKenzie. This means the last words Mary ever heard were about the rebellion. That is how much the late young woman revered the uprising. And, now, Grace is living with a man who fought on the other side and laughs about destroying the homes of the rebels. If it has felt odd to you that Grace would kill a man as seemingly kind as Kinnear, we now have our explanation. Of course she would want to kill someone whose very existence so wildly disrespects her dead best friend.
The second conversation comes from a present-day chat between Grace and Dr. Jordan, who wants to know when Grace has felt particularly lonely. The answer is when she was in the asylum and currently, in the penitentiary. We see a flash of one of Grace’s punishments in these places — it’s traumatizing. Then, she explains the doctors and orderlies in the asylum “took liberties” with her, explaining in the most polite of terms she was repeatedly raped. If this isn’t upsetting enough, a bombshell is dropped as Jordan asks, “Is it true you were in a delicate condition when you left the asylum?” For everyone in 2017, “a delicate condition” is the Victorian euphemism for “pregnant.” This single, monotone sentence means Grace was not only raped, but forced to carry one of her rapists’ baby. And, she doesn’t even remember any of this horror, as she tells Jordan, “That is what they told me, sir.” Again, Grace’s most painful memories have disappeared.
This also means Grace’s child is out there somewhere, since the mid-1800s Canadian government definitely didn’t permit convicts to have abortions at that time.
Speaking of pregnancies, Nancy is also in a delicate condition when we return to the flashbacks. As is bizarrely custom in the Alias Grace world, this development is announced by Nancy unexpectedly throwing up in the middle of a room, completely unannounced. The spectacle is even a shock to Nancy — as it was with Mary — even though it’s their bodies doing the puking. As someone who tends to get a queasy stomach with any hangover, they had to know what was coming. Why not rush to less public place in the house?
Whatever the reason for the all the in-plain-sight vomit, that’s not the only way Grace signals Nancy’s pregnancy. She also randomly says to herself, “I’m getting too fat,” so we can assume the housekeeper had yet to realize she was with child at this point. Then, after the cookie-tossing, Nancy demands Grace help her with a new dress, since none of hers fit anymore. Because Grace has apparently seen her fair share of overly obvious sitcoms, that latter detail is what made it dawn on her Nancy is “in trouble,” as she put it. Wow, Victorian euphemisms for pregnancy are the worst.
This realization strikes after multiple people suggest to Grace that Nancy and Kinnear are enjoying a sexual relationship. McDermott puts it in his traditional woman-hating way, comparing Nancy, who previously got pregnant out of wedlock, to a turtle who cannot fix itself after being flipped on its back. You know, because Nancy was also metaphorically on her back for a time as well. McDermott is a true pig, and he doesn’t even know it. During that possibly murder-inciting dinner party, Kinnear’s friends also tease Grace about the possibility of Nancy becoming jealous if Thomas’ eyes begin to wander to his younger, beautiful new servant. The men, while awful, weren’t completely incorrect, as Nancy only becomes meaner to Grace as she gets further along in her pregnancy.
And, if Grace has any doubts about the status of Nancy and Kinnear’s relationship, she walks past a room where the pregnant woman and unwitting father-to-be are canoodling. This already insults Grace’s more rigid sensibilities when it comes to decorum (she’s already upset Nancy might become a true lady for the same “sin” Mary died for). But, then, Nancy has to go and announce she’s considering firing Grace for becoming “quarrelsome.” As if Grace needed another reason to murder Nancy.
This episode’s opening quote: This episode’s quote comes not from a book of poems, but from the mouth of writer Nathaniel Hawthorne. “Blessed are the simple emotions, be they dark or bright!” he yells. Why are solely bad or good emotions deserving of so much praise? Because the mixing of the two is the source of the “infernal religions,” of course. Nathaniel Hawthorne sounds like he was a blast at parties.
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
“Part 5”
Although this adventure has only just started, we’re very close to the end. “Part 5” marks the penultimate episode of Alias Grace. The murders we’ve heard so much about up to this point are finally here, but it’s hard to know what is real and what is the story Grace has told herself about the fateful July day. All we know for sure is Mr. Kinnear rode into town for a few days, and when he returned, McDermott shot him. We see as much happen in flashback, although the events that precede and follow the murder are murky. We also know Nancy was first tossed into the cellar and choked to death. Again, the surrounding circumstances are questionable.
The main reason for all of this purposeful confusion is thanks to the fact viewers get multiple versions of what led to the murders and what happened afterward. In one version of the days before the the slayings, we see Nancy tell Grace she knows what she’s “been up to” and she will be fired on Sunday. Grace begins crying and tells McDermott she wishes Nancy were dead. Then, McDermott tells Grace a “secret:” he’s going to kill Nancy. In this sequence, present-day Grace, over voiceover asks things like “Did she say?” “Was I crying?” and “Did he say?” as we watch the action unfold. This directly calls into question whether any of this could even be real.
Only a few minutes later, we see a different version of what may have happened. While Grace and McDermott are outside, Nancy strides over to them and announces they are both fired and their last day is tomorrow. Nancy says lots of mean things to Grace, like, “I’ve had enough of your face.” Then, in the kitchen, McDermott tells a tear-free Grace his secret; it’s the same as the other timeline, he’s going to kill Nancy and Kinnear. Grace didn’t believe McDermott since they had both been drinking. In the middle of their pity party, Nancy appears with her spirits totally changed. She’s smiling and talking about eating supper together as if nothing had just transpired.
In the present time, Grace tells Dr. Jordan she didn’t inform Nancy of McDermott’s murderous plans due to self preservation and the fact her co-worker could easily deny it. Yet, in flashback, we see Grace alert Nancy to the scheme afoot, which Nancy brushes off as McDermott bragging one again. Which version of events actually happened?
When it comes to the slaying of Nancy Montgomery, again, there are at least two competing tales. In McDermott’s confession, Grace was in the murder cellar, metaphorically going toe-to-toe with him when it came to the homicides. After a small bit of panic, Grace handed over her handkerchief, which was then used to choke Nancy to death. Grace supposedly held one end of the handkerchief while McDermott did the “terrible work” of pulling the other side, asphyxiating Nancy. The handkerchief in question is the same one Mary Whitney gave Grace for Christmas so long ago; the same handkerchief that was Mary’s dead mother’s. McDermott then hacked away at Nancy’s body as Grace watched.
In Grace’s memories, however, nothing so grisly happened in her presence. Rather, she was in the Kinnear garden staring at snails while Nancy’s cries could be heard from outside. Grace also heard the thud of Nancy’s body hitting the cellar, but was still in the garden when the assault-turned-murder happened. It seems the maid also saw McDermott get the axe he would eventually use to butcher Nancy’s body. Yet, again, Grace was among the greenery and the snails, totally unaware, while the violence unfolded yards aways.
The next divergent of series events arises from whatever occurred after Nancy and Kinnear were dead. According to sweet Jamie Walsh’s testimony during the trial, he found Grace calmly in the yard, and she told him Kinnear had not returned yet from town, while Nancy had gone to visit friends. Grace was allegedly “in good spirits” and “better dressed than usual.” Jaime claimed Grace was even wearing white stockings, which he now assumed were Nancy’s. Grace, on the other hand, alleges McDermott shot at her after the pair dropped Kinnear's body in the cellar. After the supposed shooting, Grace fainted and does not remember anything that happened for quite some time afterwards.
Following Grace’s fainting spell, McDermott claimed he and Grace drank a shot of whisky to prepare for all of the fleeing ahead. Grace doesn’t remember this and believes she couldn’t be so “callous” with the two corpses in the basement. In her version of events, she came to while riding with McDermott in Kinnear’s carriage on a clear, beautiful night. She was wearing Nancy’s dress. Soon enough, Grace began to black out while looking at the sky, which to her seemed as if it were being singed away to an empty, cold blackness. Something here is… amiss.
In flashback, Grace passes out and comes to on the ground with McDermott on top of her and his hand over her mouth. McDermott claims Grace asked him to stop the wagon and apparently seduced him. Grace says that’s impossible since she was sound asleep. McDermott angrily doesn’t agree, saying Grace “led [him] on” and enticed him into killing Nancy and Kinnear. That allegation also happened to be McDermott’s last words before his hanging.
It also seems pretty evident McDermott is convinced Grace has promised to marry him once they’re done running, since he keeps bringing it up. Yet, Grace continues to believe he’s a raving lunatic and she never agreed to such a pact. Grace ends up being right about the fact she will never be Mrs. McDermott, as the pair is apprehended in a Lewiston, New York tavern, which is right on the other side of the Canadian-American border.
In other concerning Grace news, she has two major Mary Whitney delusions. In the first, Grace stares at the ceiling of her cell and hears Mary urgently whisper, “You must unlock the door, you must open the window, you must let me in. Let me in.” In the second, Mary appears to Grace in a dream and still hasn’t flown out of the proverbial window. We can all assume that's because Mary clearly wants to come in, not go out.
And, I would be remiss not to mention Jeremiah The Peddler, whom we all know is really Zachary Levi in an ascot, has arrived in the present day as Jerome The Celebrated Doctor And Hypnotist. Grace is so shocked to see her transformed old friend she passes out, and he does the nose scratching move as a callback to their “Part 2” conversation. She doesn’t blow his identity.
Also, Dr. Jordan’s landlady (Sarah Manninen) is a creep who sexually assaulted him in his sleep. It is very unsettling, and I hate this subplot.
This episode’s opening quote: The “Part 5” quote literally made me say, “Get the fuck out of here,” out loud while typing alone in my apartment. That is both confirmation of the fact I’m a born-and-bred Staten Islander and that the quote is absolutely ridiculous.
It hails from Edgar Allen Poe, and claims, “The death, then, of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world. “ Let me reiterate: get the eff out of here, Edgar Allen Poe.
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
“Part 6”
Welcome to the very end of Alias Grace, friends. The sixth hour of the miniseries had a lot to accomplish, so we’re going to break this down into its three main chapters: that huge hypnosis-aided twist, Dr. Jordan’s weirdness, and the prologue. First up…
The hypnosis scene
Dr. Jordan gets fed up with not understanding what’s going on with Grace’s memories and decides to “allow” Jeremiah-slash-Jerome to take a crack at hypnotizing his patient. This goes far better than anyone could have guessed, or far worse, depending on how you’re looking at it. During the hypnosis, Jerome uncovers Grace has unwittingly been hiding a second personality, with a super creepy second voice. And that personality is none other than Mary Whitney, of course — who else could it be?
The reveal that Grace has been dealing with a secondary mental alias, if you will, makes perfect sense. That’s why she has a debilitating fear of knives and medical doctors since that’s precisely how Mary died. It’s why Grace said a bed can be a scary place, because that's where Mary’s avoidable downfall began and where she died. It’s definitely why McDermott had a very different idea of his relationship with Grace than Grace did. McDermott wasn’t infatuated with Grace, he was into “Mary.”
Grace-As-Mary essentially confirms she was the one who urged her “paramour” to kill Kinnear and Nancy, while the primary Grace had no idea. While Grace-As-Mary and McDermott were strangling people and shooting them to death, Grace Prime was mentally kneeling in the garden or cowering in a corner.
All this version of Mary wants is to be heard and believed. It’s why she first enjoyed being in the asylum, where she could “talk out loud.” This explains why Grace said in “Part 1,” of the horror show of a facility, “Flesh and blood cannot stand it there.” Flesh and blood didn’t stand it there. Rather, the biggest ghost of Grace’s past did.
Now that Grace-As-Mary has been unleashed once again, she has a lot of fun for a while. She wickedly smiles from underneath her unsettling black veil. She calls out Dr. Jordan for obviously thirsting after her during their psychiatric sessions. Oh, boy, if only see his unsettling fantasies of cradling her in his arms. She calls a critical woman an “old fraud” and a “stupid fool.” She even uses the phrase “furry mouse hole” to talk about someone else’s vagina. Grace-As-Mary is a wild ride, and Dr. Jordan hates it. Sadly for me, “Mary” disappears when she realizes nobody believes her again, and regular old Grace returns.
While we’re not supposed to completely trust Grace-As-Mary’s version of events, as per Sarah Gadon herself, the twist does tie up a number of loose ends. But, maybe it’s possible Grace-As-Mary doesn’t exist, and the hypnosis simply allowed Grace to share her unvarnished truth after all these years. We’ll never know and that’s fine. We will, however, always be afraid of Sarah Gadon’s chilling, wonderful mimicry of co-star Rebecca Liddiard.
The Dr. Jordan weirdness
I’ve avoided really exploring Dr. Jordan’s subplots because they’re sadly not nearly as intriguing as the mystery of Grace’s lengthy flashbacks. But, in “Part 6,” Jordan visits Grace’s lawyer (Albert Schultz) and is upset to find out the man both believes Grace tried to seduce him and that she is “guilty as sin.” Jordan is unquestionably far too close to this entire mess, like television’s most obsessive FBI agent, Mindhunter’s Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff).
Following Grace’s big hypnosis reveal, Jordan couldn’t be more upset and convinces himself the entire thing was a trick to hurt his feelings, specifically. It’s barely possible to him to believe a woman could share her truth in a way that has absolutely nothing to do with him. As Grace’s portrayer Gadon herself told me, “That is entirely the male perspective of that time.”
Unfortunately, Jordan is so upset by Grace “eluding” him he finally had sex with his landlady Mrs. Humphrey, who previously sexually assaulted him while he was sleep. The honest-to-goodness “Part 6” sex scene is the least sexy sex scene I’ve ever seen, and is made worse by the fact the doctor says, “I always wanted to do that with someone else,” when he’s finished. Mrs. Humphrey is left sobbing on the floor as Jordan walks away.
After the Grace fiasco, Jordan retires back to America and is the only person excited about the Civil War, as going to battle will allow him to forget about Grace. It will also kill hundreds of thousands of Americans, but, whatever. Jordan returns from war with a what appears to be a traumatic brain injury and is unable to say or remember anything for years. However, after his mother (Susannah Hoffmann) reads him a letter from his former patient, the final word we heard Jordan say in the whole series is, “Grace.”
Past is prologue
The Spiritualists succeed, and Grace is eventually pardoned 11 years after the events of the series, and, therefore, 26 years after the murder of Nancy and Kinnear. She is to be released to the home of a “gentleman” from her past, and I immediately assume it’s either “Jerome,” who once offered to run away with Grace, or Jordan, who is hopelessly obsessed with Grace (at this point we’ve yet to find out about his wartime injury). Yet, it’s neither of these major figures in Grace’s life. Nope, it’s young Jamie, here to apologize for being the final nail in Grace’s metaphorical coffin during the murder trial. Now that it’s been nearly three decades, he’s no longer angry with her and would actually really like to get married.
Grace agrees because she has no other prospects and subsequently enjoys a quiet, pleasant life with her J-named husband, fulfilling the apple peel prophecy of so many years ago. Although, Jamie does force Grace to tell him over and over how she was “ill-treated” over the years, nearly turning guilt trips into an emotional fetish. Grace gets nothing out of this other than repeatedly reliving her trauma.
At least she has white and red Leghorn chickens, and a Jersey cow for the cream and cheese, Two horses, named Charley and Nell, a cat named Tabby, and a dog named Rex — exactly what Mary Whitney said she want would about 26 years prior. Oh, and Grace has a quilt all her own.
This episode’s opening quote: We end the poetry device where we started, with Emily Dickinson. The “Part 6” poem is a stanza from “The Lost Thought,” reading, “I felt a cleaving in my mind. As if my brain had split. I tried to match it, seam by seam. But could not make them fit.”
Alias Grace couldn’t have made a better choice, from poem title to content. And, with that, I say, “Let me out!”
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Read These Stories Next:

More from TV

R29 Original Series