CBC’s Alias Grace
Directed by Mary Harron
Written by Sarah Polley
* For a recap & review of Part 4, click here.
* For a recap & review of the finale, Part 6, click here.
We hear the voice of Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon), explaining what happened concerning the murders of Thomas Kinnear (Paul Gross) and Nancy Montgomery (Anna Paquin), her supposed confession that Dr. Simon Jordan (Edward Holcroft) is reading. We further hear James McDermott (Kerr Logan) tell about the incident, how Grace lamented that “God has damned me for this,” and the two of them apparently went about finishing things off. Things got pretty grisly, of course. McDermott hacked the bodies to pieces for hiding.
But how much is the truth? The conflicting statements of Grace and James make it hard for Dr. Jordan to decide what’s happened. The Reverend (David Cronenberg) advises him how to go about things properly, advising he also find new living arrangements, so people don’t talk about him and the landlady, living alone together. Speaking of which, Mrs. Humphrey (Sarah Manninen) doesn’t exactly help things, coming into his room at night, acting odd.
“When people are afraid, they often behave with cruelty.”
One of the African women Clarrie (Lisa Codrington) at Grace’s newest house is friendly with her. She talks about Dr. Jordan and the landlady, so on. This doesn’t sit well with our Grace. The doc, giving a little lecture at the house, is having trouble with dreams, let alone the perceived relationship he has with Mrs. Humphrey. He’s also introduced to a Dr. Jerome DuPont aka Jeremiah Pontelli (Zachary Levi), who’s interested in his work, dabbling in “neuro–hypnosis.” When our girl sees her old pal, she faints to the floor. When she comes to, at the silent request of Jeremiah, she pretends she doesn’t know the doctor. Still, a friendly face amongst a sea of strangers, each of them with their own motivations towards Grace.
We hear more of her telling the court what went on at the Kinnear house. But we also realise, as usual, she’s keeping things to herself. Go further back, when Nancy fires her, and she weeps, telling McDermott she wishes the lady were dead. Moreover, we witness firsthand the terror of Mr. Kinnear. Or at least Grace tells us it “might‘ve happened,” maybe he did bad things to her under the cover of night. All the answers lie within her.
Dr. Jordan has another session with Grace. They talk about the day of the murder. Kinnear went into town a while by horse cart, leaving she and McDermott there with Nancy. The doctor asks Grace if the master of the house took any “liberties” with her. She refuses to answer, wanting to walk out. Now, she’s discovering that the doc isn’t totally interested in psychiatry, either. So Grace goes on recounting the day Nancy died – the lady was kicking her and McDermott out. This started the servants plotting. Well, James, anyway. He tells her he plans to kill them both, and if Grace didn’t go along? She’d take the fall for every last bit.
That night, James says he’s going to kill Nancy in her sleep. Grace worries that, as they’re sleeping in Kinnear’s bed together, she’ll be killed, by accident. So she warns the lady what McDermott has said, and it’s passed off as “just air” and boasts. Did our girl actually warn her? Or is this part of her retelling to the doc? In bed, Grace sees Mary Whitney (Rebecca Liddiard) show up, holding a firefly in a jar, so she tries letting the dead girl’s soul out. Just a vision, or an omen of death? We likewise see that familiar vision of Nancy, in a dream, her head splitting open with a bloody rip. Grace says it’s her dreams that put her away in the asylum, that doctors believed her insane.
Grace goes against her confession, saying she was in the garden, that she heard noise from inside, not that she watched McDermott toss Nancy’s half dead body down the cellar like was stated. She says it was pressured out of her. We’ve seen this plenty, in this day and age, with false confessions. However, can we trust Grace? She’s still an unreliable narrator, and we can’t ever count that out. Right now, she’s using Dr. Jordan’s fondness for her to reel him in to this new story, true or not. And more power to her: men are dumb when they’re enamoured with a woman, even if they’re a learned man of knowledge like the doc.
She claims McDermott took care of the house’s lady on his own, then he enacted his plan to shoot Kinnear outside of the stables, tossing him into the cellar, as well. When Grace tried running, she was nearly shot, but she fainted. Jamie Walsh (Stephen Joffe) turned up later, hearing lies from the servant girl. The boy didn’t care for his “former love and sentiments” towards Grace. She saw that as bitterness, though it’s likely just the boy’s morality. When Jamie’s testimony led to her conviction, receiving death, she nearly impaled herself after another fainting episode in court.
Dr. Jordan reads of when Grace and McDermott took all the valuables, any money on Kinner and Nancy, then they took off, headed for Toronto. He can’t keep his mind on the work too long, though. Before he believes himself in bed with his patient, discovering he’s actually crawled on top of the landlady in a hallucination. Then he takes off a bit to escape his awkward situation.
Grace recounts more of the story, speaking of McDermott’s version. That they drank and ate merrily after the murders. She says he is a “great liar.” She remembers being in Nancy’s clothes, leaving on the road headed elsewhere, and feeling the emptiness of the world around her. James blamed her, saying she enticed him into it all and led him on physically.
“But what if there were no God to forgive me?”
Things got worse, the farther they travelled. He called her a slut, a whore, stupid, intending somehow they were to be married, expecting her to take all the abuse he doled out. Just like every other man she’s known. And the guilt, despite whatever truly happened, weighed hugely on her, unlike him. Eventually, the authorities found them, thus began the next chapter of their journey.
Another fantastic chapter in this miniseries. One last episode! Love how much Margaret Atwood we’ve been given this year, a beautiful gift. Buckle up, and we’ll see how they’ve chosen to finish the story of Grace Marks off in the finale, Part 6.