Alias Grace – Part 4

CBC’s Alias Grace
Part 4
Directed by Mary Harron
Written by Sarah Polley

* For a recap & review of Part 3, click here.
* For a recap & review of Part 5, click here.
Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 12.02.13 AMGrace (Sarah Gadon) and the other women in prison witness the whipping of a woman while they eat breakfast. Normal day at Kingston Penitentiary. Soon, she’s taken up to the house, to talk with Dr. Simon Jordan (Edward Holcroft). He’s busy still having daydreams about her, falling for his patient.
He also wants to talk about James McDermott (Kerr Logan), reading the man’s confession where it paints a picture of a jealous Grace, the green eyed monster focused on Nancy Montgomery (Anna Paquin), apparently. “Shes not better born than we are,” Grace told him. So he claimed. She doesn’t particularly deny the story, though in not many words she passes it off.
She tells him more about her and Nancy’s relationship around the house. They were a little close, but the hierarchy around Thomas Kinnear’s (Paul Gross) place was evident. One day when James isn’t around, she has to kill a chicken on her own. This prompts Nancy to treat her like trash, all but throwing her out of the house, demanding she kill their food. Grace is able to get Jamie Walsh (Stephen Joffe) to help her, a young man who also works for Mr. Kinnear, and it gets Nancy interested in her personal life, of course.
Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 12.09.42 AMPeople at the local church seem to have their ideas about Mr. Kinnear, one woman (Margaret Atwood) calls it “an outrage” having him there. They don’t stay, either, after Nancy wants to leave rather than be stared at the whole time. Grace talks about church, how people act as if being there is the only God is with them; elsewhere they do what they want, dropping the act. But God “cannot be caged in as men can.”
Nancy decides it’s time McDermott finishes employment at the house. He’s got no job come end of the month. Not easy any time, certainly not easy back then. Especially for a misogynistic arsehole like James. He winds up revealing to Grace that Kinnear and Nancy sleep together, as if it weren’t already obvious; such is the sweet innocence of Grace, at the time.
Eventually Grace calls Nancy out and gets a slap across the face from her. Gradually, we see our lady being warped. By the way Nancy treats her, by how McDermott pours his poison in her ear. He actually mentions knocking them in the head, throwing them down the cellar. Very specific, no?
We’re seeing all different sides of possible truths. Grace claims one thing; McDermott another. We see both, literally. Yet staunchly, she denies any wrongdoing, despite what her Irish friend said in his confession before his hanging. She also talks to Dr. Jordan about loneliness. How bad things were in the asylum, at prison. How cruel were the punishments of being locked in a coffin-like box, stood up, left there endlessly. Not to mention the “liberties” taken by various men, winding up in a “delicate condition” when she was leaving the asylum. Ugly, violent male behaviour.
The road to death is a lonely highway, and longer than it appears. Even when it leads straight down from the scaffold by way of a rope. And its a dark road, with never any moon shining on it to light your way.”
Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 12.20.21 AMScreen Shot 2017-10-19 at 12.26.57 AMOn her birthday, Grace was given the afternoon free by Nancy. She went for a walk by herself, enjoying a beautiful day, picking flowers; time to herself, for herself. A rare occurrence in the life of any woman in the 1800s. Jamie shows up, asking to be her sweetheart. She lets him down fairly easy. And from afar watches Mr. Kinnear, he asks her what they were doing in the orchard together, as if suspicious, or jealous. Then, as expected, Nancy is right back to being herself, weird and passive aggressive. Plus McDermott acting jealous to boot like an angry idiot.
One good thing – Jeremiah (Zachary Levi) arrives at the house. They sit for a drink, he tells her he’s going giving up peddling to be a hypnotist. The new fad, all that spiritualism infecting the people of the 19th century. He goes on to warn about Kinnear, his “appetite” for servant girls, the talk of the town that everybody’s heard of plenty. He’s scared for her, wanting Grace to go away with him elsewhere. She doesn’t like the idea, if they don’t get married, which he doesn’t seem to believe in. Soon enough McDermott comes in, running her friend off. That lad is bad news, for sure.
When a man gets a habit, it is hard for him to break it, like a dog gone bad.”
Grace notices a doctor come by one day. Then she’s seeing Nancy throw up, ordering her to clean the vomit. Safe to say, she’s probably up the duff with the master of the house’s child. Aside from that, Kinnear seems to have started admiring the young servant, leering at her silently. What would he do once he figured out his mistress was pregnant?
That night, Grace hears Nancy talking about her, planning to possibly let her go along with McDermott. The mistress really doesn’t like that the master finds his servant attractive.
Grace dreams that night of men surrounding her, George Parkinson (Will Bowes), Kinnear, McDermott, all grabbing her, touching her. Afterwards, she sees sheets in the trees outside the house, like angels, or ghosts. When she woke, the sheets she’d hung had blown into a tree.
Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 12.47.40 AMScreen Shot 2017-10-19 at 12.51.16 AMAnd we’re always left wondering, is Grace telling the truth? Is she telling any of us the truth? One of the reasons I love the miniseries is how they capture the truth v. lies theme that Atwood’s book tackled so well. Grace is a dichotomy, you can never tell for sure what she’s thinking, if she’s lying or being truthful.
Can’t wait for Part 5.


Alias Grace – Part 3

CBC’s Alias Grace
Part 3
Directed by Mary Harron
Written by Sarah Polley

* For a recap & review of Part 2, click here.
* For a recap & review of Part 4, click here.
Screen Shot 2017-10-11 at 6.53.22 PMDr. Simon Jordan (Edward Holcroft) considers the sanity of Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon), speaking with the Reverend (David Cronenberg). He thinks about the death of Mary Whitney (Rebecca Liddiard), how Grace had an auditory hallucination, had amnesia later. Quite the enigma, this woman. Plus, he’s only got half the story. We, the audience, have seen how she withholds certain bits of information, telling him what she thinks will be best, or will serve her best.
Meanwhile, the doctor’s got his own troubles, mental ones. Navigating Mrs. Humphrey (Sarah Manninen) at the house where he stays, his daydreams of longing for his current patient, the so-called murderess Ms. Marks. When the doc sees her again, she speaks of being mistreated by the guards, but she’s more interested in the “dark circles” under his eyes, why he’s not sleeping. It’s a case of the doctor becoming a patient, patient becoming doctor, if only briefly.
Love all the visual stuff going on, the quick edits of Grace’s ACTUAL memories, as opposed to the edited ones she presents to her doctor. We see the various acts leading up to the death of Nancy Montgomery (Anna Paquin), her body being tossed down into a cellar. Then we’re back to her and Dr. Jordan, talking about Mary, the poor young woman’s death. As well as what later went on at the Parkinson house. Mrs. Parkinson (Martha Burns) herself making her “swear on the Bible” that even if she knows who impregnated her friend, she will not tell; this comes with better wages, and a shining reference wherever she might find employment when she leaves that house.
Screen Shot 2017-10-11 at 6.53.54 PMBut goddamn George (Will Bowes) still lurked, his mother knowing silently he was the one who effectively sent Mary to her grave. He tried hard to get in bed with the girl, sometimes trying to open her locked door at night. Most of all Grace knew that “once youre found with a man in your room, youre the guilty one, no matter how they got in.” And sooner or later, George was going to get inside. Terrifying.
Now we come to see Grace first meeting Nancy. Her master is Thomas Kinnear (Paul Gross), she’s looking for someone else to work up there, also to keep her company as a single woman with a man around. Y’know, people talk. She also says Mr. Kinnear is a “liberal master,” which feels like an oxymoron.
Grace takes the offer, though she’s warned cryptically about the man. However, thus is the choice of women, especially back then but still today: take what appears the lesser of two male evils in order to escape one male presence. It’s one way of escaping the creeping assault of George.
She gets quite the greeting, when a man accosts her as a “whore” and Mr. Kinnear knocks him out in the road. Oh, so valiant, no? Well, we’ll see. There’s certainly a foreboding, ominous sense of his character, even before he showed up onscreen. Soon Grace arrives at the Kinnear place, where several people work the grounds, including a man named James McDermott (Kerr Logan), and the whole thing just feels uneasy.
More of the divide between what’s said and what is seen, just as it was in the Atwood novel. Grace tells Dr. Jordan about the new house, the cellar, her duties, the others like McDermott employed by Kinnear.
Amongst all this we’re shown a bit of the later horror in a shot of a hand taking the earring out of a bloody ear, no doubt belonging to Nancy at the bottom of the cellar.
Screen Shot 2017-10-11 at 7.15.21 PMAnd so forth is all youre entitled to
At the Kinnear house, Grace is introduced into the little world of that workplace. She sees both temptation and danger in various places, from Nancy’s strange demeanour to the master himself as a bit informal to McDermott seeming like a sensitive Irish dancer out in the barn. An odd place, indeed.
Note: The picture concerning the “apocryphaltale of Susanna, an addition to the Book of Daniel, is an interesting reference. A story of a falsely accused woman. Lying, lecherous old men. Everything ends swell for Susanna. But as it is in the Bible, so it is not in real life; virtue does not always win in the end. Grace is like Susanna, only left in the lurch in her current state after a lifetime of taking men’s shit. There’s also an interesting dichotomy of religion: a working class woman like Grace is unaware of the apocryphal Bible stories, versus Kinnear, a bourgeois man of privilege with access to knowledge, even so far as having a piece of art depicting the story on his wall. This is also where we begin seeing a divide in the house, where Grace starts getting to know James, seeing his view of the world separated into a class hierarchy. Although for all his Marxist ideals, he’s a bit of misogynist bastard, as well.
McDermott: “Never one to lick the boots of the rich
Screen Shot 2017-10-11 at 7.25.18 PMAnd so it all went for Grace. Work, work, work. In between, bits of intrigue. she also found herself watching McDermott, interested in him when she knew full well he was only trouble, in many shapes and forms. Likewise, Nancy kept her close, in a sort of dominant way of her own. All these forces tearing a woman apart.
Loved this episode! The mini-series gets better with each one. Part 4 comes next, and I’m excited already for more. Sarah Gadon is a revelation. Bless her, and bless the directing-writing team of Mary Harron and Sarah Polley. Fantastic adaptation.

Alias Grace – Part 2

CBC’s Alias Grace
Part 2
Directed by Mary Harron
Written by Sarah Polley

* For a recap & review of Part 1, click here.
* For a recap & review of Part 3, click here.
Pic 1Dr. Simon Jordan (Edward Holcroft) finds himself dreaming about Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon), holding her close in the midst of the penitentiary’s yard. He’s quickly back to real life. In his office, Mrs. Humphrey (Sarah Manninen) collapses, she isn’t well. Neither is life in general going well. She hasn’t eaten since her husband left recently. And so the good doctor buys food for the house, advancing “two months rent” for her to take care of things in the interim. She’s a little affectionate towards him, naturally, making him uncomfortable. Whereas he was just longing in dreams for Grace.
Speaking of our lady, she’s at work sewing, taking care of things around the house where she works. When Dr. Jordan arrives, they speak of dreams. She tells him she doesn’t remember any, though we see a vision of Nancy Montgomery (Anna Paquin) near a rose garden, a cut ripping across her forehead; she begins falling, grabs her throat. Then quickly, back to reality.
Grace talks more of her good friend Mary Whitney (Rebecca Liddiard), a wild spirit, a free woman in her heart. At night, the two women play a game with an apple peel, a superstition-style game; peeled in one piece, Grace tosses it behind her as her friend asks “Who shall we marry?” But when Mary tries, she cuts herself on the knife while peeling, ending their game.
Saddest is how they’re young, yet their lives already revolving entirely around men. Not by choice. Even Grace, she was forced out of the house by a revolting father, but it was more a choice of getting abused constantly, or working and sending money back home eternally. An entire life shaped by the horror of men.
Pic 1AAnother free spirit, Jeremiah Pontelli (Zachary Levi), shows up to peddle his wares to the women at the Parkinson home, Mrs. Honey (Elizabeth Saunders) even in her experienced years not immune to his charm. He does a good magic trick, too. Had his “pocket picked” and his “heart broken” enough to learn some tricks of his own, he says. Afterwards, he looks into Grace’s palm, seeing something foreboding. Although he tells her: “You will cross water three times. You will have much trouble. But all will be fine in the end. You are one of us.”
Pic 1BWe see bits of how difficult it was to be a women in their time. Can’t even go to the outhouse at night without a partner, or else bad things might happen. And it’d be blamed on the woman if anything did. As Grace says, a woman can’t “let her guard down.” Juxtaposed with this harsh, tragic lesson of womanhood, she wakes one morning to find she’s had her first period, believing that she’s dying like her mother. Luckily, she’s got Mary to guide her. Yet it’s still a nasty life being a woman amongst men and their misogyny. As I write this recap and review, we’re facing the Harvey Weinstein situation, all its hideousness: things have changed, but not really, not for women.
George Parkinson (Will Bowes) had to stay at home for a long while, feeling ill. He was left with so much time on his hands, nothing to do. The whole house full of women waiting on him hand and foot. Suddenly, Mary’s also very cold towards Grace. Everything’s changed, they no longer have fun together at work, no more joking. Mary’s feeling sick herself. Because she’s up the duff with George’s baby. He’s turned his back on her, as well. So convenient for men, to do what they wish then walk away when it’s inconvenient. Mary’s left to try getting him to help. What does the man do? Hands her “five dollars.” So, she has to find work somewhere where they’ll allow her to work pregnant, likely in horrible conditions.
Or, an illegal abortion. She writes a note, claiming that if she perishes then all her things go to Grace. Her faithful friend goes with her to the doctor, but Mary heads in for the procedure alone. All the horrific bits of womanhood, the things women face because of men, thrown at Ms. Marks, so quickly, so brutal. It’s awful. Particularly when Mary’s screams are heard and she comes bursting out in a terrible state.
Grace: “It was either one corpse that way, or two the other.”
Our lady tried taking care of her friend. Until one day she woke to a cold, dead Mary in bed. A true tragic end for the young woman. Thus leading others to the discovery of the “bad business” involved in her agonising death. An even sadder moment is when Grace doesn’t know if her friend’s faking, having once faked a death-like moment with her in the laundry.
Later, Grace goes into a state of disembodied shock yelling to the others: “Where is Grace?”
Screen Shot 2017-10-10 at 8.20.42 PMFor it is not always the one who strikes the blow that is the actual murderer.”
This series has started out so strong, at a particularly relevant time here at the tail end of 2017. When so many women are finally able to come forward without (as much) fear as before, that their stories might not believed. Grace Marks isn’t entirely the best historical example, as there are many questions about the factual authenticity to certain claims.
However, there’s so much in her story that plays out as a microcosm of what all women go through in the course of their lives. Being a woman is harder than being a man; any man who can’t admit that doesn’t understand history, the balance of power between genders, and likely feels a false sense of constructed masculinity that’s unwilling to let them see a woman’s perspective clearly.
Can’t wait for Part 3.

Frontier – Season 1, Episode 3: “Mushkegowuk Esquewu”

Discovery Canada’s Frontier
Season 1, Episode 3: “Mushkegowuk Esquewu”
Directed by John Vatcher
Written by Peter Blackie, Rob Blackie, & Joseph Kay

* For a review of the previous episode, “Little Brother War” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Wolves” – click here
Michael Smyth (Landon Liboiron) has been taken captive in the woods. In the woods nearby, Declan Harp (Jason Momoa) watches, waiting for the right time. He emerges as the captors draw their guns. They’re not in the mood for any of his “negotiation.” He only taunts the men and their “pretty hats” with the rifles in his face. Out of the trees come arrows for a couple of the men. Then one is left with Michael’s hands and the ties around them about his neck. Declan won’t help. He wants the young man to do the deed. He knocks the man out, but Harp finishes him off. The captors work for Malcolm Brown (Michael Patric), and the one still living won’t play along. Declan only asks twice for information after cutting the man’s ear off, speaking into like the fur trader version of Reservoir Dogs‘ Mr. Blonde.
Also, have to note: love the opening sequence, as well as the title song. Great, great feel, and gets me into the mood every damn episode.
Over at the Lake Walker camp, some of the tribe are not happy to follow along with Harp, despite his Native blood. Machk (Raoul Max Trujillo) particularly feels he has just as much European in him as any white man.
Lord Benton (Alun Armstrong) chastises Captain Chesterfield (Evan Jonigkeit) for his mistakes recently. He wants to know more about Kitchi, which leads to Grace Emberly’s (Zoe Boyle) involvement. The Lord is not pleased about Kitchi being harboured at the storage house behind the pub. Grace is a smooth talker, but Benton makes clear she is under his thumb. He believes she’s in league with Harp, which we know at least partly to be true, they do know one another quite well. Then Benton childishly has his men search the place, any liquor without a Hudson’s Bay Company stamp to be confiscated. Most of all, Chesterfield and Grace worry about their side business with the pelts. Could mean some nasty trouble.
Along with Dimanche (William Belleau) and Sokanon (Jessica Matten), Michael as well, Declan heads to another camp to meet with Malcolm Brown. He plays the fool about the attack on the Lake Walker village. Harp now lets Malcolm in on his brother’s death at the hands of Chesterfield. * Side note: some of the dialogue here is badly written, particularly lines out of Momoa; too modern-sounding for the period.
Anyways, luckily a battle breaks out. The Lake Walkers have descended upon the Brown camp. Sokanon is a big part of Declan’s crew, even being left to take care of and “teach” Michael. She is a bad ass, and I want to see more of her! They let one of the hostage men free to follow through the forest.

Douglas Brown (Allan Hawco) finds himself beckoned, at the end of a pistol, to go and see Samuel Grant (Shawn Doyle). Hmm, intriguing. Grant wants to meet someone by the name of Carruthers, asking “nicely” for Douglas to help him. I also love Grant as a character. He comes off as the dandy-type that became so well-known in the 1800s, especially throughout London. And he is, but he also doesn’t let anyone walk over him. He is forceful, firm. He’s not a wimpy money man. Or maybe he is, though he’s got a rough right-hand man.
The Brown camp is laid to waste, as Malcolm wants to start a war. Declan instead offers him help with Chesterfield, so long as he makes peace with the Lake Walkers. Or else, y’know: death. Out in the woods, Sokanon shows Michael how to track a person. Instead of lighting a fire to keep warm she teaches Michael that body heat is good in lieu. They talk a bit about London, he talks of Clenna. He obviously loves the girl, longing to be with her again. When he mentions oranges, Sokanon doesn’t understand, which shows the large divide between her and the Old World, even the burgeoning New World close to where she lives. Hell, even Michael’s never actually eaten an orange, so even him in the midst of that Old World, and the New World too, is so far removed from a simple piece of fruit. The haves and the have-nots.
Father James Coffin (Christian McKay) is one sleazy priest, both mooching off Grace’s pub and staring at tits, drinking again unable to stay sober. While Mary (Breanne Hill) the barmaid tries to help him, Benton’s mole Imogen (Diana Bentley) pushes ale on the man. Nothing better for them than to have a drunkard around to do their bidding. Meanwhile, Chesterfield and Grace keep on sneaking, looking for a Montreal buyer for their pelts and digging into the “company ledger” to make sure everything stays hidden. I don’t like that dude, though. He’s like a snake. Just coiled, constantly, about to strike. Worse than that Imogen spies that he just met with Grace out in the storage house. Uh oh.

A deal is set to be made between Brown and the Lake Walkers. But will it go smoothly? There’s no telling, not yet.
In Montreal, Grant gets his meeting with Peter Carruthers (Peter O’Meara). They talk of the future of the fur trade. Well, Grant talks, and Carruthers marvels at what he’s seeing, a spectacle of a meeting and a speech. “Does this gentleman ever fucking shut up?” asks Carruthers. He doesn’t dig the whole thing. He isn’t interested with any of Grant’s offers. He has a business of his own. A few saucy words, a shot of liquor, and he’s gone. We start to see some of the temper in Grant come out. I don’t think Mr. Grant is used to being spoken to in such a way.
Over at the pub, Grace meets with Jean-Marc Rivard (Paul Fauteux). She’s looking to… buy his discretion. A job. She wants a letter delivered right into Samuel Grant’s very hands. Out in the storage house Imogen finds the marked barrels with the pelts inside. God damn that could get ugly for Grace. Chesterfield, too. For whatever reason though, Imogen doesn’t Benton right away about the pelts. Why not?
Michael and Sokanon track the man in the woods, getting closer in the meantime. They talk of Harp. He was with Sokanon’s sister, in love, with a family. He was a nicer man then, Declan. Then Benton’s men murdered his wife, his child. That is devastatingly tragic. “He became wild, dark,” Sokanon says. Although she says that what he seems to see in Michael is what he used to be, before all the tragedy. They track the man to where Chesterfield sits waiting by a fire; he’s promptly paid, then murdered.

Back to the camp Sokanon rushes with word about Benton and Chesterfield’s involvement re: the Lake Walker troubles. Brown is definitely not happy about any of it, either. There’s a little bit of disharmony between Harp and Dimanche, as the latter worries about the Lake Walker response, Machk especially.
Imogen reveals herself to Grace, this is why she hasn’t said a word about the pelts. Seeing the pub owner stand up to Benton gave her hope; good woman! Maybe now this will help Ms. Emberly escape further trouble with the rotten Lord.
Douglas receives Carruthers at his place. In the shadows, Cobbs Pond (Greg Bryk) appears. He has a gun belonging to Carruthers. After a bit of playing around Pond puts a bullet through the man’s eye. He leaves poor Douglas with the clean-up.

When the Okimaw of the Lake Walker tribe receives Malcolm with an apology for any troubles, the reveal of Benton’s involvement, she isn’t happy. Although Malcolm makes clear he isn’t at fault. Okimaw decides to “look to the future” and accepts peace. Machk doesn’t like any of the supposedly peaceful meeting with Brown. He and his crew decide that Brown must pay. They knock Harp down, taking Malcolm in their grip. They want to kill him. Maybe Declan, as well.
But the Okimaw agrees then to let Machk take the title, to lead. He wants Declan out, all of his people. To which Harp submits, but warns: “You wont be Okimaw for long.”

Another exciting episode. Really loving the series, it gets better and grows on me with each passing chapter. Lots to get excited for. Up next is “Wolves” and I think Michael Smyth and Harp both will be getting lots of time, more than usual. Their relationship, the one that’s budding, is intriguing and should offer plenty of narrative fun.