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.

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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.