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.

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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.