Alias Grace

‘Alias Grace’ is the Best Atwood Show on TV, and Here’s Why

Margaret Atwood’s having a moment lately. The 77-year-old author has two major television shows on air right now, and with The Handmaid’s Tale winning all sorts of awards at last night’s Golden Globes, it’s hard to imagine that there’s anything better. Until, of course, you check out Netflix’s Alias Grace.


Which you absolutely should. In my opinion, it’s the better Atwood show. And here’s why I think so.


1. The series is based off real events.


Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper Nancy Montgomery were actually murdered in Canada in 1843, and servants Grace Marks and James McDermott were convicted of the crime, with McDermott hanged by the neck and Marks sentenced to life in prison. While the story is based in fact, it is just that – a story. Atwood created an incredible narrative of the crime with her inclusion of fictional doctor Simon Jordan, played by Edward Holcroft. 


Grace Marks Trial Announcement

Image Via Life Death Prizes


2. “I don’t get what all the fuss was about,” vs “What’s the over/under on how many years it takes for this to actually happen?”


I don’t know how many people I’ve recommended The Handmaid’s Tale to, but depending on if they’re male or female, they have a vastly different opinion on both the book and the show. I’m not saying that men don’t “get it”, but let’s be real, men don’t get it. Alias Grace also tackles a sensitive subject yet somehow murder is more relatably terrifying than forced sexual slavery – but that’s neither here nor there, really.


3. Alias Grace is basically True Detective meets Downton Abbey.


And what’s not to love about that?


4. Alias Grace‘s screenplay was better adapted for television than The Handmaid’s Tale (in my opinion, of course). 


What I loved about The Handmaid’s Tale (the book) was that you weren’t positive that the dystopian reality the book takes place in is in fact a post-bipartisan United States of America until you get to the epilogue. It completely changes the tone of the book, and each subsequent reread unravels more and more clues. If you didn’t read the epilogue of The Handmaid’s Tale, I hate you. It takes the story from just that, a story, to a first person account of a regime actively enslaving its population, and that’s all sorts of fucked up. It’s a lesson, a warning, a vision of the future, and one that some people scoff at. The TV adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, while incredible, begins by telling that to the audience, and for me, that took a lot of power away from the story. 


5. While both Offred and Grace are strong female protagonists, and beautifully written ones at that, I’m partial to an unreliable narrator. 


And Grace Marks is absolutely an unreliable narrator. She’s a self proclaimed murderess, after all. But as the good Dr. Jordan uncovers details of both Grace’s life and her crimes, the suspense comes from discovering whether or not the woman we’ve come to know is actually guilty. The intrigue and mystery in The Handmaid’s Tale isn’t about the protagonist, it’s in the vignette of the world we’re thrust into. It’s in uncovering that the world of The Handmaid’s Tale is actually our own. 


Don’t get me wrong, I’m obsessed with both of these books and both of these shows. Picking between the two is like asking me which Reese’s is better – the first one out of the package or the second. They’re each delicious, and I’m going to devour them both.


Featured Image Via The Daily Beast.