The new Netflix drama—an adaptation of the novel by Margaret Atwood—is must-watch TV for the current moment.
In a scene in the second episode of Netflix’s Alias Grace, Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon) comforts her best friend, Mary Whitney (Rebecca Liddiard), who’s in extraordinary pain following an illegal abortion. Both are teenagers and servant girls in Upper Canada. Mary’s been abandoned by the wealthy man who promised to marry her, but who now wants her to drown herself to spare him any shame. “Grace, I am so angry,” Mary says, shaking. “I am so very angry.” To comfort her, Grace talks about the political rebellion in Canada, where revolutionaries are demanding liberty and independence. “They don’t have it yet, but they will,” she says. “Because we didn’t lose. We just haven’t won yet.”
Alias Grace is the second TV adaptation of a Margaret Atwood book this year to uncannily predict the moment it landed in. The Handmaid’s Tale, Hulu’s luminous, Emmy-winning portrayal of a near-future dystopia where fertile women are forced into reproductive slavery, debuted in April, as many American women were considering their reproductive rights under the Trump/Pence administration. Alias Grace debuted on Canada’s CBC in September but arrived on Netflix last Friday, in the midst of one of the biggest confrontations of systematic sexual abuse and harassment in recent history. Women of all different ages, in a vast range of industries, are speaking openly, and angrily, about their experiences, often for the very first time. And these manifold stories, these abundant personal wounds, are coming together, piece by piece, to reveal a larger reality, like the construction of a patchwork quilt.