Alias Grace, the new Netflix series based on Margaret Atwood’s novel of the same name, premieres all six episodes of its first season on Nov. 3. The series follows Grace Marks, an Irish immigrant living in mid-19th century Canada who is sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty of her employer’s murder. A visiting doctor attempts to discover if Marks truly did commit the crime, and why. Audiences looking for the same answer may be happy to learn that, as a six-part miniseries, Alias Grace probably won’t have a Season 2 — meaning that the mystery should be solved by the end of its first season. However, Alias Grace is far more complicated than your average mystery story.
Alias Grace has been billed as a miniseries, indicating that this adaptation will be telling the full and complete story in just six episodes. While 2017’s other major Atwood adaptation, The Handmaid’s Tale, is getting a Season 2, Alias Grace is seemingly packing all of the original novel into one short season. However, just because the series is likely only lasting one season does not mean that the show will solve the mystery of whether or not Grace Marks truly murdered Thomas Kinnear and Nancy Montgomery as she was convicted of doing. Alias Grace is more interested in using the murder as a jumping off point to discuss important issues.
Grace Marks refers to herself as a “murderess,” even though no one can seem to agree on whether or not she actually killed anyone. There are some who support her imprisonment, others to believe her to be innocent, and a few believe her to be “hysterical.” In the show, Grace Marks ponders how she is expected to be the many contrasting things that people claim she is. The real question of Alias Grace isn’t “Did Grace Marks commit murder,” but, rather, “Who is Grace Marks?”
It’s a massive question that can’t fully be answered in just one season, but a recent television trend may indicate that Alias Grace could have a chance at a second installment. Many other high-profile miniseries are either publicly toying with the idea of a Season 2, like Big Little Lies, or are producing sequels to the original miniseries, like The Young Pope. While miniseries used to be specific to a one-season outing, it looks like the definition of what a mini-series is could be expanding.
The end of Alias Grace is not the end of Grace Marks, meaning that the show could further explore this mysterious real-life figure if it wanted to. Alias Gracelooks at Marks’ life following a stint in an asylum, after which she is hired as a domestic servant for the Governor of the penitentiary she is sentenced to. However, the Kingston Whig-Standard reported that Marks was eventually “was pardoned and released in 1873. Moving to New York, Grace Marks, alias Mary Whitney, disappeared from recorded history.” That’s an entire chapter of Marks’ life that Alias Grace could further explore if the show returned for another season.
However, it seems that the story of the book Alias Grace is told in full in the show’s first season. While the truth about what happened in the life of Grace Marks is still a mystery to many, Alias Grace attempts to sort out the truth of what happened and, more importantly, what causes people to decide on what they believe to be the truth. Why do some people think Grace is a murderer and others believe she is innocent? Does Grace believe she is innocent? Alias Grace may not have all the answers, but sometimes all a show can do is ask the right questions.