Alias Grace

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Alias Grace TV Poster Image
True story of a murder is another dark Atwood dystopia.

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 16+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Despite having made terrible, fatal mistakes in her life, Grace is a thoughtful, sensitive person who was shaped by her brutal upbringing and luckless life prospects; this drama sympathetically shows us why Grace became who she did without letting her off the hook for her errors. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

It's strange considering a convicted murderer a role model, but Grace is brave, tough, and fascinating. The characters around her aren't up to her mettle and are variously weak, duplicitous, vain, or violent, though there is one friend who is supportive and affectionate. 


Murders are what set this show's events in motion, and we see many flashbacks to it: a woman falling through a trapdoor, gasping for breath as she's choked, an ax splits gory flesh. Grace is kept for a time in an asylum where she says "liberties were taken" (we see men knocking her to the ground and then getting on top of her) and she was kept "in solitary" (we see her in a tiny coffin with a hole for breathing). Grace's father is a violent man who beats her mother and Grace; he also tries to kiss Grace in a sexual way, though she runs. Grace's mother dies; we see the body at length as she is buried at sea. We hear about a maid who tried to commit suicide by hanging. 


We see men pinning Grace to the ground while she mentions they took "liberties"; Grace's father kisses her in an unfatherly way before she runs away. There's a brief glimpse of buttocks as someone uses a chamber pot on a ship. 


Grace is frequently called names: "whore," "filthy slut," "ugly whore." 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Grace's father is an alcoholic who blames drinking for his misdeeds. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Alias Grace is a dark drama that centers on the story of a real woman who was convicted of two brutal murders as a young girl (the title comes from Margaret Atwood's same-named book about her). The show's violence isn't particularly gory, but it can be disturbing: An abusive, alcoholic father slaps his wife and throws his daughter up against a wall, knocking her unconscious; while she's in bed recovering, he kisses her inappropriately. He also calls her names like "filthy slut" and "ugly whore." Viewers see many flashbacks to the murder that Grace (Sarah Gadon) is jailed for: a woman falling through a trapdoor, gasping for breath as she's choked; a blade cutting through flesh and bone. Grace's mother dies when her daughter is beside her in bed; her dead body is shown then and as it's buried at sea. A woman is held in an asylum and refers to "liberties" taken; viewers see men pushing her and pinning her to the ground. Nude buttocks are briefly seen when someone uses a chamber pot. Viewers may come away from watching curious about many of the historical details and may be inspired to learn about the real Grace Marks and about how women, particularly poor immigrants, were treated in mid-19th-century Canada. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byimisstherainstz November 20, 2017

What You'd Expect, but Not

First of all, the content is more mature than you may think based on content advisory from the internet. Although there was nothing overtly graphic, rape and at... Continue reading
Adult Written bynothankswisconsin May 12, 2020
A great story and great actors. There are violent scenes from the penitentiary and the asylum. There is also scenes of rape, assault, and sex.
Teen, 15 years old Written bylaurenketchup September 24, 2020

Good Mystery

I really enjoyed the mystery in the show, (although the ending was not my favorite), but I felt at some points like the violence, and sadness made the show hard... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byzfreview December 23, 2017


I thank my friend for getting me into this show! There was just one scene of a buttocks but only in the first episode for like half a second. other than that th... Continue reading

What's the story?

The bare bones of ALIAS GRACE's ripped-from-the-19th-century-headlines story are true: Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon) was a young Irish immigrant and maid who was convicted of murdering her employer, Thomas Kinnear (Paul Gross), and his housekeeper, Nancy Montgomery (Anna Paquin), with stable hand James McDermott (Kerr Logan). James was hanged; Grace received a life sentence but was exonerated for the crime after spending 30 years in jail. In this drama based on the Margaret Atwood book of the same name, we focus in on Grace's imagined world, and the real-life history of a notorious woman at a time when being a woman, particularly a poor one, was a deadly condition on its own. 

Is it any good?

There are no red robes and white caps in this stark, mesmerizing drama, but one central fact makes it as compelling as that other Atwood adaptation: It's a true story. Well, the outline of the story is true, anyway, though we have no way of knowing if the real woman bubbled with curious thoughts, or understood that her imprisonment was as much about political and social forces as it was about vintage law enforcement. But as the show takes form, with Grace relating her life's story to a sympathetic, quickly pixilated psychiatrist (Edward Holcroft), we quickly realize that Grace is as stuck in her circumstances as Offred; her life is just as harrowing. 

The visuals aren't as striking as those in The Handmaid's Tale; everything seems just a little quieter and more muted. Grace's internal monologue is delivered in a singsongy lilt; everyone's clad in shades of oatmeal and gray; there are no sudden and shocking revelations (just numbingly familiar depictions of a powerless woman in the grip of circumstance). Still, it's lovely. One particular distinct pleasure of this show is that it lifts entire passages of Atwood's beautiful writing and makes them come to life in lengthy monologues of Grace's thoughts that we hear as she's impassively polishing tables or straightening beds. "'Murderess' is a strong word to have attached to you. It has a smell to it, that word -- musky and oppressive, like dead flowers in a vase. Sometimes at night I whisper it over to myself: 'Murderess, Murderess.' It rustles, like a taffeta skirt across the floor." Atwood fans and others will fall under Alias Grace's spell. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the historical setting of Alias Grace. Was Grace's personal history a common one? Did the things that happened to her happen to real people? What privileges and power do women have now that they didn't when Grace was alive? 

  • If you've read the book the movie is based on, how does it compare? What's the same? What was changed? Many people say "the book is always better." Is it true in this case? 

  • This drama was produced and written by an all-female team. Does this surprise you? Do you think women can make better dramas about women? Are they likelier to feature female characters as the protagonist? 

TV details

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