Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Pilot Review: Alias Grace

Alias Grace (Netflix)
Premiered November 3

It’s fair to anticipate another show based on the writings of Margaret Atwood after the incredible production that was the first season of “The Handmaid’s Tale.” This book was written about a decade after that one, and it’s not set in some dystopian future, but rather revolves around real events brought to life with some fictionalization. This show premiered in Canada a few weeks ago before making its way to Netflix for the instant release in its entirety. There is an air of mystery that makes finding out about Grace’s life intriguing, and this pilot offered snippets of Grace’s time leading up to the visit from this sympathetic doctor that demonstrated that there is much more to be learned about who she was and why she was compelled to so eagerly confess to false crimes that earned her a life of imprisonment, servitude, and torment by doctors seeking to understand her in brutal ways. That premise sounds much more interesting than I found this first hour to be only mildly engaging. I remember Sarah Gadon from “11.22.63” and I couldn’t really pick out Zachary Levi from “Chuck” and Anna Paquin from “True Blood,” two faces I was excited to see in the supporting cast. I didn’t recognize David Cronenberg, a noted Canadian director, who plays the Reverend. This show might be able to tell an interesting story, but this pilot didn’t manage to draw me in the way I hoped it might, and in a sea of shows with worthwhile premises, this one doesn’t stand out in its execution.

How will it work as a series? Set up as a six-episode miniseries, I imagine that it will simultaneously exploring Grace’s past and what got to her the murder charge and Dr. Jordan’s conversations with her that help to shed light on what her mental state is like now. It’s a strong setup, one that will likely get more interesting as it goes on.
How long will it last? Though I believe “The Handmaid’s Tale” was originally slated to be just one season (based on the source material), I think there might be more to fill in there than here. The season has already finished airing in Canada, and seems to be well-received here, so I guess it’s always possible that CBC and Netflix could decide to continue it.

Pilot grade: B-

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