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You Should Be Watching: ‘Alias Grace’

It is a harrowing, made-for-streaming adaptation of a Margaret Atwood classic. It is sad, sobering, and powerfully of-this-moment. But it’s not “The Handmaid’s Tale.” While that Hulu series was one of 2017’s most binge-worthy and disturbing series, there is an even better Atwood adaptation available for streaming. That series is “Alias Grace,” and the six-episode Netflix series about a convicted “murderess” in the 1800s is a stunner.

Title: “Alias Grace”

Year it began: 2017

Where it can be seen: Netflix

Typical episode length: 45 minutes

Number of episodes: 6

Who’s in it: Sarah Gadon, Edward Holcroft, Zachary Levi, David Cronenberg, and Anna Paquin

Brief plot description: In 19th-century Canada, a psychiatrist weighs whether a murderess should be pardoned due to insanity.

Why it’s worth watching: World-building is an essential component of any period piece, and “Alias Grace” wastes no time immersing us into the Canada of the mid-1800s. For Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon), a convicted killer, it is a grim world. However, psychiatrist Dr. Simon Jordan (Edward Holcroft) offers a chance for Grace to tell her story, and perhaps even prove her innocence. Viewers who know little of the real tale of Grace Marks are in for a treat, as the series features some truly unexpected twists; the finale, especially, is full of surprises.

Through it all is Gadon, an actress best known for her performances in indie films like "Indignation" and David Cronenberg’s "Cosmopolis" and "A Dangerous Method." (Cronenberg has a small role in “Alias Grace.”) She makes Grace both relatable and mysterious. The script by Sarah Polley, the great actress and director of “Away From Her” and “Stories We Tell,” is emotionally affecting, and the direction from Mary Harron ("American Psycho") is swift and inventive. “Alias Grace” is an emotional powerhouse, and one of 2017’s finest streaming selections.

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