The second part of Alias Grace is even darker and more ominous the first as we see the fate of Grace's best friend, Mary Whitney.
Mary's tragic death is the backbone of Alias Grace Season 1 Episode 2, but it also raises some questions about Dr. Jordan's history and his feelings for Grace.
On Alias Grace Season 1 Episode 1, Grace explains to Dr. Jordan that she once used Mary Whitney's name as an alias after Mary's death. Knowing Mary's fate casts a shadow on our perception of Grace's happy memories of their friendship.
Mary is lively with firmly held beliefs. She's passionate about the rebellion, scorning the way the poor are treated by the rich.
Similarly, she laments the ways in which men mistreat women, particularly warning Grace against gentlemen. Mary tells Grace gentlemen think they can get anything they want and warns her against doing anything with a man before he follows through on his promise of marriage.
Because men are liars by nature, Grace. They'll say anything to get what they want out of you, then think better of it and be off on the next boat.Mary Whitney
The oppression of the poor by the rich and of women by men both play a role in Mary's death.
Because of Mary's station in life, she has no recourse when the father impregnates her. She will not be allowed to keep her job if she is visibly pregnant, and the risks of going elsewhere to have the baby are potentially life-threatening.
Mary refuses to tell Grace who the father of her baby is, although the show throws many hints towards George Parkinson. Grace notices the relationship Mary has with George, but never directly asks her if George is the father.
It was the doctor that killed her with his knife, him and the gentleman between them. For it is not always the one who strikes that is the actual murderer.Grace Marks
George, who comes from privilege, has the means to help Mary, but he refuses.
As Grace tells Dr. Jordan, "It is not always the one who strikes that is the actual murderer." The father of Mary's baby sealed her fate when he went back on his promise to marry her.
Grace's view of the cause of Mary's death will likely inform much of the series, particularly if Grace did commit the murders of which she is convicted.
If Grace did indeed murder the two victims, maybe she sees their death as justified, or perhaps she was acting as "the one who strikes" on behalf of some other factor.
The harsh double standard of which Mary is a victim is never more evident than when Mrs. Parkinson arrives. Initially, Mrs. Parkinson is furious at the man who impregnated Mary, saying he ought to pay.
Grace says Mary didn't want Mrs. Parkinson to know who the father was, as she would not approve, and there is a marked shift in Mrs. Parkinson's demeanor.
When she realizes her son might be equally responsible for the circumstances that caused Mary's death, Mrs. Parkinson no longer cares about punishment.
She does the least she can do for Mary's reputation by telling the girls they'll say she died of a fever. Saving Mary's reputation, however, does nothing to avenge her death.
The subplot which bookends Grace's story in this episode is Dr. Jordan's romantic feelings toward her. At the beginning of the episode, he has a dream in which Grace is out in the cold. He wraps her in his coat and she leans into him.
The apple peel game Grace and Mary played came true for Mary: she was unable to peel her apple in one piece, and she never married. When Grace's peel lands in a "J", Mary suggests she'll marry Jeremiah. Viewers have a different J name in mind: Dr. Jordan.
Grace observes something about Dr. Jordan that tells her he's had trouble in the past. The two seem to share a connection, and I'm interested to see what other information Grace can glean from him. Maybe they have more in common than they realize.
Those who have been in trouble themselves are alert to it in others, sir.Grace Marks
Particularly in the current cultural context, the romantic feelings on Dr. Jordan's part make me uncomfortable. Although he seems like a kind person, he is in a position of power over Grace. His written opinion could set her free or seal her fate.
While a romance between them could work in other circumstances, the dynamic isn't right in this situation. Either could use the other to their own advantage. Until they are on more of a level playing field, anything beyond their normal sessions would be inappropriate.
As more and more women come forward with accusations of sexual harassment by men in positions of power, this aspect of the show is more chillingly relevant than ever.
A girl should never let her guard down. Mary taught me that. So did the world, I suppose.Grace Marks
Will Grace heed the advice Mary once gave her about men? Will Dr. Jordan abuse his position? Let me know your thoughts on this episode in the comments!
Danica Leninsky was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She retired in April of 2018.