Here’s why Netflix’s “Alias Grace” is so important right now — and how it differs from “The Handmaid’s Tale”

Remember how much you liked watching Hulu’s Handmaid’s Tale this past summer? Well, guess what: in just a few short days, Netflix is going to give us their own taste of Margaret Atwood — but this one is not set in a dystopian future, but is based on real events surrounding a female murderess.

Alias Grace, which drops on Netflix this Friday, follows the story of young Grace Marks, who may or may not have murdered her former employer and his mistress. After Grace is imprisoned for the crime (which she may have not done), she begins to work as a domestic servant in the home of the Governor of the penitentiary. It’s there where she’s evaluated by Doctor Simon Jordan, who is determined to prove, once and for all, whether or not Grace committed the murder, and if she is, ahem, a sane individual.

So…is she or isn’t she? You’re going to have to tune into Alias Grace to find out, and since the story comes from Atwood, it’s already drawing comparisons to Handmaid’s Tale. It’s not like that’s a bad thing, but there is one big difference, as series star Sara Gadon points out:

"[The comparison] to The Handmaid's Tale and our show is something I think that [series creator and writer] Sarah Palley said best, which was, The Handmaid's Tale is a look forward at this dystopian cautionary tale of where we could go as women," Gadon explained at a Netflix press event. "Alias Grace is very much so looking backwards at where we come from as women, and everything that we have been subjected to." "Right now, we are in the in-between, and we are trying to place ourselves in these two horrible narratives and trying to grasp at how we can change that and where we can go in a way that is not so dark and not so terrible for women. I think that the two projects really resonate in that way."

These narratives may not be the feel good stories you’re craving right now, but they’re an important reflection of society. And, as always — and with everything Atwood has written — it deeply cuts into what it means to be a female living in a world where you’re not always accepted. Though the story is set in the 1800s, it is incredibly timely today.

Gadon also spoke about Atwood’s poignant prose.

"It's interesting, [I was with some friends], and we were talking about everything that's happening right now," Gadon continued. "We all agreed that when we were in school, where the discourse [was] so intelligent, it was almost like you would read Margaret's writing and you would be like, 'Okay, okay Margaret, that's a little intense. It's a little intense.'" "It wasn't until we all started working that then her voice came back to us, in the back of our head and all of these instances when we were out of this utopian bubble, and we were being subjected to all of the things that women are subjected to now. It's like her writing really struck a chord with us once we entered the workforce, and I think that that also the intensity of her writing [because] it strikes a nerve with everyone, because it's deeply personal."

If you’re looking for another Atwood binge to really strike every nerve in your body, Alias Grace lands on Netflix on Friday.