In terms of TV drama it seems that this autumn’s ubiquitous face will be Sheridan Smith who is starring in two upcoming ITV programmes, Mrs Biggs and The Scapegoat, but first puts in an appearance in the latest episode of Jimmy McGovern’s Accused. This third instalment, co-written with Exile scribe Danny Brocklehurst, focuses on young bowling alley employee Stephen played by Misfits’ Robert Sheehan whose version of events we may not be able to trust due to his possible psychological problems. Outside of the court scenes we first meet Stephen when Smith’s residential nurse Charlotte turns up on his doorstep to care for his terminally ill mother who later passes away without him saying goodbye to her. Though it seems like he, his brother Dom and his father Peter are getting back to normal a bombshell is soon dropped when it is revealed that Charlotte his dad’s new girlfriend.
From there his paranoia grows as he remembers Charlotte instructing his mother how to administer her own shots and wonders if she could’ve speeded up the death for her own gain. As Peter is keen to have a new family unit as soon as possible he moves Charlotte in much to the disgust of Stephen who has never really trusted how quick it took his father to move on. Despite some early teething problems Stephen tries to make Charlotte feel welcome however he struggles to take her seriously as an authority figure and seems to revel in getting his own way as far as his father’s concerned. Though Stephen is seemingly Ok things take a dark turn when Alastair Campbelll starts to appear on the TV screen to warn him that Charlotte will soon start telling his father that he’s been acting up and blame it on a mental illness with which he was once diagnosed. Things start to go a bit odd when Stephen’s starts having stomach pains while the family’s dog is also run over when out walking with Charlotte both incidents which he thinks Charlotte may have had a hand in. He tries to confide in both his girlfriend Olivia and his brother Dom but both tell him to seek help not willing to believe that somebody could be as evil as Stephen believes Charlotte is however we are in the same position as them because we are never sure how trustworthy our protagonist’s views actually are.
This episode perfectly captured everything that is great about Accused a flawed central character, a morally ambiguous situation and a difficult decision choosing whether these people deserve to go to prison or not. I personally thought that the characters weren’t as strong as they’d been in previous weeks for example there was nobody as memorable as Sean Bean’s Tracey or as strong as Anne-Marie Duff’s Mo plus I also found it very hard to sympathise with our leading man. That’s because, for most of the episode at least, Stephen is fairly detached from the audience and from life in general as we see him disinterested in what his friends have to say instead gazing off into the distance. His brief relationship with a girl named Olivia, a subplot which doesn’t really go anywhere, does at least allow us to see a slightly more upbeat side to this lad though later on even she thinks he’s gone completely off the deep end. While it’s hard to sympathise with Stephen due to his detached I had plenty of time for his dad Peter, played by stand-up comic John Bishop in a rare dramatic role, who was just trying to keep his life going in the best way that he could but was getting increasingly frustrated by his eldest son’s attempts to thwart his new romance.
Even though I didn’t particularly gel with the characters what I felt this episode did well was create a unique visual style from the first scene in the bowling alley in which Stephen serves a girl at the bar we see the majority of the conversation through the mirror behind them. In fact it is in the bowling alley that Stephen goes to distract himself from his tormented home life as it is presented as a place with loud music and blaring lights coming from the arcade games while the constant thud of the balls on the lanes drown out anything that might be going on elsewhere. Several flashbacks are also put in place to inform us why Stephen was so close to his mother with these being intercut of his constant memories of Charlotte injecting her with what he believes to be a harmful substance. What I thought was a stroke of genius though was the Alastair Campbell cameo instructing Stephen in what to do next which inevitably sent him crazy and gave the nation a lesson on why you should never listen to the former spin-doctor.
As always the acting in Accused was strong with Robert Sheehan impressing in an unusually reserved role for the actor, who I found a tad annoying during his time as Nathan on Misfits, who does his best portraying an emotionally-damaged young man who is just trying to do the right thing but not really convincing anyone with his suspicions. Sheehan gives us a character we can’t always trust to give us an accurate account of events but he is one we’re intrigued by nonetheless especially in some of the courtroom scenes. Bishop, like Olivia Coleman last week, is the scene-stealer playing a very worthy down-to-Earth man with a lot on his plate some of the later scenes see him flex his acting muscles as he finally gets to the end of his tether with Stephen and makes some decisions that he regrets. The episode wouldn’t work without Smith though as she acts slightly suspicious throughout the episode perfecting a sort of evil smirk every time she seemingly gets one over on Stephen. Neither Smith or the writers ever let us know if she is in a situation like The Hand The Rocks The Cradle where she attempts to kill of an entire family so she can have her man all to herself or if she is just a young woman who fell in love with a grieving widower. The ambiguity of the character can be partly attributed to the fine work carried out by the actress and you’ll be hearing a lot more about her in the coming weeks as she continues to dazzle in a variety of dramas.
What did you think to this week’s episode of Accused? What did you think to the performances? Leave Your Comments Below.