Accused Episode Four: John Bishop & Robert Sheehan shine once again as Anna Maxwell Martin takes centre stage in the best episode yet

by Matt D

After my last review of Accused there was unanimous praise for John Bishop’s turn as David the dad of Robert Sheehan’s mentally unstable Sean and for those who enjoyed his performance, he’s back this week in another emotional tale. Up in the dock this week is Anna Maxwell Martin’s Tina who, as a prisoner officer at a young offender’s institution, oversees Sean’s transfer from the court. I personally like the idea of following one of our previous protagonists after they’ve been sentenced however it is clear from the start that this is Tina’s Story.

As we learnt last week Sean has visions of people talking to him from the TV, so when he tells Tina that Alistair Campbell told him to stab somebody, she is already worried about his state of mind. Though he is rightfully worried about being in the institution, Tina’s instincts tell her that there is something more to it than that and sees his detached nature as a cause for concern. To get him thinking about something else she tells him to write a letter to his mother and when he agrees to do this she sees this as progress however, as those who watched last week’s episode know, she died several months ago. Tina relays her worries about Sean to fellow officer Frank who promises to follow up on it however this is already two late as the pair find Sean strangled to death in his room. Despite Tina’s best attempts to revive Sean by giving him mouth to mouth she is eventually resigned to the fact that she is now unable to save him.

Things go from bad to worse when David arrives to visit his son and Tina can’t officially reveal the truth until she’s cleared it with her governor. From there this is a story of guilt as Tina continues to worry about the fact that she and Frank didn’t do more to save Sean and when she confides in her husband she tells him to do the right thing. We also see a suitably angry David return to the prison with some more questions about what Tina told him and he feels there are some gaps in her story. As a mother of three young children Tina can feel David’s pain but she feels if she reveals her initial fears to Sean’s father, then this will result in further repercussions. Following her decision several horrific incidents occur which essentially adds up to the reason why she’s in the dock and for once the reason our central character is in court isn’t revealed until the final few minutes.

I think it’s a testament to the writers that in this final episode they keep you guessing till the final few minutes of the episode to the crime that Tina’s committed. Usually you can at least guess what they’ve been accused of but there are a few red herrings along the way to throw you off the track until the final moments of this instalment. Though Jimmy McGovern and his co-writers have been able to create many sympathetic characters over the series for me Tina is definitely the most decent of them and you are rooting for her all the way through. Like Anne-Marie Duff’s Mo a couple of weeks ago Tina is also a mother who is trying to do the right thing by her three children which means working long hours at a particularly tough job and hardly ever seeing her taxi driver husband. To illustrate this the writers create a small subplot in which Tina and her husband must replace the boiler which costs more than they afford which in turn forces them to work even more hours than they do already.

What I also liked about this episode was the presentation of the prison itself as a lot of the scenes are viewed from the CCTV cameras that are littered around the halls and cells of the institution. Many of the opening scenes are seen via these video feeds and I feel this demonstrates the cold nature of the institution and the horror that a lot of the young men feel upon entering. This horror is built upon when Sean enters the narrow corridors full of cells as his fellow inmates welcome him by banging on their cell doors and yelling creating an unseen threat that must be completely terrifying for someone as unstable as Sean. Though life is tough from the prisoners we are also shown that it is equally as hard for the officers, which is obviously highlighted through what happens to Tina in the latter half of the episode, as they have to work in under-staffed conditions which force them to be tough towards the prisoners and sometimes to each other.

As has been the case throughout this series the performances are once again brilliant with Anna Maxwell Martin perfectly playing this relatable wife and mother who is forced to endure unpleasant experiences in order to care for her family. She plays Tina’s two sides brilliantly as she is bright and caring when she is with her family but is incredibly tough with her prisoners when she has to be a quality that is best exemplified in the scene in the visiting room where she is racked with guilt when she sees David then changing completely when she comes down hard on one of the inmates making a racket in the same room. In his handful scenes of Robert Sheehan almost confirms that Sean was completely unbalanced with his psychological issues heightened thanks to the stress of being locked up. I also though Ewan Bremner was utilised well as Frank somebody who is a lot more aggressive than Tina and can be fairly harsh when he wants to be. Though as I already mentioned it is John Bishop who steals the show with two scenes in particular staying in my memory, the aforementioned visiting room scene and the final scene of the episode, in which he makes you feel for David without saying anything at all.

Overall I’ve been completely entranced by this entire series of Accused, and would’ve liked a couple more episodes, with all four episodes containing convincing characters in believable situations. Jimmy McGovern and company allow you to almost make your own mind up if you would convict the protagonists or not based on the evidence given throughout the episode and the ambiguity of every episode makes Accused even more special. I personally thought Tina’s story was the best of the bunch as I found it the most gripping instalment of the four packed with great performances and a sinister setting but most importantly another character who you really wanted to root for throughout the episode.

What did you think to this episode of Accused? What’s been your favourite of the series? Leave Your Comments Below.

1 Comment

  1. Jess on September 5, 2012 at 8:26 am

    I so agree with everything said above. This series has been brilliant and totally engaging. Jimmy mcgovern makes you feel as though you know the characters and I became totally absorbed in Tina’s story. I also loved the way episode 3 and 4 crossed over.
    I also loved the first episode. Sean Bean played a blinder playing 1 person with 2 totally different characters, again it was an absorbing story and I felt real empathy for the characters.
    I am left wanting more, please!

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