Accused Episode One: Sean Bean as a woman and Stephen Graham shine in the return of Jimmy McGovern’s courtroom drama

by Matt D

So the Olympics are over which for some means the end of the world but for others, including myself, means we finally get our TV back for some quality comedy and drama. This is exemplified by the second series of Accused, the drama from Jimmy McGovern in which each episode focuses on a single character who we first meet in court before backtracking to see how they ended up there. Our first episode focuses on Sean Bean’s forgettable English teacher Simon Gaskell who is in the dock for a reason that only becomes apparent after seeing about fourty minutes of backstory, however certain minor characters from the flashbacks do filter into the court gallery as time goes on.

Though Simon Gaskell isn’t a very confident figure, his alter ego Tracey Tremaco is and it is in this guise that we see the character for the majority of the episode. This means that Bean has to don the make-up and some very gaudy dresses to play Tracey so while he doesn’t exactly look like an attractive woman I never once felt I was watching Sean Bean. On a night out Tracey is rescued from a probable attack by kindly satellite engineer Tony and as the two enjoy a bit of banter on their taxi ride home she invites him up to satisfy his curiosity. Though she thinks it will only be a one-time encounter Tony keeps showing up at her apartment and it is clear that Tracey is falling for him though he won’t ever be seen in public with her. Things come to a head when Tracey tells Tony that she doesn’t want to see him any more if he’s drunk however he hits back telling her that she’s got to make more of an attempt to look like a woman. After making herself very attractive, or at least as attractive as Sean Bean can look dressed as a woman, she’s dismayed when Tony doesn’t show up so finds herself another male suitor who then gets into a fight with her original man who once again appears on the doorstep. Meanwhile Simon spots Tony at the shopping centre but he doesn’t recognise him so he resolves to follow him and what he discovers shocks him.

My main issue with the first series of Accused was that the crime that had been committed occasionally felt as if it had been clumsily inserted into the script rather than it feeling it particularly fit however that wasn’t the case here. As the relationship between Tony and Tracey intensifies it seems that the former makes a life-changing decisions which lends the latter in court only it’s the meek Simon rather than the larger-than-life Tracey who has to face the questioning. Throughout Accused you’re always guessing why the central character has ended up in court but when it was finally revealed I have to say it caught me by surprise however this was a good thing as I do enjoy the unexpected. As the latter scenes focus more on the court case we see that Simon isn’t good at defending himself so he resolves to bring Tracey out once more for the jury to get a better idea of the woman who was involved in the case.

I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed this opening episode of Accused and a lot of that is down to Sean Bean who is able to create two very different characters who inhabit the same body. As I previously mentioned you never feel like you’re watching Bean when Tracey’s on-screen as he utterly inhabits this brassy, gobby character though is also able to demonstrate a vulnerability in her. This is someone who is much more comfortable in women’s clothing and doesn’t like the fact that the man she has blatantly fallen in love with is ashamed of her. Bean though is equally compelling when playing Simon whom Tracey refers to as, ‘the most boring man in the world’, and I would describe as utterly bland who is dissatisfied with his lot in life which seems to involve reciting romantic poetry to a bunch of bored teenagers. For me some of the most powerful scenes of the piece are when we hear Simon reciting these poems over footage of his transformation into Tracey which perfectly captures the two worlds that he’s caught between. Stephen Graham is also perfect as the loveable Tony as he’s an actor who can play the cheeky chappy but can also turn in an instant and become a lot more violent and angry which are both qualities we see throughout the course of this episode.

I feel that this is a remarkable return to form for McGovern after a mixed bunch of episodes in series one of Accused. The fact that the number of episodes has been cut from six to four has helped him to focus more on the characters he’s creating and more importantly that the stories are well-placed and interesting. I just hope he hasn’t peaked too soon as I found Tracey’s story to be utterly compelling throughout with the courtroom scenes being the only thing that slowed down the pace of the plot but they are necessary in the context of the overall series. Both Bean and Graham are great as is the writing my only fear is that McGovern may have peaked too soon as we still have three episodes left to go. What I’m sure about is that I’m glad to have British drama of this quality back on the box and so I’m not that bothered if we don’t have another Olympic Games for at least another four years.

What did you think to Accused? Did you buy Sean Bean as a woman? Leave Your Comments Below.

2 Comments

  1. sue whitford on August 16, 2012 at 11:38 am

    This drama certainly addresses some dark issues mainly from the male gender stereotypes. The script was expertly written along with the knife edge acting. A man who dresses in women’s clothes because, ‘that’s who I am’. We all know the men that bang-on relentlessly about ‘queers’, how many of them felt the cold chill of reality whilst watching Sean Bean weave his magic? Hats off to this four times married (and divorced) macho man taking on this wonderfully controversial part.

  2. Ian on August 16, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    Sean Bean is an excellent actor. Think of his range:
    Sharpe, the classic Bond villain and ‘Tracie’. He really did give us two clearly defined characters in Simon and Tracie. Also, Stephen Graham is his match as far as range goes. I will never forget his performance in ‘This England’ during the radicilasation scene. Incredible. So, if you put two actors of this calibre together and then give them a Jimmy McGovern script you are bound to have a pretty significant result. The plotting/structure flaw, for me, was that the murder of the wife didn’t ‘sit’ well in the piece. It kind of appeared as a ‘device’ rather than an integral part of the plot. Perhaps a manipulation just to get Tracie into court. Overall though, this piece was superb and well up to satisfying my expectations of Mr McGovern’s incredible work. I will be watching the rest of the series without a doubt.

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