We return now to Accused, the BBC’s gritty retrospective justice drama, after I gave a fairly glowing write-up to the early episodes. So, can stars like Robert Sheehan, Sheridan Smith and Anna Maxwell Martin continue that strong start?
Let’s find out, it’s final verdict time….
Robert Sheehan: From Misfits to Misfit
In our first case, Misfits star Robert Sheehan is Stephen Cartwright, a troubled young man, no doubt because he has an Irish accent, but no-one else in his family seems to. The death of his mother only aggravates his issues, and it’s downhill from there.
I loved Sheehan in Misfits, I’m not sure that series fully recovered from losing his energy, and although the part he plays here is nothing like Nathan, he’s good at showing the confusion and fury lurking just underneath that buttoned down shirt Stephen always wears.
Unfortunately, despite a good performance by Sheehan, the episode itself is probably the weakest. Both the portrayal of mental illness and the plot are rather trite –his crime seems painfully obvious by fifteen minutes in, and the “shock ending” caused me to eyeroll rather than gasp.
There are attempts at misdirection, including strange hints about inappropriate feelings towards his step-mum, but nothing that sticks. I’m not saying this is incompetent, but it does seem distinctly average. But you can watch on iPlayer and make up your own mind.
Prison: Where Things Get Worse?
Happily things pick up for Tina’s Story, the final episode, set in prison and starring Anna Maxwell Martin as a tortured guard. Well, I say “pick up”, this is a desolate, depressing episode for the most part, as the well intentioned main character is punished again and again for her efforts.
But it’s well executed, Maxwell Martin does a good job of portraying the character’s inner strength and self-torture, and it could well be one of the best so far. There are also reappearing characters from earlier episodes, to give some sense of finale, and even though Accused isn’t really that kind of show, they work.
And, unlike the previous one, this story keeps you guessing right to the end about both the nature of her crime and the subsequent punishment. Bravo. Check the final episode out on iPlayer here.
It’s hard to do an overview of this series, due to afore-mentioned lack of continuity, but I’d say three of the four episodes succeed in their goals, so that has to be an overall win. Well done, Accused. Maybe one day you’ll come back.