Accused Review

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September 12, 2012 by raconteurmagazine

by James Bovington

Imagine something with me; you’ve been accused of a crime.

Wait, that’s not all. You’ve been arrested and are actually stood in the dock right now being cross-examined by the prosecution. Now, how are you going to answer their questions?

You’re going to stammer out the bits you can remember like a nervous, forgetful chipmunk, possibly while crying a bit. Right?

Not so in Jimmy McGovern’s Accused (BBC One), where the accused answer questions with highly polished, dramatic flashbacks, which is clearly the much better option.

When I wrote this (early on a Thursday morning, no less) only two episodes of season two had aired. The first involves a cross-dressing man accused of complicity in a murder. So far, so modern drama, right?

Pretty much, yeah. Except the cross-dressing man in question is played by Sean Bean and as a result is bloody compelling. I have a lot of time for Mr. Bean as an actor and he was apparently cast because nobody would expect it. That’s a shame, because that indicates he’s dangerously close to being typecast elsewhere. He also doesn’t die in this. I know, I was surprised too, but he makes it all the way to the end.

It’s a fairly decent story of complicated love, obsession and murder and it was shot particularly well so it was nice to look at. Episode one I have few qualms with.

Episode two, on the other hand, left me cold.

With its focus locked firmly on Anne-Marie Duff’s boring hairdresser Mo it opens on a run-down estate so horrible it actually looks fake, like the grey monolithic buildings were carved from solid misery by a demented god. It’s like they shot it in Little Horrid-on-the-Grim, with filth-smeared grey filters on every lens. It’s actually very interesting to look at, but you’re quickly distracted by the story.

Mo’s hair salon is the only shop open on the whole estate, for no adequately explained reason. Something about a gang member who died. Anyway, because of this she and her staff (primarily Sue, played by Olivia Colman, her from Peep Show, which is jarring at first, but she’s actually very capable of doing convincing drama) are tormented by the threatening omnipresence of the teenage mafia that now run everything.

I know youths in hoods are the main fear of everyone over the age of thirty, but it just seems silly that these children command so much fear that they can shut down the entire retail sector of an estate with no opposition. Realism destroyed at this point, I decided to view it as a dystopian near-future setting. That worked a bit.

Then, again for no adequately explained reason Sue’s son is shot and after they both join an ineffectual parody of the WI-cum-protest-group it is revealed that, obviously, Mo’s son (Jake, portrayed emotionlessly by Thomas Brodie Sangster) is responsible, because the don, played by Joe Dempsie with a ridiculous wispy pube-moustache, made him do it.

Eventually, as is always the case, the truth comes out, but not before Mo and her mother help the murdering little shit by hiding the gun and planning to run to that well known haven from the law, Portsmouth. The truth is revealed because the police have bugged Jake’s bedroom. At some point. For no good reason. I mean, yeah, they caught the murderer, but there was no reason to suspect him. At least not one that we’re shown.

And that’s it.

He goes down for murder, his mum and grandma get delayed sentences of a year, Sue turns up to shriek at Mo on her doorstep and the credits roll.

Hopefully the rest of the season is more interesting than that.

Dull, dull, dull. A waste of potential. Go do something else.

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