Accused Episode 3 Review: Stephen’s Story

August 28, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

ACCUSED: Tuesday 28th August, BBC1, 9pm

It’s not every day that a television drama tackles profound themes such as loss and mental illness, and then still leaves time to take a couple of pops at Coldplay and feature a terrifying cameo from Alistair Campbell.

But that’s exactly what this week’s instalment of Accused (co-written by Cracker creator Jimmy McGovern) does.

The third episode of the second series is an hour-long journey into the paranoid mind of teenager Stephen Cartwright (Robert Sheehan). It’s been a long and painful struggle for his terminally ill mother and her only relief in the final weeks of her life has been the drugs given to her by her palliative care nurse, Charlotte (Sheridan Smith).

However, Stephen isn’t entirely convinced that she’s been helping his mother at all, and suspects that she might be responsible for speeding up her demise.

Initially, his suspicions seem incorrect. After all, Charlotte seems nice and is even kind enough to offer the teenager some comforting words of encouragement when his mother finally passes away. But when Charlotte shacks up with his father (John Bishop — yes, the channel-rowing comedian) shortly after the funeral, he knows that something is wrong.

Grief and paranoia consume the seventeen-year-old, and despite frequent and gratuitous close ups of Charlotte’s cleavage, Stephen can scarcely cope sharing his space with the woman he’s certain killed his mother. And due to increasingly bad stomach pains, he believes that he’s being poisoned (although perhaps his tummy trauma has more to do with the fact that his family seem to eat nothing but meat and potatoes).

It’s left up to viewers to determine whether or not Stephen has decent grounds to be worried. Charlotte is undeniably sinister, but we’re never given anything information that officially pins her as guilty, and Stephen does begin to act increasingly strange as the episode draws to a conclusion.

The seventeen-year-old is even starting to hear voices, most notably the spine-tingling voice of Alistair Campbell, who appears on the television to warn Stephen that Charlotte is a “crafty cow?.

The episode is brilliantly suspenseful, blurring the lines between Stephen’s thoughts and reality. Nothing is black and white, which makes it difficult to root for any character wholeheartedly. Charlotte isn’t a particularly likable character, but then neither is Stephen really. He’s frequently rude, self-absorbed, insensitive, and unreliable, which makes it difficult to trust everything that he says.

It’s a compelling instalment and one that gets better as it develops, most due to its fine cast. Sheehan, in particular, delivers a fantastic performance as a mixed up teen, and John Bishop is surprisingly adept as the grieving father.

One stand out scene sees him slam Stephen up against a wall in frustration as he confronts him about his dislike for Charlotte. I hope you can stomach flying spittle, because my god there’s a lot of it in this scene. Admittedly, it’s disgusting, but like the episode on a whole, it’s great television.

Shazard says:

I didn’t read the last scene like that. Funnily enough I am usually the one into the conspiracy but on this occasion I felt that it was all part of Stephens mind set. Only just got round to watching the series. The wonders of sky + glad I hadn’t wiped them.

Paul Pattison says:

You’ve missed the point of the last scene. Charlotte is a scheming murderous who has them all under her poisonous spell!

Cami says:

Wow! This was great. Not as good as the 1st one with Sean Bean, but great tv. Having lost my mother at a similar age, I could really understand the anger that Stephen felt, even if he did need professional help. And Charlotte was vile. Thinking back to my teenage self, I probably would have plotted to kill her had she been my step mother!!!!!!!

David says:

I found the first two episodes compelling, and superbly acted. Stephen’s Story, however, despite fine performances by Robert Sheehan and Sheridan Smith, was unconvincing. The relationships were too blurred and open-ended, and the acting of John Bishop was wooden (to put it kindly). I think he should stick to comedy.

helen says:

enough bitchery ladies – it was a fantastic episode and yes she was a serial killer determined to kill all members of stephen’s family! – excellent writers. well done

J says:

Bethany…get your facts right before reviewing a review.

Kai says:

Pat, I wasn’t here when it said swimming so I have no proof but it seems likely that they read Bethany’s comment and corrected their mistake before you got here. The joys of editting!!!!!

pat betton says:

Bethany, please don’t be so quick to ‘pick someone up before they fall’, read the review again, it does say ‘channel-rowing’ not swimming!!!!!

bethany says:

you may want to correct the ‘(John Bishop — yes, the channel-swimming comedian)’ because he did not swim the channel, he rowed the channel as part of a charity triathlon..maybe you’re thinking of david walliams who indeed did swim the channel. please get your facts right when writing a review/article thank you.