Though last week’s episode of Accused was brilliant it was slightly overshadowed by the fact that Sean Bean convincingly donned a dress to play a transvestite however at the heart of the story was a love triangle that had a tragic ending. This week there are no frills and no big characters but instead just a simple story about mothers doing the best they can for their sons and for me this was also the episode of Jimmy McGovern’s drama which really made me think about the grey line between what is right and what is wrong. This week in the dock we have Mo Murray (Anne-Marie Duff) and her mother (Ruth Sheen) but as always we’re not sure why they’re there and it’s up for the writer to reveal the crime these women have committed as the drama roles on. If you’re reading this prior to watching the episode I would recommend you don’t read any more but journey back once you’ve seen it.
The opening scene of the episode sees Mo making a decision against her mother’s wishes which is soon revealed to be one to open her hairdressers shop on a day that she has been warned not to by a local gang. Mo and her manicurist friend Sue (Olivia Colman) band together but receive threats throughout the day which scare away customers who themselves are afraid of the gang. Later Mo and her mother are threatened by Martin Cormak (Joe Dempsie) the young man who runs the estate saying that he needs to take action as they’ve disrespected the memory of one of their own whose memory was being honoured on that day. Mo is worried about her son Jake (Thomas Brodie Sangster) but ultimately it is Sue’s son Sean (Oliver Lee) who is shot by a gang member and dies later in the ambulance. As a way to get something back from this loss Sue suggests that she and Mo join the local ‘Women Against Guns’ group with Mo in particular giving impassioned speeches that attract both the local community as well as the media. However Mo’s words get to Cormak who feels he’s losing his grip on those who fear him so tries to get to Mo and her mother but how do his actions make them both end up in court?
This question is answered about halfway through the episode however to say any more would be to spoil the episode but for me at least this was an improvement on last week’s effort. The performances from both Duff and Coleman are top notch while the supporting cast all do their bit to make this story as powerful as possible. Duff paints Mo as a woman who doesn’t want to bow to the demands of a bunch of kids but at the same time she knows the risk she runs crossing the front line and opening her shutters on a day were she has been warned not to. Mo is first and foremost a mother and her want to protect Jake leads her do some things that she’s not proud of at all and it is in these latter scenes in which Duff really shines. For me though Olivia Coleman is the scene-stealer here by saying very little she using her facial expressions and mannerisms to portray how hurt she is over the loss of Sean. Occasionally Sue lets herself loose and really hit back at the injustice of her son’s needless death but for the most time she says more by saying less and that’s the mark of a great actress. For me Sue’s final speech was the most powerful element of the entire episode as it really saw her let out her frustrations about what had happened throughout the episode and for me it rung true of what her character would’ve been feeling all episode.
The supporting cast were all great as well especially Sheen who really starts to shine in the second half of the episode when she jumps into action after a particularly powerful scene with Cormack. While Mo has to simply worry about Jake Mo’s mother has to worry about both of them and Sheen really puts this over showing great strength throughout and giving us a trio of fantastic performances from wonderful actresses. In the handful of scenes he appears in Dempsie once again proves how versatile an actor he is as he’s able to go from playing loveable characters in Skins or Game of Thrones to villains in both this and last year’s The Fades. Sangster also excels as a role which is initially no more than a stroppy teenager but later grows
If I were to level a criticism at the episode it is that it occasionally drags when the big revelation of why Mo and her mother are in the dock. Though this does allow Duff to act her socks off as well as have some truly tragic confrontations with Coleman I feel some of the points towards the latter part of the episode were somewhat laboured. In addition I didn’t entirely buy the police’s discovery of the crime in question, which I’m trying really hard not to reveal, it just seemed a little too neat in a story where everything else felt very realistic. Those are very minor gripes though in another fantastic, thought-provoking hour of television and this week McGovern has written a story which I feel relates to mothers up and down the country, however not being one I can’t be 100% sure on that, as it really makes you question how far you would got to protect your child. The performances from both Duff and Coleman are some of the best I’ve seen on TV all year while the final scene between the two will stay with you days after you’ve seen the episode and that to me is the mark of an excellent and powerful drama.
Contributed by Matt Donnelly Follow Matt on Twitter