0 5 mins 12 yrs

I can’t say I ever thought I’d see the day that I’d write a review for John Bishop as a straight actor in Jimmy McGovern’s Accused

Jimmy McGovern and Danny Brocklehurst bring us an episode focusing on 17-year old Stephen played by Robert Sheehan, a somewhat unstable and vulnerable character who is suffering from a mental disorder – which he and his family refuses to acknowledge. we learn as we always do with ‘Accused’ what circumstances have led him to the dock and that he refuses to have a psychiatric report before his trial based on the assumption he will be free quicker if he doesn’t.

Stephen’s fragile mind is pushed to tipping point when after a long terminal illness his mother is given an injection by her new palliative nurse Charlotte, played by Sheridan Smith and she dies not long after. The family stricken with grief is rocked even more when the two boys Stephen and his younger brother Dom (Josh Bolt) discover mere months after her passing their dad Peter (John Bishop) is now sleeping with Charlotte and it’s not long before he’s moved her in.

The episode plays on our perceptions of Stephen and Charlotte who despite being a nurse comes across as manipulative and cruel to the two boys still grieving for their mother. As Stephen gets more paranoid and delusional, he believes Charlotte is poisoning him and his family; that she’s responsible for the injection that he believes induced his mother’s speedy death and the death of their dog Jenks, while she swears blind that he needs help and locking up in a hospital – and so the line starts to blur eventually leading to Stephen stabbing her with a knife when he’s convinced he’s protecting his younger brother from her poison. Is Charlotte using Stephen’s fragile state to successfully manipulate the family, passing if off as his delusions? Or has Stephen’s illness deteriorated to the point where he falsely believes her to be a threat. I suspect the former is true although there’s no doubt Stephen is ill, she does seem to get a sadistic pleasure out of winding him up, her last words at the prison a prime example when he sits in prison and asks where his brother and dad are she says they’re ill with the implied meaning she is the cause.

John Bishop does a good job considering, but there is always a nagging feeling that he seems out-of-place. His character also appears to have no back bone when it comes to Charlotte who he allows to push him and his sons around. That whole speech after the funeral of “we stick together” soon became hollow as soon as Charlotte appeared on the scene. The storyline is believable though as I have seen it happen when a parent meets a new partner after a short time after a death. It has a habit of becoming a battle of wills for the parents attention and affection, which eventually drives them apart. So it’s quite easy to judge Peter as someone who abandoned his children in their time of need searching for his own happiness.

Not quite sure why Alistair Campbell needed to be the voice Stephen imagined, or what the purpose of showing Stephen leering down Charlotte’s top was all about, although I’m sure the cameraman loved it. Regardless though Sheridan Smith played the conniving temptress well, while Stephen portrayed brilliantly a tortured performance of introspective view and desperate fear; a sad heartbreaking deterioration to watch. Josh Bolt who seems to be popping up in a fair few drama’s lately also conveys impressive talent as his character is torn between his loyalty and his worry for his brother. He was especially good in the scene where Peter demands Stephen leaves the house and his key. I’m interested to see how they continue the story with the talent of Anna Maxwell Martin. and sadly the final episode of the brilliant series that surely deserves a Bafta along with more episodes.