When mother-of-two teen sons Katherine Cartwright dies from a terminal illness, the life of her eldest son Stephen spirals out of control in this intense episode of award-winning drama series Accused, on BBC 1 last night.
This gritty series follows the stories of characters accused of a crime and what led them to the dock and the eventual verdict.
Early on in the episode titled A Gifted Man the scenes flit between a darkened court room and the days leading up to the mother’s death and the effect on her loved ones, along with the care given by palliative nurse Charlotte.
It is the latest instalment in the series devised by Jimmy McGovern and immediately the feeling comes across that despite the sadness of the family’s situation, things were about to get rather worse. Well, for some of the characters anyway.
But not for the father Peter played by comedian John Bishop, who unknowing to Stephen and younger brother Dom, had developed a relationship with Charlotte, played by Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps actress Sheridan Smith, with a distinctly sinister edge.
Devastated 17-year-old Stephen, played by Misfits and Love/Hate actor Robert Sheehan, is absolutely gutted when the father moves her in just three months after Katherine passed away.
The story is based round the deterioration of his mental health following the loss of his mother and his suspicions that the nurse may not be as caring as she at first seems.
His mood gets darker and he becomes increasingly angry. Voices are heard and in an interesting turn the TV speaks to him in the form of former Downing Street aide Alastair Campbell, in a cameo role as himself.
At times Stephen’s conversation scares his close friend Olivia while relations with Charlotte show little sign of improvement. But his judgement becomes more clouded as he refuses to seek help and Peter is reluctant to take him to see the GP over his irrational behaviour, despite Charlotte’s urgings.
The home is in turmoil as Stephen struggles to make his father’s new wife welcome and she definitely handles her new role in their lives badly.
Things go from bad to worse when the family’s beloved dog is fatally injured in a mysterious collision with a car which, the viewer is not shown while out on a midnight walk with Charlotte. He trashes the house and accuses her of poisoning their food.
Finally, matters come to a head and we find out why he ends up in a crown court dock. Peter decides to throw him out after a row on his wedding day with Charlotte.
And after returning to the home to get Dom out, Stephen sees red and attacks her with a knife.
In court Stephen has a grasp of how the legal system works and how his predicament may work in his favour if he sacks his barrister and represents himself before the jury. He also decides not to seek a psychiatric assessment as part of his defence, hoping this would ensure a prison term, rather than an indefinite sentence.
He is proved right when the judge sends him down for six years for attempting to murder Charlotte. While wondering if she was dead, the viewer sees her sitting in the public gallery alongside Peter for the verdict, with a somewhat smug look on her face
When Stephen gets his prison visit session he seems mystified when only she turns up, claiming both his father and brother were feeling unwell, in a very Tales of the Unexpected style ending.
So was Stephen Cartwright right to doubt her motives after all? Your guess is as good as mine.