Sean Bean in <i>Accused: Tracie's Story</i>.

Sean Bean in Accused: Tracie's Story.

Accused: Tracie's Story, 13th Street, 8.30pm

THE last time we saw Sean Bean in chains he was Ned Stark being led to the executioner's block in Game of Thrones. Here he's Simon, aka Tracie, an underappreciated English teacher by day and a stiletto-wearing good-time girl by night, being led to the defendant's dock in a Manchester courtroom. On what charge? We don't know. This mostly terrific instalment of Jimmy McGovern's crime anthology series keeps us in the dark as the events that lead to Simon/Tracie's trial unfold in compelling fashion. Bean's character and performance are mesmerising from the start. The big-boned, lantern-jawed Tracie isn't fooling anyone, but nor is she trying to - ''I never claimed to be Cheryl bleeding Cole,'' as she puts it. But for all Tracie's toughness, self-insight and sardonic wit, she remains poignantly vulnerable.

For women such as Tracie, the threat of physical violence is ever present (as the opening scene reminds anyone who needs reminding), and Tracie is also emotionally vulnerable, her life one of unrelenting loneliness. Bean's performance is impressive in its composure and restraint, but Tracie's Story is a pas de deux and Bean has a perfectly cast partner in Stephen Graham (whom we saw most recently as the young Al Capone in Boardwalk Empire). Graham plays the closeted Tony, who falls for Tracie and is torn between the tantalising possibility of living as an openly gay man and his instinct to maintain the hetero facade he wears for protection in his homophobic surroundings. For most of the duration, McGovern, co-writer Shaun Duggan and director Ashley Pearce provide an entrancing, bittersweet romance leavened with low-key verbal and visual humour. But even at its most light-hearted, Tracie's Story never loses the air of menace hanging over it. Everything is set up brilliantly, but as the business end of proceedings approaches, Tracie's Story unexpectedly begins to disappoint. The events that land Simon/Tracie in court seem rather far-fetched, overly dramatic and entirely out of keeping with what had gone before, and the courtroom scenes are similarly unconvincing. Even so, it's well worth watching and puts handsome feathers in the caps of Bean and Graham.

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