Welcome back to The Accident, where the plot is thickening rapidly, which is good considering we're already halfway done. It's a short series from Jack Thorne, writer of Kiri, so I guess we shall take what we can get! Our esteemed Sarah Lancashire takes us into the penultimate episode right after the break.
To sum up the last two episodes: a small town in Wales was rocked by an explosion and building collapse on a construction site that killed several teenagers and injured the daughter of one of the town's councilors. Nobody's sure yet why the explosion and collapse happened, but we've been led to these three causes so far:
- Incorrectly stored gas canisters, an oversight by the independent foreman on site
- Kids messing with the equipment that caused a spark and caused the gas canisters to ignite
- Whatever happened with the explosion, it looks like shoddy building materials were the cause of the collapse. This could either be the fault of A) the material supply company or B) the penny-pinching construction company. I will let you guess where public opinion lies
So let's find out!
We open with Construction Manager/Big Boss Harriet Paulsen (Sidse Babbett Knudsen) sadly flossing her inflamed gums in the bathroom. We know they're inflamed because we getta see all the blood from her floss.
It's been 15 weeks since The Accident.
*Side note: I have to keep reminding myself to not change the wording to "incident" which is what they've done over here on this side of the pond. You will not see anything on Health and Safety documentation that refers to an "accident", rather the less inflammatory word "incident" is used. It's like how they don't say turbulence on airplanes any more.
Across town in much less fancy surroundings is Polly Bevan (Sarah Lancashire!) who lies awake next to her sleeping husband Iwan Bevan (Mark Lewis Jones). She tenderly brushes back the hair from his forehead; there's just one more thing we have to revisit from previous episodes.
Iwan is an abusive man, he beats Polly and also verbally attacks her. We don't know why Polly accepts this specifically, but I can offer a possible reason that I have mentioned before. Caveat: I am no expert. I have been on the pointy end of domestic violence and this is what I learned. Sometimes women (and I presume men) don't actually know that they're an abused partner. Maybe they're helping a partner going through a rough time, they understand them and maybe they're told they're the only ones who can help. Make no mistake: I don't believe that is by accident, Isolation from family and friends and extreme neediness from the abusive partner is the norm. Remember that we saw Polly comfort Iwan after he beat her. It's complicated, it doesn't happen overnight and it can be very difficult to escape that conditioning. I will say that Polly doesn't fit all of that, she seems to have a vibrant life outside of her home and alluded to everyone knowing about Iwan's propensity for violence the previous episode. So. Relationships are complicated, Polly and Iwan's very much so.
It's the day of the Inquest, Polly gets up to start the day, running into Martin Harris (Shaun Parkes) in the hallway in his boxers. He saved Polly and Iwan's daughter Leona's (Jade Croot) life in the building collapse and Polly has invited him to stay with them. He's homeless, slightly injured, adorable and oddly clean for a man without access to running water for months on end. He's also got Polly's exact sense of humour and now I'm wondering if this trend of flirting with homeless men is going to be in all of the shows starring Sarah Lancashire. Like the execrable MotherFatherSon.
Note about the photography: it's quite beautiful how much contrast we have between Harriet and Polly. Where Polly's house is all muted autumn colours, Harriet is stark white against a bold red. We see that twice today, with the blood from her mouth staining the white porcelain sink and now the scarlet pomegranate seeds against white yogurt. Interesting and quite beautiful.
Harriet's romantic relationship is complicated as well, she's been sleeping with her assistant Tim Das (Nabhaan Rizwan) who is in love with her. Harriet is less attached.
Polly and Iwan get a progress update on how their daughter Leona is healing; the spinal damage is permanent but everything else looks good to Dr. Whittaker (Phaldut Sharma). That sounds like "Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?" to the Bevans, but indeed Leona is lucky. She's the sole survivor from the accident (incident).
Polly is not happy to hear that Leona will be sent home this week, she thinks it's safer for their daughter to be among the equipment and around help. Leona asks them why they look terrified, that's exactly why! She's coming home.
Polly and Iwan head to the inquest, arguing a bit about the possible outcomes. Harriet is most likely not going to make it in time, the SatNav has misdirected them and it will look very bad if she looks dismissive of the events by rolling in late.
A throng of reporters come at Polly on the way into the inquest, she ignores them to smile at her friend Debbie Kethin (Genevieve Barr) who lost her husband in the accident. He was the independent foreman I mentioned above who may or may not have been stacking gas canisters in contravention of safety standards.
The reason the reporters went right for Polly is that she gave a colourful interview the day of the explosion, attacking Harriet on camera and alleging inadequate construction practices.
Inside, it's standing room only as the locals scope out the construction company's hired firepower for the inquest. There are loads of factions scattered about, Debbie is surrounded by insurance people, Iwan's off in the corner and Polly sits with her best friend Angela Griffiths (Joanna Scanlan from Requiem!) and family.
Because of Polly's outburst on national TV, she attracted the attention of lawyer Philip Walters (Adrian Scarborough from Phoebe Waller-Bridge's Crashing!) and he's advising her and Angela as to the players in the inquest.
Oooh, he's worth the price of admission, he points out a nondescript woman at the back of the room, she's from the Crown Prosecutor's Office and will decide if there's enough public interest in criminal charges. See, people just don't know that! I don't understand what he says next, about culpability. It needs to be decided what percentage of culpability killed their kids and what?
Okay, anyway, long story short that I didn't understand anyway: they need to prove that the company was responsible for 30% culpability in the kids being killed.
Ken Percival (Ioan Hefin) enters the courtroom and introduces himself as the head of this inquest. Lots of words about impartiality and fact-not-fault finding, interrupted by Harriet walking in late looking expensive and fresh as a daisy. Only we know how anxious she is and how worried she is about this appearance of disrespect for the process, there is no way this will be seen favourably.
Persons after persons give evidence for review, Angela breaks down during the graphic description of her daughter Mia's death. The insurance people want to know whether Mia survived the explosion, that's confirmed before Angela jumps up and attacks Harriet verbally: what did she do to her daughter? The Mediator calmly asks her to sit and trust the process. She does, with Polly's urging.
I'm confused by the building inspector's testimony, he says that he inspected the building as per the plans and they matched. However, we know that the steel wasn't up to code, so how could that be? Surely they wouldn't submit plans with steel not meeting code? Anyway, we don't spend much time with him and on we go to Iwan.
Iwan is on the council in Glyngolau, he has been quite involved with the project from the beginning. It's a passion of his. Not least because it will financially support the council, but he disavows any personal financial stake in choosing Harriet's company. Interestingly enough, they think Iwan and the council should have been inspecting the construction site, that's unusual. That does explain his anxiety prior to the inquest.
Iwan arrives home, possibly intoxicated but definitely emotional, a fact that does not go unnoticed by Martin who pops his head in to see if Polly needs anything. It's interesting that it's been 15 weeks and Iwan's already referring to Martin openly as Polly's guarddog.
Iwan did go out for some drinks, but nothing to do with relief after testifying, rather he found the testimony about Mia's death upsetting. It made him appreciate what he has. Polly wryly questions this and he runs up on her while I listen for Martin. It's not always the hitting with domestic violence, sometimes it's the unpredictability and volatility. He goes to bed and she follows later, staring at him in the dark.
It's Harriet's turn on the witness stand the next day, she's a Senior Vice President and the company's name is something like Colbridge, yay! I love actual information! Anyway, sorry, the Mediator repeats a couple of times that she and Colbridge are financially responsible for the building until the Japanese clients were satisfied. He brings up the steel again, seriously, people can't think suppliers actually would accept a request to find 30% cost savings after signing a contract AND would think a supplier switching out sub-code steel would be the responsibility of the construction company, can they? They can't really see any logic in that?
Angela interjects from the gallery: so Harriet thinks she's not responsible? Harriet does something very surprising, she takes moral responsibility for Mia's death and vows to never forgive herself. Angela wholeheartedly agrees with this sentiment and leaves the courtroom after pointing directly at the woman from the Crown Prosecutor's Office. Lawyer Philip puts his head in his hands.
Harriet doesn't realise how she comes across, her condescending suggestion that Angela's husband Rhys (Christian Patterson) follow Angela is met with a "f**k off" from Greta Collinson (Eiry Thomas).
She's not done on the stand, however, now it's the insurance people's opportunity to ask questions. This one fella looks just like Olivia Colman's husband from Broadchurch, Imma see if I can find a name...He is!! He is Matthew Gravelle and he played Joe Miller in Broadchurch but here we have him as Bren Christie and he would like Harriet to explain how the safety memo to foreman Alan Kethin (Kai Owen) got leaked to the press.
He has evidence that shows the leak came from within Colbridge. Company lawyer Laura Tucker (Ruth Madeley from Years and Years!) objects but it overruled. She disavows all knowledge but nobody believes her.
She arrives at work to an angry mob with signs and armed with eggs, thrown at her with fury. She refuses to talk to her assistant/lover, wordlessly handing him her soiled jacket and heading to her office to meet with the Japanese business people associated with the deal.
A huge sign on the wall tells me the company name is actually Kallbridge Developments, yay! Has that...always been there?
The Japanese spokesman is Sora Tanaka (Leo Ashizawa) and he wastes no time getting down to business: what's the deal with the steel? And those emails? Harriet parries all of the queries easily, she's polished and on top of things. They leave and Harriet's boss Frank Stanfield (Peter Sullivan) asks about their contracts for current work: watertight. He hopes she's right, the implication is that she'll be the casualty if not.
See? There are contracts, people, you can't just willy-nilly change things and expect them to be honoured.
Leona is brought home in a wheelchair in tears, same house! Polly is happy to have her home, even if Iwan is bluff and jokey.
Tim wants Harriet to meet his mum.
But. She can't really be his girlfriend, can she? It's not the age that's the problem; there's the fact that she treats him like a booty call and he works for her. That conversation doesn't go any further because boss Frank and lawyer Laura roll in and Tim is kicked out rudely.
Laura's drafted up a statement for Harriet to give, admitting that the leak came from her assistant/lover. If Harriet doesn't play ball, Kallbridge Developments plans to pin the whole thing on her. She reads the release and asks what will happen when they come for her? They won't hurt her unless they absolutely have to. Uh huh. And the cheque is in the mail, I won't mess up your hair and all those other untruths we like to say.
She asks for time to think.
Angela, Philip and Greta knock on Polly's door.
CPS came back and said there will not be a criminal investigation as they need evidence that someone acted with malice or knowledge of same. Meaning that Harriet had to know the steel was shite or the steel company had to know that the steel they were supplying wasn't being used for against code.
Philip suggests a private prosecution against Harrier personally. It will just cost a paltry 500,000 pounds and Iwan's computer hard-drive, which may or may be illegal.
Polly is not happy with this unexpected pressure from her friend and this lawyer who appeared out of nowhere.
Angela pushes her friendship with Polly to the breaking point, she lost her daughter and Polly didn't! She just wants to know who she can blame.
Jaysus wept, do we really need to see a mostly naked Leona and her medical bloody bits in the bath? Polly babbles quietly away as Leona flashes back to the explosion and makes an attempt to drown herself and all the memories.
Harriet calls Iwan's cell phone late at night, which she calls "a lot less nefarious" than Polly thinks. Polly hangs up when Harriet apologizes for anyone getting hurt and does not tell Iwan that Harriet called.
Harriet calls someone else and tells them to "do it."
Polly rushes to Leona when she hears her screaming in the morning, but Iwan gets there first. Polly listens to him joke around with their daughter. They need to find a way through this, so Polly doesn't interrupt.
Harriet sits, impeccably dressed in her sterile and beautiful home when Tim bursts in. He came in through a broken kitchen lock and he is not happy. The statement Harriet made is in the paper and he'd like to make one too, about how much he loves her and she loves him.
Oh Tim. How can you think this awful woman loves you?
Side note: how many of you can identify with this? Excusing someone's shitty and selfish behaviour because they're "busy" and writing off emotional unavailability as just the way they are. I certainly recognise that. I once told someone that I couldn't see them any more, because I didn't think they respected me based on this very similar behaviour. And if I saw them anyway, I wouldn't be able to respect myself. That only took 46 years to be able to say.
She demands that he takes his clothes off, all of them.
THEN tells him that she'll call the police and say he's a burglar if he doesn't. He says that she's broken him and we can tell that because he takes his clothes off. She calls him a work of art and that she doesn't love him as she erm.
She, erm, masturbates him but refuses to let him touch her. I am so creeped out right now, as he finishes as she whispers "I've betrayed you, my beautiful boy."
By the way, he's fired. She's like a cartoon character.
Can you see how most things I said above about domestic violence hold true here? He leaves with an "I love you" instead of a cutting remark, because he's STILL trying to make her feel better.
I need a moment. That was gross.
Debbie and Angela got into a physical altercation earlier on when news of Allan's inappropriate canister stacking was leaked, now Debbie is at Angela's house with a cheque for $8,000 to go towards the private prosecution.
Lawyer Philip comes alone to Polly's house, she's still skeptical of his help. This area is working class and nobody cares.
She's done with the damage of it all. She's got quite a lot on her plate and she's out.
And so are we. Hm. I found that almost as difficult to watch as the first episode where Polly was beaten. Harriet is also abusive, just in another way. This show! I hope the ending has something for us other than more appalling behaviour from unlikeable people. Until then!