TV Pick of the Week: Time - review by Yvette Huddleston
The second series of Jimmy McGovern’s masterful prison drama – the first starred Sean Bean as an inmate and Stephen Graham as a prison officer – moves the setting to a women’s prison and follows the stories of three of the prisoners.
Jodie Whittaker plays Orla O’Riodan, a single mother of three from Huddersfield who finds herself in jail for fiddling her electricity meter – her narrative demonstrates how easy it is to fall through the gaps in the Kafkaesque system. Having gone to court expecting to receive a fine, Orla is shocked to have been whisked away straight from the courtroom to serve a six-month prison sentence. She desperately needs to arrange for someone to pick up her children from school, let her mother know and contact a friend who might be able to help. But the rules state that she is only allowed two phone calls. Her rising frustration and anxiety are palpable. It is exacerbated by the fact that she is worried about leaving her children with her alcoholic mother as the likelihood is that they will be taken into care.
Young heroin addict Kelsey Morgan (Bella Ramsey) has been in prison before and regards her return as routine. Her boyfriend, who seems to be a bad influence, smuggles drugs into her and she continues using until she discovers she is pregnant. Her decision to keep the baby is initially made purely as a way of ensuring leniency when her case comes up in court, but she later has a genuine change of heart and determines that she will become a good mother. Lifer Abi Cochrane (Tamara Lawrance) at first appears tough and unreadable, but gradually her terribly sad story is revealed. She is inside for murder but the tragic truth about her case, and the way in which she is judged by her fellow prisoners because of it, is complex. It is sensitively handled by the writing and Lawrance’s nuanced, empathetic portrayal.
Siobhan Finneran returns as chaplain Marie-Louise who has moved from the men’s prison, hoping she might be able to do more here. But she has a secret of her own that she is struggling with. The performances from all three leads are outstanding and McGovern’s script, co-written with Helen Black, is as always powerfully authentic, finding humanity and hope in the darkest of places while also highlighting the terrible inequities and failings in our broken criminal justice system.