Like a lot of Brits I was kinda intrigued by the trailers for The Accident. It looked sort of unimpressive aesthetically, I thought, but it had some good actors attached and an interesting premise. So I watched it. Hooooo boy.
Here is a summary of the first episode of The Accident:
Down-to-earth Welsh hairdresser Sarah Lancashire walks into her 15-year-old daughter’s room and finds her having sex with an older guy. Instead of ripping his balls off or calling the police (as having sex with a 15-year-old girl is you know ILLEGAL) she seems pretty chill about it all and tells the guy (uh, the pedophile) to escape out of the window before the girl’s dad comes back. Okay.
Downstairs the husband comes in and he’s dressed in a banana costume for a fun run. The adults go off to the fun run and while they’re there they listen to some clunky foreshadowing about how much everyone loves the village and will fight for it etc etc. Meanwhile some teenagers including the daughter are meeting up at an old abandoned building.
These are BAD KIDS! You can tell because some of them have DYED HAIR and PIERCINGS. They sneak under the extremely ineffective barbed wire and start vandalising the place. One of them spray-paints a willy which is the only realistic thing anyone in this story does. While the daughter and her friend are painting a butterfly mural on the upper floor of the building for some reason, there’s a massive gas explosion. Oh no! The explosion can be heard at the fun run zone and all the adults decide to go and see what happened. Okay, that I can buy, as I also live in a village and villagers are nosy AF.
The parents hear that kids are inside the building, which is odd cos no-one saw them go in, and start worrying. A phone call comes in from one of the girls (the daughter’s friend?) which confirms that a whole bunch of teens are trapped. Cut to some heroic firemen working to free them, using a angle grinder, WHICH SHOOTS SPARKS EVERYWHERE, in a GAS EXPLOSION. I considered for one second that that maybe was a plot point and the rest of the show would be about prosecuting incompetent rescuers, but… um, it seems not.
Anyway at this point the head of the company which owns the building shows up, despite this apparently being a pretty remote Welsh village, how the hell did she get there so fast?! Sarah Lancashire, whose daughter is trapped within rubble and possibly dead, hits this lady with the mild insult “you built this place cheap as chips!” Um, it’s past the watershed, you can swear, you know. A TV camera is filming this because the TV cameras are there, in this remote village where an explosion happened apparently less than an hour ago.
Then the building collapses completely and kills almost everyone inside! Who saw that coming? Dust fills the air. Everyone looks… peturbed. Maybe shocked at a pinch. And… that’s it for the big scene of horror and grief!
But, seeing as Sarah Lancashire is the main character her daughter survives, albeit so severly injured she might be disabled for life. Emergency services whip body bags out right in front of the crowd, way to go guys. Also one of the firefighters is dead, this is Alan who is married to Debbie, a deaf woman. Casting a deaf actor (Genevieve Barr) to play a deaf character and making her disability not the most important aspect of her is the only good move this show appears to have done, I think.
Okay so Sarah Lancashire heads to hospital with the other parents and watches them one by one learn their kids have died. This is the episode’s only actually well-done scene. One of the mothers (the mother of the daughter’s friend?) walks past SL and snaps sharply and horribly “She’s dead” and that got me right in the gut, credit where credit’s due.
While in the hospital SL talks to a guy who apparently saved her daughter in the building but we didn’t see him there who what why?? Also the nurse lets her go in the room, what the hell kind of hospital is this?
Back at home it turns out SL’s husband has been beating her and is about to do so again. She lets him do it and then comforts him for a while. That scene got a lot of criticism on Twitter (yes, I was eagerly Twittering along with others as it aired, and there was barely a positive tweet in the bunch) but actually I was okay with that, it’s definitely not outside the realm of possibility for a victim of domestic abuse to act that way. Refuge thought so too and posted about it which I thought was a good move.
Nearly at the end now. SL’s daughter starts communicating with her mother via blinking and the grieving parents hold a vigil. Company lady goes on TV, the clip of SL shouting “cheap as chips” gets dramatically played over and over and I found that hilarious, oh god I’m sorry. Not only am I not convinced the writers of this have ever met a Welsh person I’m not entirely sure if they’ve ever met a British person, no one has said that phrase in years.
The ‘next time’ trailer sees the deaf lady being beaten up, so much for a sense of community spirit.
This show is getting rave reviews across all the major British outlets and I have honest to god no idea why. See, it almost reached “so bad it’s good” levels, but the thing is: this was loosely based on two real-life tragedies: Grenfell and Aberfan. The Accident – a show about specifically children dying in a Welsh disaster – aired almost 53 years to the day after Aberfan. If you’re British or keep up with world news I won’t have to tell you about Grenfell, which was only a couple of years ago. Even sidestepping the issue of why there are so few Welsh actors in a drama inspired by Aberfan and so few black and Muslim characters in a tale inspired by Grenfell, the tweaking of the story (the death of innocents caused by bad corporate policy) to make the victims partly responsible for their own deaths leaves a very bad taste in my mouth. No-one in Aberfan or Grenfell Tower were breaking into a building when they were killed. This show, it feels exploitative and just so… cheap.
Cheap as chips.