‘Time’ Season 1 Summary & Analysis – Hunt For Atonement


Prison brings out the worst in us. It triggers us to fight for our survival. Prison Drama, Time follows an exemplary journey of a teacher charged with murder. In prison, he faces his worst nightmares, both internal and external. For a substantial period, he tells people that he is a teacher (was a teacher, corrects himself intentionally). But when things get muddy, he puts all his force to fight back.

Created for BBC by Jimmy McGovern, the spectacular three-part series stars Sean Bean and Stephen Graham. These two are flawless in their performance, but above all else, the world created by Jimmy and directed by Lewis Arnold takes the drama to another level.

‘Time’ Season 1 Summary

Mark Cobden (Sean Bean) is an alcoholic teacher who always puts booze first. However, on 14th October 2017, he rammed his car into a cyclist under the influence of alcohol while returning from the bar. The man is dead on the spot. In a state of panic, Mark drives away. But later, he gives himself in and pleads guilty for his crimes.

The series begins with Mark Cobden entering the prison. The facility is headed by Eric McNally (Stephen Graham), who finds himself a righteous man. However, his integrity is compromised when his son ends up in prison 200 miles away. The prisoners threaten Eric to hurt his son, and as a conscious father, he has few options at his disposal.

The simplified plot thereon details the complex human emotions. A feeble-looking Mark faces the crooked realities of the jail, while on the other hand, Eric steps on an unlawful bridge to protect his son. Their lives transcend and weave an intriguing drama that you cannot afford to miss.

‘Time’ Season 1 Analysis

Mark Cobden is a teacher or maybe he was a teacher. This is a doubt that pointed towards his internal conflict. After killing the man, Mark didn’t sleep peacefully. The man haunted him every night. While struggling with his own inner demons, Mark was miserably treated by some bullies in prison. In actuality, they were testing his guts, whether he can fight back or not. The series impeccably plots down both internal and external conflicts of Mark’s character. His journey was a fight against himself and the prisoners around him.

In the entire series, Mark asked himself a frequent question, “Is it possible to achieve atonement for taking another life?” The question kept on haunting his peace until he made peace with himself. This layer has been extraordinarily explored in the film, which gives Mark’s character and journey a distinctive edge.

Writer Jimmy McGovern kept his narrative wide, making it a two-hander. He didn’t isolate the story with just Mark’s conflicts but flawlessly plotted the prison head’s plights, as well. Following a similar pattern of exploration, the director, Lewis Arnold, touched the minute details of a righteous officer (Eric) but a helpless father. The constant conflict between ideals and emotions made the two characters vibrant and remarkable. In my personal opinion, both were perfectly written flawed characters. Like a perpendicular, their skin intersected at a point, making them sit on the same scale, same judgment, not as prisoner or officer, but as flawed “real” human beings. The way the series worked in the grey area of humanity was exquisite.

Sean Bean playing the part of a vulnerable and feeble Mark Cobden is above praise. His performance is piercing. With fewer words and impactful expressions, he stays with you until the end. Stephen Graham as a prison officer, Eric McNally doesn’t let Sean take away all the spotlight. He has brilliantly hidden his vulnerabilities under the skin of a strong officer. At one moment, his wife comments that he never hugs his son, and you can perceive the answer on his face. No, he doesn’t spell it out. Still, an intelligent audience will get it. A father who can cross the law for his son knows that if he hugs him, he will break down and shatter, something an officer can’t afford to do. That’s how fathers are, hard but incredibly weak. A mother could afford to weep, but on a father the world has imposed too many predefined notions. Why? Something one can explore themselves.

Mark and Eric portrayed each other as polar opposites. Still, in the end, they were both humans and, most importantly, flawed.

In just 3 episodes of one hour each, Time Season 1 makes your heart swell with intensified emotions. If you are looking for a short and precise drama, this could be one of the best ones out there. Don’t miss it.

Also Read – ‘Time’ Season 1 Ending, Explained

Time is a Prison Drama Television Series directed by Lewis Arnold and written by Jimmy McGovern for BBC.

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Shikhar Agrawal
Shikhar Agrawal
I am an Onstage Dramatist and a Screenwriter. I have been working in the Indian Film Industry for the past 12 years, writing dialogues for various films and television shows.

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