Stephen Graham and Sean Bean in Time on BBC One

Time: Stephen Graham and Sean Bean’s gritty new prison drama is here, and Twitter has thoughts

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The first episode of Stephen Graham and Sean Bean’s new BBC prison drama Time landed on BBC One on 6 June – and if the reaction is anything to go by, this is definitely one to watch.

Updated 7 June: Amid the chaos of the Baftas and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s baby name reveal, last night saw the first episode of Time, the BBC’s gritty new prison drama starring Stephen Graham and Sean Bean, hit screens.

While no one expected a drama starring Graham and Bean set inside a prison to be bright and breezy, it’s safe to say viewers were shocked at how dark and hard-hitting the show’s take on the UK’s penal system really was.

Taking to Twitter after the episode aired last night, many expressed their discomfort at some of the show’s darkest scenes – but praised the drama and its cast for being equally powerful and riveting throughout.  

“Time on #BBC1 is unbelievably grim,” wrote one viewer. “Grim, but accurate. Really communicates the oppression, violence and alienation of prison life. Sean Bean is utterly superb, the script and direction are excellent. But it’s so powerful and true-to-life that it’s almost unwatchable.”

“Feeling ALL the emotions watching #Time on BBC,” added another. “Stunning performances, heart-wrenching storylines. It’s not to be missed.” 

“I’ve watched the first 9 mins of #Time and I know I never want to do anything wrong for the rest of my life!!!” another viewer wrote. “Prison, no thank you!” 

While a fourth simply added: “This is adding a shit load of extra helpings to my Sunday anxiety.” Yep, us too.

All three episodes of Time are currently available to watch on BBC iPlayer, but if you want to take a breather before the next episode (and we’d recommend it), then the series will be airing weekly on Sunday nights at 9pm.

Keep reading to find out more about what to expect from the rest of the series. 

As reported 6 June: If you’ve been on the hunt for another Line Of Duty-esque crime drama to dig your teeth into ever since the final episode aired earlier this year, we’re here to tell you your wait is over.

Tonight, the first episode of the BBC’s new gritty prison drama, Time, will air on BBC One – and it looks seriously dark.

The three-part series, which has been written by Jimmy McGovern and stars former Line Of Duty cast member Stephen Graham alongside Sean Bean, will air weekly on BBC One from tonight.  

The full drama, which also features Happy Valley’s Siobhan Finneran and The Royle Family’s Sue Johnston, will also be available as a boxset on BBC iPlayer once the first episode has aired.

Speaking about the drama in an interview with the BBC, Graham responded to claims that the show is, according to various reviews, “difficult to watch” – and explained why that’s exactly what he wanted.

“I love the fact that stuff I do is difficult to watch for people,” he said.  

Stephen Graham as Eric McNally in Time
Stephen Graham as Eric McNally in Time.

“[Time] is not overly political or ramming the message down your throat. But if it’s difficult to watch, that’s because you’re looking at a society that is represented by yourself. So surely it’s putting a mirror up to society, and going, ‘Not sure if we’re getting this right here’.”

Graham continued: “Maybe that’s why it’s difficult to watch, because it makes you think. And that’s all I ever wanted to be a part of. Something that’s saying something socially. I want everything I do to be difficult to watch.”

The official trailer for the series gives an insight into the kind of difficult scenes viewers can expect from Time, as we see Graham and Bean in action as prison officer Eric McNally and inmate Mark Cobden respectively. 

Throughout the 45-second clip we see Bean’s character dealing with the reality of being in prison for the first time, as he finds himself consumed by guilt for his crime.

After a visit from his mother (Johnston) who reminds him he’s in prison “as punishment, not for it,” we follow Codben as he gets to know McNally, his personal officer.

“Any problems, you come to me, right?” McNally can be heard saying.

Sean Cobden in Time
Time: Sean Bean plays Mark Cobden, who is consumed by guilt for his crime.

However, as welcoming as this reception may be, it’s clear that things aren’t going to be easy for Codben behind bars. As the trailer continues, we see him grappling with the realities of prison life, from being attacked by the other inmates to dealing with the psychological impact of being unable to forgive himself.

And at the same time, McNally is dealing with problems, too. His son appears to be in prison (although it’s not clear whether he’s in the same one as Cobden) and the inmates McNally looks after seem to have caught wind of this fact – something it seems they plan to use against him, putting his son in grave danger. 

Indeed, as the show’s official synopsis reads: “When one of the most dangerous inmates identifies his weakness, Eric faces an impossible choice; between his principles and his family.”

If the trailer for Time makes one thing clear, it’s that this show isn’t going to be an easy watch – so stay away if you’re not a big fan of violence. 

However, if you’re looking for a gripping and fast-paced drama to fill your Sunday nights – and are just as excited as us to see Graham and Bean’s dynamic play out on screen – then Time could be just your cup of tea.  

The second episode of Time will air on Sunday 13 June at 9pm on BBC One

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Images: BBC/James Stack

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.