Spoiler alert: This post contains spoilers for the first episode of Fox‘s Accused.
Michael Chiklis plays an anxious father caught in a moral dilemma over how to deal with his increasingly troubled son in the first episode of FoxNew anthology series Accusedwhich premiered on Sunday.
The episode, titled “Scott’s Story,” begins with Chiklis’ Scott Miller entering the courtroom for a preliminary hearing about a crime not yet known to the public. As the episode unfolds, through flashbacks as well as present moments in the courtroom, we learn that Scott is beginning to worry that his son will commit an unimaginable crime. Finding his son’s diary full of violent thoughts, he begins to consider whether he should kill his son in order to prevent those thoughts from becoming actions. In the end, he couldn’t go on with it. After a heart-to-heart with his son, Scott thinks he might be open to asking for help on the condition that his parents give him money to go on a trip with a friend.
Only, he does not use the money on a trip. He uses the money to buy guns, bullets, and other weapons in a mass shooting at his school, killing several students and himself. Only then do we learn that the charges against Scott are assisted homicide for giving money to his son after he already had concerns about his violent behaviour.
“Trauma is very good for drama, in a way, and as a narrator you can process that imaginatively. So you have to take that real fact and treat it close to the actual events. I think the writers got a chance to dramatize some of the questions we’re asking ourselves at this particular time.” in 2023. These are the stories that might really have been possible to tell, for a variety of reasons, today.” an offer Howard Gordon.
It’s a heavy episode to kick off the anthology, which is expected to put 15 different characters on trial over the course of the first season. Gordon spoke with Deadline about why he chose this story to open the series, and what he learned about crafting nuanced narratives from the series 24 And homelandand whether he will return to his other privileges.
final date: Why do you think this was the right story to start the series with?
Howard Gordon: I chose this story from the first batch of stories and, frankly, I dreaded writing it. I really had a hard time breaking it in and ready and I think it was [Fox President of Entertainment] Michael Thorne who loved it. I did a whole alternate story, which ended up being Danny’s story, which happens later in the season, but he says “I can’t get Scott’s story out of my head. Will you please stick to that?” We were so happy with the way he came out with Michael Cuesta [directing] And Michael Chiklis and Jill Hennessy and the whole crew, but it’s tough – the biggest punch in the gut. But we had to think: is this going to be a thing? Is this how we drive, or should this be something we come up with once episodes become more accessible and episodes easier to watch. In the end this one stuck with us. We said let’s not program out of fear. Let’s go with this one that’s always been the ultimate thing, which shows where we want to go on the show. It’s funny, because everyone is afraid of this on one level and on the other level it forces them to be.
final date: School shootings have been depicted on television for a long time, and, unfortunately, this story is still relevant. Why focus on someone more on the periphery of the situation and not, say, one of the students involved?
Gordon: So the reason I came up with the story from the beginning is because I’m a father. Then I came across this story in the newspaper about a Japanese diplomat, who was in Parliament, and was arrested for killing his adult child who lived in the house and whom he feared would commit a series of knife attacks. That raised a real question, realizing how helpless I sometimes felt as a father and then projecting this situation. What would you do if you knew? Like I said, a school shooting was once the nightmare of a generation we deal with as a culture and as a society. This is now becoming impossibly familiar. We are both in shock, shocked and numb from repeating this. One of the questions people always ask is, “Well, sure parents should know. How could they not know?” And that’s the point. All dramatic things tend to start with a question and a curiosity and that’s what’s been haunting me. I think the crux of the episode is the line at the end, when Jill Hennessy says “I hope you do that”. It was a line that I actually deleted at the beginning of the cut. It was always in the script. But I checked it for the crew, and 20 people came up to me and said, “Wow I loved it, but what happened to the last line?” So it’s just a hard line. I think it elevates the episode and gets to the point, like what would any of us do? In hindsight, it’s one thing to imagine, how do you predict something you’re not sure will happen? ?Especially when it comes to your child. [Scott] He is a neurosurgeon. It may be a little too on the nose, but the metaphor is clear that we never know what’s going on inside other people’s brains, and here’s a guy cutting people’s brains, eliminating tumors, and helping them. A man who has spent his life fixing people and now has to make that least bad decision.
final date: I’m glad you brought up that last line. It’s somewhat of a punch in the gut, especially from the mom, who the whole time didn’t want to see what was right in front of her.
Gordon: exactly. She is clearly in denial from the start. Then when she understands that this is real, and that her husband’s concern has real teeth, it is interesting within the marriage that he is protective of her by not clearly hinting at his plan to her. [to kill their son]. This will spare her, which I think might be lost on people, but that was a very big moment for me, in retrospect. He thought he was the protector but of course he couldn’t bring himself to do that. Then he actually learns from her that she wishes he did. We don’t know if she will turn away and reject him like her other son did or if she will slap him. The fact that she reaches out was where we ended it before. So just a moment of compassion and acceptance. Even in the void of a lifetime that would be spent dealing with the wreckage of this event, there is a moment of compassion between these two. When you say, “I hope you do,” you’re saying it clearly in the context of his acceptance and acceptance that he’s considering doing so.
final date: How did you create the narrative structure of the show? How did you know when was the right time to reveal certain pieces of information?
Gordon: This is very similar to the central question of the show. When you put it all together, how do you give enough to make people lean in before the first commercial break and force them to keep watching and keep guessing? It really is trial and error. We’ve asked for it, we’ve called it back, and then at the end of the day it’s really a sleight of hand. It involves the audience and telling them a part of the story that we sometimes want to deliberately omit or delay so they think they know what they’re seeing, because we’re trying to subvert it in a way that’s surprising, but also inevitable and organic to what came before.
final date: Obviously, this is not the first time that you have dealt with a timely and accurate topic in your programs. 24 It premiered after 9/11 and was a relevant show for the time. What brings you back to these stories?
Gordon: Trauma is very good for drama, and as a storyteller, you can handle that imaginatively. So you have to take this real fact and process it close to the actual events. I think the writers got a chance to dramatize some of the questions we’re asking ourselves at this particular time in 2023. These are stories that, for a variety of reasons, might only have been able to be told, today. I think they’re universal, and they’re very human, but at the same time, some themes whether it’s race, gender, or even social media play a huge role in three of the stories. Everything happens and changes so quickly that this was an opportunity to take these little superstitions and work through some of those things that haunt us all so convincingly and in tandem.
final date: Do you ever worry if this is the right moment or the right way to tell a particular story?
Gordon: Oh my God of course I’m worried. I will say, trying to second guess or freak out is not a good way to go. Both 24 And homeland They both prove it. I mean, after 9/11, they were even talking about pulling the show before it aired. We had to revise it a little bit, but I think in the end people wanted to address it. I can’t speak for all people, but again I hope people want to experience these hours, because at the end of each one of them, they’ll feel a little differently about what it’s like to be alive today. I think that’s what drama should do – make you think and make you feel.
final date: Talking about 24, You and Kiefer Sutherland talked to press about how you’re open to more. Did you two talk about this together? How likely is it that Jack Bauer will return?
Gordon: We mentioned him sometimes idly. It’s a conversation. Nobody puts the fork in it and says it’s over, but I think we realize it has to be the right story. We don’t want to do it just to do it, or just to put people back at it. The trick is that this show was very timely. The real question is how does that show up and that character back today? I don’t think we can do 24 or homeland Today. Again, if you imagined these stories to be exactly the same, show them from the beginning, but that really meant it was a story from its time. exactly like Accused. If you imagine any of these stories were on the air 20 years ago, some of them wouldn’t have happened. With 24 I think, you know, it’s a matter of when, how, who and if we can come up with a story worth telling to bring Jack back.