The ending of BBC One’s Time has left fans with plenty of questions and needs to be explained. What happens to Mark and Eric in episode 3?

Time is the latest drama series to arrive on BBC One and it explores the volatile world of prison through the eyes of Mark Cobden (Sean Bean) and Eric McNally (Stephen Graham).

As well as airing on BBC One, all episodes of the series are available on BBC iPlayer, meaning fans have been able to watch at their own pace.

Many have already binged their way through all three episodes and have been left with questions about Time’s ending.

*WARNING: Spoilers ahead*

Time | Sean Bean and Stephen Graham prison thriller | Trailer – BBC

Time | Sean Bean and Stephen Graham prison thriller | Trailer – BBC

Time on BBC One and iPlayer

Time landed itself behind bars on BBC One and iPlayer on June 6th, 2021.

Penned by Jimmy McGovern, Time tells the story of Mark Cobden (Sean Bean) who is newly imprisoned and is way out of his depth in the volatile world of prison.

He meets Eric McNally (Stephen Graham), a prison officer who does his best to protect those in his charge. However, matters become more complicated when the prison’s most dangerous inmate learns of Eric’s biggest weakness, his own son is in prison, forcing him to make an impossible choice.


Time recap

Throughout the three-episode series, Mark Cobden slowly acclimatises to prison life but it’s a hard slog that sees the former teacher have to make some difficult decisions.

The biggest of these decisions sees him go to Jackson Jones (Brian McCardie) for help in staving off bullying from an inmate called Johnno but this results in Mark owing Jackson a favour.

This proves to be a dangerous game as it’s revealed that Jackson is the man pulling the strings at the prison and is responsible for the threats against Eric’s son.

To that end, Eric also has dealings with Jackson and knows that the only way to keep his son safe is to as he asks, which is to smuggle drugs into the prison, putting the health of the inmates and his own neck on the line.


Time’s ending explained

These story threads all culminate in episode 3 when Mark is temporarily allowed out of prison after he’s asked to give a speech at a crime and punishment conference by chaplain Marie-Louise.

Mark accepts but is quickly accosted by Jackson who wants to use Mark to smuggle something into the prison.

Knowing that he owes Jackson, Mark reluctantly accepts but while he’s at the conference, he changes his mind after spotting a woman leave – the wife of the man he killed while drink-driving.


Upon his return to Craigmore, Mark tells Jackson that he couldn’t go through with what he asked, wanting to be a better man, which lands him in hot water and on the receiving end of a snooker ball in a sock to the face.

Luckily, an inmate named Kavanagh is on-hand to save Mark after the former teacher helped him learn to read earlier in the series.

Eric’s dealing with Jackson also come to a head in the final episode as his superiors at the prison clock that he’s been working with Jackson to smuggle drugs into the prison.

Stephen Graham’s character is instantly remorseful and pleads his case that it was the only way to keep his son from getting harmed.

After two years in prison, Mark is released early and crosses paths with Eric McNally who is about to be sentenced for his part to play in the smuggling ring and like Mark, Eric is sentenced to four years.


Episode 3 ends with a flashforward to one year after Mark’s release from prison.

We find him on Southport Pier as he prepares to meet Anne Warren, the wife of the man he killed – who we saw storm out of the conference earlier.

It’s an awkward meeting between the two but the pair hope to see eye-to-eye and we even discover what Mark’s letter to Anne said, simply ‘I’m sorry’ over and over again.

Anne – who is played in a surprise cameo by the ever-brilliant Anna Madeley – says that she’ll try her best to forgive Mark for what he did but explains that it’ll be tough to do so.


Does the ending set up season 2?

  • Potentially.

There has been no word from the BBC on whether Time will be renewed for season 2 or if the prison drama is a one-off mini-series.

Saying that, the events of episode 3 do leave the door open for more if the series was to focus on Eric’s time in prison and Mark’s efforts to put his life back together outside of Craigmore.

On top of that, the scheming Jackson Jones is still at large as Eric was not prepared to name names in order to protect his son.

However, given that Time’s primary focus was on Mark Cobden’s stint in prison, it seems unlikely – but not impossible – that writer and creator Jimmy McGovern would return to the series.


Time is airing weekly on BBC One while all episodes are available to stream now on BBC iPlayer.

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