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'TV Review: Inside No. 9 - The Final Season'

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'TV Review: Inside No. 9 - The Final Season'

The ninth and the final season of the dark anthology show Inside No. 9 has been released this June – but is it their best?

It’s finally here. The last series of Inside No. 9.

The dark comedy anthology series has run strong for 10 years and is coming to an end this June. Creating nine seasons of these mind-bending mysteries is indeed a feat to be beheld, and I applaud its creators, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith, for continuously impressing and shocking their viewers in every episode.

As one of my favourite shows, I took it upon myself to review the final episodes of Inside No. 9, in my sadness at its end. The series started with one of their best: a mind-blowing story full of established characters with an extraordinary ending.

Episode 1 – Boo to a Goose

It is no exaggeration when I say that this episode blew my mind. With a small, star-studded cast, the character of each was perfectly and clearly developed, all in a short thirty minutes. Set in a not too far in the future dystopian train carriage, Boo to a Goose was eerily and subtly Orwellian, which is quite a new approach for the two creators. It was brilliant, from the wry British awkwardness of the passengers to the grand ending. This episode is also a great rewatch, with so many small details alluding to the ending to pick up on when watching it back.

This is now one of my favourite episodes, Pemberton and Shearsmith are geniuses for coming up with this. I know that this show is known for its twists but, oh my god, was this one good. So good in fact, that it may be hard to beat – is it possible that the final season had too strong a start?

Episode 2 – The Trolley Problem

Another two hander from the duo where the acting from Pemberton and Shearsmith was outstanding. This episode was very moody and atmospheric, set in a countryside house during a dramatic thunderstorm; a low-key set, but beautifully shot by director Al Campbell. The Trolley Problem is a very dramatic and extreme story, focusing around – you guessed it – the ethical thought experiment, the trolley problem. However, I did think it faltered slightly in linking the plot to the thought experiment on which it focused, it being a bit of a stretch to connect it all together.

The twist in this episode was predictable, though not in its entirety, with the extremity of the ending indeed giving me quite a shock. But, it is said that the best twists shouldn’t be completely unpredictable, and this episode was full of foreshadowing, especially with its dialogue. This episode definitely reminded me of some of their other episodes, being reminiscent of The Riddle of the Sphinx and last season’s The Last Weekend, but perhaps stronger in terms of tone.

Good, but not great. Perhaps episode three will be better.

Episode 3 – Mulberry Close

This season’s third episode was ingenius, being a twisted display of suburban communities and the well-known curtain twitchers of the country. It was also very technically innovative, being all filmed from a doorbell camera, which cleverly shrouded the viewer’s knowledge, adding tension along with the suspicious off-screen noises and arguments. This more comedic episode was a small relief from the intensity of the first two episodes, with its painfully middle-class characters and a hilarious ending gag.

The twist in the episode was good, but perhaps unneeded, as it could have easily stood by itself. Another innovation from the writers, but can they keep it up?

Episode 4 – CTRL, ALT, ESC

I am going to be completely honest – I hated this episode. Mainly taking place in an escape room, I was really looking forward to seeing what they would do with the setting, but I was sadly disappointed. A poor pastiche of the horror classic Saw, Episode 4 is full of ambiguous dialogue which failed to do anything but irritate me, asking questions and leaving them unanswered. There were two main twists, one of which could be seen a mile off and the other that just didn’t make a lot of sense. The parallels drawn between the escape room scenes and the real world are heavy handed, and they repeatedly wrongfoot the audience in attempting to represent Pemberton’s character of the father to be more sinister, which was just unnecessary. It was similar to The 12 Days of Christine, but with half of the character development and intelligent parallels.

Though you can clearly see Pemberton’s love of puzzles in this episode, as in The Riddle of the Sphinx, I would have expected it to be a bit more complex.

Some are calling this episode emotionally poignant; however, I must say that this is one of the very few episodes that I have been truly disappointed in.

Episode 5 – Curse of the Ninth

A suitably sinister Edwardian horror, this shot at a period piece was truly impressive. Curse of the Ninth had a strong atmosphere, being an impressive combination of Pemberton and Shearsmith’s signature tongue-in-cheek humour and classic horror themes. It has a clear MR James influence, almost being a missing story in his collection, and a true homage to British supernatural horror.

Curse of the Ninth is about a (true) superstition about a composer’s dark fate when completing their ninth symphony; Eddie Marsan’s character meets this fate early on in the episode. The episode deals with themes of creative struggle, a clear reflection of the writers’ own situation in creating the final season of the show, and an acknowledgement of the creation of their own ninth.

Being centered around music, the music in the episode was amazing, and the entire episode was very impressively executed. The twist in the episode was fairly standard but still effective, with the glimpses of the personified curse being subtle yet terrifying, giving me a true chill in its few seconds on screen. Their penultimate episode was great: atmospheric, comedic, and terrifying all at once, and with some great one-liners about creative struggle that any creative would relate to.

We now approach the final episode, the end of Inside No. 9 once and for all, and perhaps the end of an era for the dynamic duo.

Episode 6 - Plodding On

It’s finally here – the last ever episode of Inside No. 9.

This episode was indeed one of their best twists yet, being kept completely under wraps. The set of Plodding On is the show’s wrap up party for the final season, mostly taking place in a set of swanky club toilets.

Plodding On was packed full of past guest stars, with the two creators playing themselves. This very meta episode was, in Katherine Parkinson’s words, “a bit self-indulgent”, as this intimate and exposing episode was perhaps an insight into Pemberton and Shearsmith’s own relationship; ultimately the backbone of the show and their other works together.

Inundated with in-jokes and references to past episodes, this is indeed a satisfying ending for long-time watchers, however the story itself is universal, as two long-time friends struggle to find identities separate from each other after working together for decades.

This satirisation of showbiz is full of their classic on-the-nose, rude humour, but still arguably one of their most emotional episodes to date, and a wonderful ending to the ten magnificent years of Inside No. 9.

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