Inside No.9 Episodes 1-3: ‘A Tales of the Unexpected for the modern age’

June 18, 2014 3:00 pm

‘A Tales of the Unexpected for the modern age’ where comedy and the macabre are interlaced, Inside No.9 invites the viewer to embark on six unrelated stories, each unfolding behind different doors marked with a number 9. Wherever these doors lead, whether it be a flat, country house or modernist mansion; they are guaranteed to open to a striking succession of different experiences.

The series is the latest addition to a consistently gripping repertoire of quality entertainment from writer/performers Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith. The pair rose to prominence in the late 1990’s with the cult hit The League of Gentlemen and in 2009, they further secured their reputations as connoisseurs of macabre comedy with the fantastic murder mystery series Psychoville. They are renowned for their collection of grotesque comedic characters, thought provoking social observations and uncanny knack of simultaneously appalling and enthralling an audience.

tales of the unexpectedWith Inside No.9, there is a noticeable break from tradition; cross dressing and grotesque characters removed to make way for a series that is nothing short of unique. It has a resolutely native feel to it, the social commentary lingering on very relatable, predominantly British issues, although whether or not this is deliberate is unclear. Each half an hour episode is a work of art, a condensed feast of visuals and masterful storytelling propelled by truly captivating performances by the writers themselves and an impressive ensemble of distinguished actors (Tim Key, Conleth Hill and Gemma Arteton to name just a few). Shearsmith and Pemberton appear in most, if not all episodes, providing a familiar face and a nice link throughout the series.

We kick start with Sardines, an episode set in a rural mansion where sinister secrets and allegations of child abuse are revealed during a decidedly miserable game of sardines. Set almost entirely within the claustrophobic confines of a wardrobe, the episode has a very Hitchcock-ian feel to it; all low camera angles, small shafts of light and heavy breathing. With a cast of renowned talent, including Katherine Parkinson, Tim Key and Anne Reid, the episode is stylish and dynamic with a sinister undercurrent.

We then enter the aptly named second episode, A Quiet Night In, which won critical acclaim and was recently repeated on BBC2 in commemoration of the station’s 50th broadcasting year. It was masterfully executed, and arguably one of the lighter hearted episodes of the series. Denis Lawson and Oona Chaplin brilliantly play a silently feuding couple whose mansion is under siege by two seemingly inexperienced, black-clad burglars. It is almost entirely absent of dialogue and the Laurel and Hardy-esque feel to the episode serves as a subtle nod to the traditional slapstick style, albeit sadistically. Shearsmith and Pemberton once again demonstrate their knack of lulling the viewer into a false sense of security before taking an entirely different, disturbing direction and ending on a razor sharp twist ending.

inside no. 9As we venture into episode three, Shearsmith and Pemberton’s particular brand of macabre comedy begins to intertwine with the psychological. Chilling and utterly enthralling, Tom and Gerri is a rare gem that may not be particularly funny, but will continue to haunt viewers for days afterwards. And with superb performances from Shearsmith, Pemberton and Gemma Arteton, it became an instant fan favourite. We meet Tom, a school teacher and aspiring Bukowski-esque novelist, whose disdain for responsibility directly contrasts the enthusiasm of his girlfriend Gerri. After reluctantly allowing the local tramp, Migg, into his flat, Tom’s life begins to take a downward spiral that eventually culminates with a twist ending that left viewers reeling.

It is plain to see that Shearsmith and Pemberton are a creative match made in heaven; their collaborative projects are without equal. Both are astonishingly versatile and whilst Pemberton has a flair for bringing an air of humanity to each character he plays, Shearsmith’s seemingly innate ability to swing between amicable and psychopathic characters is unparalleled. Inside No.9 is a great twist on the arguably outdated anthology style, the comedy and horror elements perfectly balanced which is something Pemberton and Shearsmith do incredibly well. It is clear that the pair are two of the finest writers/performers currently working on television.

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