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Legendary duo Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith first reached global recognition with the highly acclaimed The League of Gentlemen, followed by the similarly bizarre Psychoville in 2009 which was also a hit, albeit a less favourable one than its predecessor. Then in 2014, the pair masterminded one of the most supreme television shows in existence – Inside No.9.
Inside No.9 embodies a lot of interesting concepts throughout, with a combination of satire, dark comedy and chilling horror, with all stories somehow relating to the number 9. Each episode has its own standalone, individual storyline, but they do all have one thing in common (apart from the number 9). Their very dark, very chilling and very killer twist endings.
The anthology show is definitely one of a kind, with it creators using innovative ways to tell their dark, emotionally driven stories with the majority being told in non-linear techniques. Each episode always endeavours to leave the viewer guessing and wondering what the anticipated twist will be, perpetually throwing out subtle hints throughout and abandoning any typical cliche tropes.
Opening with ‘Sardines’, a truly claustrophobic episode, featuring all characters playing the parlour game Sardines and as they are slowly packed into a wardrobe, dreadful secrets begin to unravel. None of the characters appear to be in any way likeable and this, is of course, on purpose. Each of them has done something unforgivable in their own way.
The season two episode ‘Cold Comfort’ is filmed entirely using CCTV feed, with the chief characters all being shown in the same setting – a volunteer crisis support group ‘Comfort Support Line’. The episode follows ‘Andy’, a shy, introverted individual who takes up volunteering to try and help others out of dire situations. Things take a dark turn when he receives a disturbing phone call from a young girl named ‘Chloe’ and we as the viewer witness the breakdown of Andy’s psyche throughout the episode and are met with a very chilling and disturbing ending, as expected.
After that, In season three, there is ‘Diddle Diddle Dumpling’ which follows a man intent on reuniting a lost shoe with its rightful owner – a whirlwind of an episode with a truly devastating ending. ‘Riddle of the Sphinx’ is probably one of the more disturbing and gruesome episodes of the show. It revolves around crossword puzzles and the destructive power of the characters’ intellect, which ends with some very traumatising events.
Season four continued with ‘To Have and To Hold’ which portrayed the strained marriage of a wedding photographer and his wife. The wife attempts to revive their marriage by suggesting the renewal of vows. The husband seems less keen and is instead more interested in his work and jigsaw puzzles rather than his despairing wife.This episode explores the reasons behind their strained relationship and whilst doing so, unearths something unthinkable.
Season five brought us some truly phenomenal episodes – ‘Death Be Not Proud’, which features ghosts, murders, Jack the Ripper references and, most importantly, it crosses over with dark comedy Psychoville by reviving and revisiting the disturbing relationship of the mother-son duo Maureen and David Sowerbutts. It was certainly a very welcome crossover amongst Psychoville fans.
In season five’s finale ‘The Stakeout’, which is an emotionally driven, and quite frankly, horrific episode about two police officers staking out a creepy graveyard. It is, of course, about so much more than that. In typical Inside No.9 fashion, the episode is littered with hints leading to the fateful twist. It is one of those episodes that you can watch more than once, with each viewing clues becoming more obvious. Rewatching Inside No.9 is the best thing about it because the more you watch it, the more you notice the little hidden gems and there are certainly many of them.
Inside No.9 is unconventional, utterly mesmerising and it evokes so many emotions. It can make you laugh, cry, cower behind your bed sheets out of terror or all three simultaneously. What more can you ask from a single TV show? It offers everything that a show possibly can and executes it perfectly.
The humour is continually ripe throughout all seasons of the show and with good reason, considering the many emotionally crippling events that ensue in each episode. However, it is hard to judge the series as a whole purely down to the fact that each episode is so different, so some episodes may be considered weaker than others, but each one carries its own merit.
Some episodes rely on the humour aspect a little more than others, with some bordering on quite silly whilst others are a little more earnest and touching. Either way, Inside No.9 brings something different and something wholesome to our screens and we are all eternally grateful to Pemberton and Shearsmith for once again, gracing us with their genius by creating what is surely the golden holy grail of television.
So there is no better show to watch during these uncertain times to get you through being stuck inside. If you are UK based, Inside No.9 is available on Netflix (seasons one through to four) and all five seasons are available to stream on BBC iPlayer.