Inside No. 9 (2014– )
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Sardines – in a large country house, a game of sardines is played, resulting in everyone ending up in a wardrobe in one of the bedrooms. This is a claustrophobic opener.
Tom & Gerri – a man enters a downward spiral when he befriends a mysterious tramp. This episode is the best of the series. A genuinely dark tale.
A Quiet Night In – a couple of bugling burglars try to steal a painting from a luxury home. This is I guess the experimental episode. It plays out effectively like a silent movie.
Last Gasp – a pop star dies while making a home visit to a sick girl, his entourage and the family then squabble over a balloon which holds his dying breath. This is the weakest episode, with a definite lack of material.
The Understudy – an acting understudy eventually assumes centre stage but at a price. This one is an interesting atmospheric tale.
The Harrowing – a teenage girl is hired to house sit but it appears that there are scary things going on in this home. This is the most clearly horror influenced segment. It has interesting things going for it but it doesn't really amount to as much as it could.
Overall, the first season is good but not a great one. As a comedy it's really not all that funny, surprisingly so when you take into account just how hilarious The League of Gentlemen was. But to be fair, I don't honestly think they were going for laughs a lot of the time, quite often it seemed like it was the dark tone that was the main idea. Ultimately pretty uneven but certainly an interesting bit of work though.
La Couchette - a group of passengers share a Trans Europe sleeper carriage in a train where something very bad happens in the night. A good start to season two that benefits from some fine comic performances from a good cast of TV familiars. This one is quite a bit more obviously funny than most in the series.
The 12 Days of Christine - twelve key days in the life of a woman called Christine. I reckon that this has to go down as the best episode in all of 'Inside No. 9'. In fact, this is one of the best bits of television I can remember seeing for a long while. In half an hour, this fantastically constructed episode conveys a huge amount of genuine emotion in an interesting and original way. Sheridan Smith is quite brilliant here also.
The Trial of Elizabeth Gadge - two witch finders arrive at a village in order to interrogate a woman accused of witch-craft. The influence of the 17th century horror films of the British film studio Tigon is very much in evidence. A little more straightforward than most in season two, yet very satisfying all the same.
Cold Comfort - a new volunteer worker at a Samaritans phone line experiences a series of unpleasant events. Once again this is an episode that shows huge invention on the part of its creators. Shot from a permanent split-screen that shows the views of three static in-house cameras, the story is expertly told and uses this restriction to its benefit even if the final pay-off is perhaps slightly under-par.
Nana's Party - events at a family birthday party go from bad to worse. This one is typified by lots of psychological tensions maximised by a set of oddball characters that don't seem to know how to socially interact.
Séance Time - a bad tempered TV prankster gets more than he bargained for during a mock séance he set up. Like the final episode of season one, this is another that goes for a horror styling in a much more overt manner. Once again it works well, as a result of some strong acting, even if it isn't ultimately the best work of the series.
In summary, season two was a blinder and, for my money, noticeably stronger that season one. I think Shearsmith and Pemberton have really got into their stride here and there really aren't any weak episodes in this second batch at all. The level of invention is highly impressive and the quality overall is very high indeed.
Shearsmith & Pemberton work/write very well together and their pedigree is indisputable. Some of the twists could have been less telegraphed but overall the quality of the work is high and evident and its diversity will find fans amongst most viewers.
What works well is the casting done afresh for each episode (other than Pemberton and Shearsmith who are chameleons.) It shares the love and lends separation between tales. A mix of big hitters and new blood can make the writing shine.
I confess that Sardines was making me impatient at first - the mortifying awkwardness of Ian for example - but when we finally are given the reason for "Stinky" John's aversion to soap and the darkness really begins to gather it becomes compelling.
Tom and Gerri was a really sterling tale. The twist was neatly concealed and delivered with a sting. Gemma Arterton was a great choice for Gerri with that rare combination of flawless beauty and earthiness that is the golden rock to which Tom's life is moored. The pathetic figure of Migg was so woebegone that it made the thing work - who couldn't feel sympathy for such a bedraggled battered figure? So when things turn sinister it feels like a betrayal.
Last Gasp fell a little flat for me though Tamsin Grieg added a frisson with salty language and a heartless character. The Understudy was fun, particularly Pemberton's drunken thespianic rants and the twist another kicker.
Overall a splendid work. I sincerely hope these gentlemen can produce more like this because contemporary television needs all the help it can get.
The first three episodes are absolute masterpieces of their respective (quite different) styles, which is even more impressive when you realise they were all written and directed by the same people.
Episode 4 is probably the weakest of the first series, but episode 5 is fairly solid and the finale goes back to near perfection, manipulating the audience's assumptions to deliver a surprise even after we've learned to expect it.
The second series can't quite live up to the first. There are a few stylistic highlights (especially the 2nd and 4th episodes) and a few laughs (especially in episode 3), but the plots are more disjointed, the twists more predictable, the direction blander, the endings less satisfying. Even the order of the episodes somehow feels "wrong". It's still better than 99% of what's on TV, and definitely worth watching, but it won't humiliate alien film-makers as thoroughly as the previous season.
The best way to describe Inside No 9 is by calling it an anthology show with loads of horror, drama and comedy in it whilst being set in or around a number 9. Each episode has it's own story and they are usually creative, original and interesting which for half an hour per episode is very good.
Most of the episodes are amazing works of art whilst some others may not have what the others do to be great, but with it being an anthology show is good because if you do not like one episode you may like another.
The stories of this show are very good as you could have an episode about people playing sardines in a wardrobe, a witch trial or even an episode about an art exhibit. If this show lacks in one area it will more then likely make up for it somewhere else.
It is best not to say too much about this show as it can be easily spoiled, so if you think you will like this show give it a try the worst that can happen is that you will lose about half an hour, but if it goes well you will have a new show to watch.
If you like The League of Gentlemen or Psychoville there is a very high chance you will like this and also if you like dark humour you will probably love this show. Remember this is my opinion not yours, have a good one :)
Inside No. 9 however is like some kind of plot twist master class where the twists are usually impossible to predict, or twist again if you did work it out or sometimes there is no twist at all... which is itself a twist when you're expecting something to happen. On top of this with the format regularly shifting from comedy, to horror to drama and episodes often being dark or whimsical it becomes quite impossible to have any idea what path it is going to take from the outset with the ending either playing out as one big punch line or one horrifying realisation regardless of how funny or dark the rest of the episode was.
Also impressive is the ability to generally set each story in such a confined space without it becoming claustrophobic or boring as is often the case with bottle episodes. Often achieving this through the use of interesting styles and settings like a lack of dialogue or playing around with the flow of time in the story which in itself would make for excellent episodes even if there were no cleverness to the story. So much intrigue and character is packed into every scene that you feel as if you could probably watch for hours without tiring of the repetitive setting.
Some episodes really are genius whilst a few are a little weaker but make it no less watchable but as a series because they keep you guessing and only make you appreciate the next episode all the more. I admit I almost gave up on the series during the first episode when it was described as comedy but was a little tedious and not overly funny but I am glad I didn't because episode by episode it has only become more engrossing, funnier, darker and ever perplexing.
The one drawback it has being quite so clever is it will never be as re-watchable as the League of Gentlemen or Psychoville unless you use electroshock therapy (or just bang your head against a wall) to erase the outcomes from your mind... so I can only hope they're able to keep it going for a few more series before the universe's supply of creativity is depleted.
Now I will admit I came into this quite late (Between series 3 and 4) but I felt driven to watch this back to back for a couple days. The entirety of all seasons have the most impeccable writing and direction I have ever seen in a low budget television show. Each episode comes with a different genre to the last that follows the common tropes of said genre. However the real pay off for each episode is the dark twist that relates to either the characters, location or narrative... or all three. This provides an excellent re-watch value that gives the series its impressive hook.
Although each episode has its own characteristic element that makes it fantastic, each season still contains episodes that are so impeccable that it requires a second watch to fully appreciate it.
Within season one, my personal favourite was Episode 2, A Quiet Night In. This episode is a brilliant creation of a small heist drama, however the brilliant element of the episode is how there is no exposition spoken throughout the episode. How Pemberton and Shearsmith interact using only body language builds an impressive comedic element of the episode, this allows for our expectations of the episodes final act to be turned on their heads.
Season 2 contains one of, if not the most outstanding episode of not just Inside No. 9, but British TV as a whole. Episode 2, The 12 Days of Christine follows Christine as she goes through what appears to be her day to day life. Upon the first watch, most of the little details go by without the viewer taking much notice (This is common throughout Inside No. 9!) it's not until the final part of the show where it all comes together. This episode drew the biggest emotional impact from myself throughout all of Inside No. 9. The ending, that was built up to in all the little details of the episode, delivers a heart stopping twist that will bring a tear to even the strongest of hearts. This episode should be hailed as a holy text and studied in schools for the rest of time. I cannot explain how perfect the writing to this episode is. Overall, season two was a dramatic increase from season one, possibly due to a higher budget or Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith being allowed to reach their creative limits.
Season 3 seemed to be the season Pembeeton and Shearsmith decided to create multiple different genres in the season. It ranges from a comedy over a restaurant bill to a director reviewing an old 80's movie. My personal favourite was episode 3, The Riddle of the Spinx. Something about this episode drove me to watch it 3 or 4 times, showing each of my family members with a giddy feeling in my belly. The plot to this episode is entirely written into a cryptic crossword, every twist, every move, every characters roll is derived by what the crossword says. I feel everything is in this episode. Even Shakespeare has a mention in this episode. Although this episode is not as emotionally captivating as the 12 days of Christine in season 2. I believe the cryptic writing of this episode is the strongest of all seasons.
Finally I come onto season 4. For me this season had a fantastic first 3 episodes, but the plot of the final 3 drop in comparison to the first half. Episode 1, Zanzibar, is an episode that is fully written in iambic pentameter. The episode follows the packed floor of number 9 in the British Hotel Zanzibar. The acting from the two writers Rory Kinnear and all the cast is fantastic. It feels as the most enjoyable to watch episode for me as all the exposition rolls along like a song. I don't want to explain any of the plot as I feel this episode is best to go into blind, but all I will say is 'Spaghetti Bolognese'.
Overall, Inside No. 9 is, what I believe, the best writing a human can create. Each episode is as good as the last (excluding certain episodes) and each episode is so easy to watch and take in. If you like television, you will love this. Every person I have shown this to has watched the entire series within a few weeks of me showing them. So I hope you will give this fantastic show a watch, it deserves all the attention Black Mirror has received and more!
Inside No9 shows no fear in storytelling ranging from simple premises to higher concept sci fi mystery and horror. I really hope they continue to make more episodes and no doubt maintain the quality while doing so.
Right up there with any other show of this type.
The quality of the plots and the writing is excellent. The former (current?) league of gentleman X2 writers / actors / directors (?) make good use of mixing up the time-frames of different scene's so you have to follow carefully.
Each episode tells a different story some macabre, some funny, some bittersweet, shocking, dissapointing (you get the picture). However, the stand out performance for me was from Sheridan Smith in Season 2, Episode 2. This is the must watch episode and deserving of a 10/10.