30 April 2015

TV: Inside No 9 - Series Two

And so another fantastic series of Inside No 9 has ended. Easily living up to the standard of the first, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith's wonderful show has continued to attract impressive guest stars and plots alike. There's no one thing I could single out for criticism across this second series, and I sincerely hope it's bagged a third. Stunning entertainment from start to finish, and I'd love to see more.

Read on below for episode-by-episode discussion.

Beginning the series in typically witty style, La Couchette sees Shearsmith assume the role of an agitated scientist on the way to an important job interview, while Pemberton is - unknown to him - his flatulent German competitor. As always, there's more to this than you'd think and attracting stars of the likes of Julie Hesmondhalgh, Mark Benton and Jack Whitehall for what are essentially bit parts sets the series' stall out early on. It's a 9/10 from me.
The 12 Days of Christine is undoubtedly my favourite episode of Inside No 9 ever, and one of my favourite half-hours of television. I've seen this five times now, and it really is perfect. Sheridan Smith is of course heartbreaking as the titular Christine and I'm not ashamed to say the climax had me tearing up. This is an extremely clever episode, and a real triumph for all involved. If you work out the twist before the revelation, you're far more assertive than me. I've no option but to give this 10/10.
The Trial of Elizabeth Gadge is probably the weakest of the series, but that said, it's far from poor. David Warner stars in this witch hunting tale and it's notable for the fact that it's the only episode of the second series not set in contemporary times. This is a little less focused than other episodes, but the production values and scripting are still impressively good. It's nice to see Dan Zeff return to primetime telly, having mostly handled BBC Three sitcoms for the last few years. Still an excellent, if predictable, episode, this gets 9/10 from me.
This is a truly unnerving episode. Cold Comfort begins a three-episode trend of putting Shearsmith and Pemberton front and centre, with the latter filling our screens for the majority of this half-hour. The direction plays a huge part in the way this story is told, and it's an impressive turn from the stars/writers. What starts out as what might be a typical call centre fare soon turns creepy. The end of the story is extremely memorable, and this is another fantastically-devised concept and script. 9.5/10.
 This is a very strange episode. It deals with some painfully middle class adults holding a birthday party, but the subversion (as always) is the most exciting thing about this. Pemberton plays the one we're supposed to warm to most, but come the end of the episode it's Shearsmith's character who we feel most sorry for. The tracking shot of Pemberton standing alone, framed by the doorway, is perfect and certainly sticks in the mind. More layered goodness from this fantastic pair - and that's just the cake! 9/10
What an excellent series finale this is. Seance Time plays with the audience even more than most of its neighbours. There's two major twists to this and Shearsmith is undoubtedly excellent in the lead role. Alison Steadman is hilarious, but hardly the focus of the story. Dan Starkey's character adds some excellent depth to the story, and there's even a little breaking of the fourth wall with some of his comments. A deceptively clever conclusion to a brilliant series that's pushed this series in all the right ways. 9.5/10.

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