Inside No. 9 – Episode 5.1 review [Series 5 Preview]

For those who’ve never seen it, Inside No.9 is the creation of Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith (half of The League of Gentlemen, with Mark Gatiss and Jeremy Dyson); a collection of half-hour anthology stories, varying in genre, tone and style. The pair have written, produced and starred in a silent film episode, an episode written in Shakespearean-style iambic pentameter, a witch trial episode, an episode told through CCTV camera footage, a “live” episode, and some downright terrifying gothic horror episodes as well.

Each one features some lovely touches of humour throughout, and while I’m not sure I can call every single episode a comedy, there are some hilarious instalments. Inside No.9 manages to do a lot with very little, and the fact that the pair can keep surprising audiences with not only ingenious concepts but also some seemingly out-of-nowhere narrative twists, is just a reaffirmation of the brilliance of the show.

After an unexpectedly long break (the last episode was 2018’s Halloween special Dead Line), Inside No.9 is returning next week with six new stories, guest-starring a variety of talented actors, but all experimenting with a new format and a completely new tale each week.

The first of these is The Referee’s a W****r, an episode set entirely in the referee’s changing rooms around the crux of an important football match. David Morrissey guest-stars as the referee captain, along with Ralf Little, whilst Pemberton and Shearsmith co-star. For someone who isn’t really into football, I was amazed how much I got into it, the characters are all very strong and even if the football elements aren’t to your taste, the narrative is really very good and takes some interesting turns over its half-hour running time. It never feels too slow or too quick, but has a good, strong pace throughout and a tight structure. To say too much more would be spoiling it, but this was a great first adventure for the Series 5. 

Following that is The Stakeout: a police procedural following our lead two as two police officers stuck in a graveyard on a stakeout. It’s brilliantly-written for such an ultimately low-concept episode, but both performers really sell the whole thing, and they manage to keep the pace up so that it never feels too small, but still has a feeling of closeness with the characters. There are some brilliantly tense moments here and there, and the episode pokes fun at various crime drama tropes to great effect.

I also have to appreciate how brilliantly shot it is, given how limited a car must be for camera angles. It looks great throughout, but never loses the sense of intimacy with these characters. There’s so much more to say about The Stakeout, but I’ll save it until after the episode airs – it’s a cracker! Keep an eye out for our series blog…

If these two new episodes of Inside No.9 are anything to go by, it looks like Series 5 will be another great series from Shearsmith and Pemberton. They certainly don’t seem to be running out of ideas yet, and even if this one has taken unexpectedly long to air on BBC Two, it should be well worth the wait. Here’s hoping that a sixth series isn’t far behind! 

Inside No. 9 returns to BBC Two on Monday 3rd February at 10pm.

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