Inside No. 9 was one of the comedy highlights of last year: a series of half-hour individual dark comedies created by League of Gentlemen and Psychoville stars Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton, the only connection being that they always take place in house, flat or room No. 9.
The last series featured an almost silent story, a take on Macbeth, and tale concerning a child abuse. The first story in this second series continues in its twisted comic form, but this time it is a story on the move, taking place on a railway sleeper carriage travelling between Paris and Bourg St. Maurice in the middle of the night.
It begins with a doctor named Maxwell (Shearsmith) trying to get some sleep as he has a job interview the next day, but then a fart-ridden drunken German called Jorg (Pemberton) enters the carriage causing a smelly disturbance. This is not the end of Maxwell’s problems, as Jorg is followed by a couple, Kath and Les (Julie Hesmondhalgh and Mark Benton) who are on their way to their daughter’s wedding; then an Aussie backpacker named Shona (Jessica Gunning) and her posh English acquaintance Hugo (Jack Whitehall) also interrupt the scene. However, there is one particular passenger in the compartment who is going to make things even worse for everyone else on board; one who might jeopardise everyone’s plans horribly.
For fear of spoiling the plot I shall not say what this passenger does, but this character is the key twist to so many of the stories past viewers of Inside No. 9 will be accustomed to. What we can say is that it and indeed the ending make for thrilling viewing. It is not just the dramatic elements that work, but also the comedy. Anyone familiar with Shearsmith and Pemberton’s work will already be familiar with their dark comic tone. One gross-out scene features something unspeakable with a shoebox.
The acting is also great. You have a great mixture of the comic talents of Shearsmith, Pemberton and Whitehall, combined with the more dramatic skills of Hesmondhalgh, Benton and Gunning. The whole thing balances out superbly. It seems that what made the first series so good is still here in the second.
Score: 4 / 5