‘Last episode next week and that’s that.’ So read Reece Shearmsith’s tweet this time last week, prompting a slightly panicked flurry of responses, wanting clarification on whether or not Shearsmith was indeed indicating that there was there was no more Inside No 9 after series four. They didn’t get the answer they were waiting for.
Back in the day, Amicus portmanteau films (like The Vault Of Horror) were a curious mix of classic gothic horror mixed in with contemporary views of London. It’s this comfortably chilling blend of genres that make up Tempting Fate: this is MR James on a housing estate as Keith (Steve Pemberton), Nick (Reece Shearsmith) and newbie Maz (Werchue Opia) turn up to clean a dank flat some time after the previous tenant died. Apparently, he’d fallen on a glass table and bled out, and to make things worse he was a hoarder: there are plenty of tottering piles of junk for the fumigating trio to have to sort through.
One of the biggest strengths of this episode is that there’s no clear indication in the first few minutes about how things are pitched this time round: Comedy? Gore? In the absence of many clues (and indeed, much light) all we’re left is an increasing sense of ill ease as the grim inevitable fate awaiting one of the characters asserts itself. ‘You can’t be squeamish in this job,’ Nick warns darkly.
One of the biggest laughs in this story is reserved purely for what’s potentially the smallest part of the audience: that subset who have been paying attention to the background of every episode of Inside No 9. For the more causal viewers, it’s merely the next plot reveal. But this is the very definition of splitting hares: everyone will get the same kick – that is, as long as they don’t get too greedy.
Or to put it another way: this season of Inside No 9 has been perhaps more gleeful about paying homage to twisty short story inspirations – the nasty flavour of To Have And To Hold being a particular highlight – and none so apparent in this instalment, moments of which will act like a dog whistle for that other subset of viewers who want to be the first to work out the ‘twist’. But that group are robbing themselves of a delicious joke partway through the episode – what seems like either a character lying or a continuity error is revealed to be something far more fundamentally upsetting, and works far better if one allows themselves to be hoodwinked.
When an old VHS tape (‘It’s from the eighties’) is discovered alongside an apparently mystical aretefact, the group argue about their ability to cheat fate and perhaps wish for unlimited wishes. Perhaps if the VHS had been a copy of Wishmaster or Bedazzled, they would be better informed, but as it turns out by the end, the real truth is a little plainer. It’s a nobly grim and clever ending to the series, managing to be – like those Amicus films of yore – both traditional and contemporary in the same breath.
And in the last day or so, it’s been revealed that a fifth series is indeed on the way for 2019. Maybe fan’s wishes do come true.
Just lets’ not be greedy, eh?