Inside No.9 has returned for its third season, after a scary Christmas special the duo of Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton are back with more twisting stories that you won’t be able to take your eyes off of.
Like all Inside No.9 reviews spoilers lay ahead so be careful if you don’t want to know what happens.
What makes Inside No.9 work best is the chemistry between the characters. In such claustrophobic stories the characters need to work well together. The Bill got this down perfectly.
If this had just been a story of four men arguing over the bill and they had all gone home when the waitress said the manager had offered the meal on the house then I would have been satisfied. In fact I was giggling to myself thinking that was the twist (for those unfamiliar with the show each episode has a twist at the end) that through all this ridiculous bickering that the manager got fed up and paid for them. It would have been a weak ending I guess but it made me chuckle at the time.
Of course that wasn’t the end though. Shearsmith and Pemberton are masters of keeping you guessing till the very end, their stories are so intriguing to look at that there is rarely any point trying to second guess what is happening because you’ll always be looking in the wrong place.
For me it was Craig (Philip Glenister), he was the outsider of the group. A friend of Archie’s (Shearsmith) who had been taken out for the day by a group of Archie’s friends. When he had offered to pay the bill his card declined and his conversation on the phone to his kids au pair made it seem like he was hiding something. He was the red herring and Glenister played it perfectly, he stole every scene and managed to make you wonder what it was he was up to. Completely taking the spotlight away from the three other characters who just bickered amongst themselves like friends do.
The fourth man in all this was Kevin (Jason Watkins) who was easy to forget at times. Whilst Craig was the larger then life character that I think Glenister can’t help but be, Kevin was the tight fisted miser who tried to pay the bill in out of date vouchers and who seemed to be looking on for most of the arguing.
You see this is where Pemberton and Shearsmith are so good. Its a simple trick to make you look elsewhere but the writing on the show is brilliant that at no point did you think anything of the ever growing stupidity of the arguing between Archie and Malcolm and instead was waiting with baited breath for Craig to do something. You all but forgot about Kevin at times. If I’m honest if the episode had ended with the manager giving them the meal on the house I would have been happy, it wouldn’t have been a twist but it would have made me chuckle, of course it would never end on that kind of note. You know what those two are like there had to be a darker side to it (and this is where the spoilers start!)
Determined that someone was paying that bill Archie and Malcolm get into a dangerous game, I can’t remember what they called it but its when you stab the knife in between your fingers. When Archie started to cut himself trying to speed up to beat Malcolm a fight over the knife started between Archie and Craig which lead to Anya (Ellie White) the poor waitress with her throat cut.
AGAIN if that was just how the show ended it would have been a OMG moment that I would have been happy with.
It didn’t end there though. Suddenly they were phoning someone to come clean up after them and talking about splitting a different kind of bill. Like a lot of the Inside No.9 stories this one just got twistier and twistier till the very end. The final twist was so good that it kind of slapped you in the face before the episode ended.
Really great episode with a wonderful guest cast. The smaller the cast is the better the show tends to be. Jason Watkins is such a underappreciated actor and it isn’t until you finish the episode you realise just how great he was all episode long. He underplayed his role so that Philip Glenister became the main focus, him perving over the waitress and cryptic stuff about not going into this drawer or that made you think that he’d be the one that you had to keep a eye on.
The best laugh out loud moments came from the ridiculous pairing of Archie and Malcolm though, Shearsmith and Pemberton at their absolute best. The faking a brain tumor thing had me in stitches as did the wonderfully delivered line near the end of the episode from Watkins about the tumor. Those two squabbling always is one of the most entertaining things I’ve seen, plus Pemberton at his loudest and most egotistical is a delight to watch. Malcolm will go down as one of my favourite Pemberton characters of all time.
Wonderful start to the series.