Inside No. 9: 5.02 Death Be Not Proud
One thing that is universally accepted with Inside No. 9 is that whether or not the episode really hits its stride, it’s still fundamentally worth a watch. This is the mantra I would like to apply to episode two, Death Be Not Proud. Sadly, it doesn’t quite land but there are a couple of moments which prove there is a better, more coherent piece of storytelling in there somewhere.
In a wry nod to London’s ever-increasing housing crisis, couple Beattie (Jenna Coleman) and Sam (Kadiff Kirwan) have finally got themselves on the housing ladder. They’ve bought the cosy flat (number nine of course) for a fraction of the cost due to grisly murder taking place in the property some years prior. It’s a scenario that I am sure most millennials would leap at – who cares if the place has got a terrible history; how else are you ever going to afford to buy in London? Naturally, the apartment’s history catches up with the couple, Beattie especially. Visited by the previous owner David (Steve Pemberton) who tells Beattie the bizarre story of him and his mother’s (Reece Shearsmith) time living in the flat.
As always with Inside No.9 it’s wise to expect the unexpected, and the final twist is a nice little nod to not judging a book by its cover. However, the rest of the episode is … really quite strange, and not in a good way. There’s the odd way in which Pemberton plays David, almost using David’s clear mental illness for laughs. Then there’s the clear sexual element to the relationship between mother and son which, again, feels like it’s played for laughs when it’s actually quite horrific. Emily (Sarah Solemani) is a welcome addition partway through – though Emily is also portrayed as possibly having some sort of learning difficulty, Solemani plays the character in a way that still presents her as a person who has needs, thoughts and is not to be taken as the butt of a joke. Their burgeoning relationship and David’s struggle with grief is one of the better moments in the episode.
Really, the issue with Death Be Not Proud is the tone. Going from watching mother and son performing ‘Soldier Boy’ (funny) to watching a perverse sexual manipulation (not funny) in the space of two minutes feels like tonal whiplash. It’s not clear that Pemberton or Shearsmith are wanting to pass any judgement on the characters in the show – something which is usually fine as the subject is so light hearted and non consequential – but in this episode it resulted in a sense that no-one really knew what the point was. Basically, all filler, a little killer and a big question mark over the rest.
It’s a shame because it was really nice to see the talented Jenna Coleman back on screen, with The Stranger and This Way Up’s Kirwan and Coleman working together excellently for the little time they were on-screen.
Eagle eyed viewers will also have spotted the book ‘Ripper’ which David owns was the same book used by Pemberton’s character in TV show Whitechapel - a nice easter egg for fans of both shows.