Inside No.9: 5.03 Love's Great Adventure
Though the title might conjure ideas of exploration, drama and daring escapades, episode three of Inside No.9’s fifth series looks instead at a very different type of adventure. It’s a small one, confined solely to the kitchen of a family home, a kitchen that has barely enough room for a table for the Love’s Great Adventure family to sit around comfortably.
Taking the show in an entirely different direction from last week’s supernatural joint, Love’s Great Adventure is more comparable to a gritty British drama, something in the ilk of a Ken Loach film, a realistic and emotive depiction of a family struggling to keep their heads above water. Using an advent calendar to mark the days, the episode follows the family as they prepare for Christmas. As the days press on, their troubles become more prominent and the return of a beloved yet estranged family member puts more pressure on husband and wife, Trevor (Steve Pemberton) and Julia (the fantastic Debbie Rush).
Explained in short snippets, one for each day, Trevor and Julia’s lives become padded with detail – the homework they help grandson Connor with, the winter prom that their daughter Mia is looking forward to, the game of Grandma’s Knickers which sees them all round the table together for the only time in the episode. Through these mini-scenes, the family become real and their looming money issues and the tension between Trevor, Julia and their recently returned son Patrick, become clearer and clearer. Shearsmith turns up midway as the brother of Trevor, a man dealing with his own loss too.
The catch is that advent calendar door number 9 is left firmly closed throughout. The episode pushes past the 9th December, only stopping later on to reveal what happened on that fateful day. Pemberton and Shearsmith’s writing here is so strong that within just 25 minutes, it’s impossible not to care about this family. Credit also must go to the cast – authentic and bold at the same time, both Rush and Pemberton (alongside Gaby French, Olly Hudson-Croker and particularly Bobby Schofield) paint a wholly believable portrait of their situation. Each character is so well developed, you almost want the BBC to commission a full series based off this half an hour tableux alone. It also just goes to prove the range that duo Pemberton and Shearsmith are capable of – the gritty realist kitchen sink drama is not something we’ve really seen previously from them, but they do it so well.
Taking a marked departure from their usual last-minute plot twist, Love’s Great Adventure functions more like a small window into the lives of others. Pemberton and Shearsmith’s audience are almost certainly expecting an InsideNo.9 style twist, but in this instance, the twist is that there isn't one. The real message is simply the love that this family has for one another, a love which means they will do anything to ensure that they protect their own. Even if that means utilising one’s own car to bump off a loan shark.
For anyone still scouring the episode for clues (if you are not altogether convinced that there isn't some sort of hidden meaning), the title could hold a hidden meaning. However, the only thing I've connected it to so far is the 1984 Ultravox song by the same name, which doesn't seem to have any connection...