Inside No 9: Simon Says | Review of tonight's episode © BBC
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Inside No 9: Simon Says

Review of tonight's episode

If last week’s Inside No 9, mixing heist movie with commedia dell’arte, flaunted Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton’s inventive creative ambitions, the second episode in this sixth series  is a more straightforward example of what they do best.

Simon Says is, for the most part, a tight two-hander, with an air of uncertainty and menace taking twists and turns towards its neat resolution.

Inspired, certainly, by the reaction to Game Of Thrones' last series,  it takes place after the disappointing conclusion of a fictional fantasy epic The Ninth Circle, wrapped up as its creator  Spencer Maguire is keen to move on to new projects.

The premise might not be too unfamiliar to Shearsmith and Pemberton, as creators of  comedy with a strong cult following that its devotees feel possessive about, from League Of Gentlemen to Psychoville to where we are now.

We first meet Maguire, as played by Pemberton, returning home with blood, literally, on his hands, setting up the first of the episode’s many suspenses. Then a call on the intercom, and a hardcore fan who knows what he did…

Without giving much away, there’s a sinister undercurrent of threats and blackmail throughout this unique and tricksy take on the obsessive stalker genre. It’s in the vein of Stephen King’s Misery, shot through with the jet-black humour typical of Inside No 9. Though it’s fair to say this is one of those instalments in the anthology that puts tension at its forefront, not laughs.

Shearsmith plays to his strengths here, creepily sinister as the manipulative fan, while keeping the intimidation implied rather than blatant. Lindsay Duncan offers some break from the tension as Maguire’s agent, who’s never even seen the show that’s proved so lucrative, while Nick Mohammed pops up in a more serious role than we’re used to.

There’s a lot of twisty plot packed into these 29 taut minutes that will keep you gripped from one turn to the next.

Review date: 17 May 2021
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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