Inside No 9: Plodding On | Review of the last ever episode © BBC/James Stack
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Inside No 9: Plodding On

Review of the last ever episode

WARNING: Contains some spoilers from tonight’s finale

For the last episode of Inside No 9, Steve Pemberton got to play one of the most devious characters the show has yet seen: himself.

With only Pemberton and co-creator Reece Shearsmith billed in the credits and no other clues to the story save for the episode’s title, Plodding On, fans were led to expect a two-hander.

Instead, in a glorious celebration of the last ten years, this was a delightful reunion of so many guest stars, imaginatively set in the wrap party – or mostly in the toilets of the wrap party –  of the ninth and final series. Freeze frame the ‘party guests’ page on the closing credits and you’ll get a list any Bafta ceremony would be proud to attract.

The plot was packed with references and quotes from what grew into a landmark series, loads of Easter eggs for the fans who have devoured every episode over the past ten years. 

We even started as the series did all that time ago with Tim Key and Katherine Parkinson squeezed like Sardines into a tiny space. Only this time, the ‘real’ Parkinson was playing very much against her usual image

Tim and Katherine in a wardrobe from episode one

‘I think it’s right for them to end it now, it’s getting a bit self-indulgent,’ she said in a line that itself might be considered a  bit self-indulgent, as she lined up a fat line of coke.

Continuing the self-deprecatory vein, Pemberton – now apparently  heading for a big Hollywood role now No 9 is over – dismissed the anthology's films as ‘nothings, every fourth one a dud’ while Shearsmith was on the defensive over the charge that ‘someone’s dead’ was an overused plot device.

But embracing the (usually affectionate) criticisms and mocking their reputations only made this episode all the more endearing.

We even got a glimpse of what the much-anticipated On The Buses parody could have have been, had it not been a decoy for the Lee Mack episode 3x3. Here Robin Asquith presented a saucy script he’d come up with, humourlessly explaining each double entendre to a patient Shearsmith.

The fake On The Buses episode - in 70s style conductor and driver uniform

Meanwhile, with his partner leaving him for more lucrative pastures, the nature of his and Pemberton’s 25-year relationship came under the spotlight, offering a less romanticised version of the double act than they portrayed in the classic Bernie Clifton’s Dressing Room episode.

Steve and Reece as an old-school double act in Bernie Clifron's dressign room

Yes, this was the ultimate self-indulgent episode, with a poignant farewell and a cheering reminder of all that Inside Number 9 has achieved. But they have earned that right, and this is one for the fans as much as the creators.

And for an anthology that’s frequently gruesome or hard-hitting, there was a real twist for this valedictory story: it was all rather lovely.

What a delightful end to a remarkable series.

» Inside No 9: Every epsiode ranked

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Review date: 12 Jun 2024
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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