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Monday, 2 March 2020

REVIEW: Inside No.9 delivers a brilliantly intimate episode that you can watch over and over.

As we approach the end of Inside No. 9's long-awaited fifth series, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton have given us another gripping half-hour in Thinking Out Loud. This unsettling and unpredictable episode, directed by Pemberton, features a selection of characters delivering monologues directly to the camera, and it isn't until the closing minutes that we come to learn how these people are really connected to one another.

First of all, there’s Bill (Phil Davis) who’s creating a short video profile for a dating agency. The 65-year old is looking for someone to share long walks and nice chats with, and he hasn’t been with anyone since he lost his wife. However, in the three minutes, we spend with him, we get the impression that Bill isn’t exactly the sort of sweet old widower you might get on First Dates. For one thing, he’s brought a list of requirements with him, including that he doesn’t want to be matched up with any "big girls", Eastern Europeans or "lefties", and his references to turning over a new leaf hint at some sort of secret in his past.

Next, we meet Nadia (Maxine Peake), who is telling an off-camera therapist about how a couple that she and her husband call “the smugs” are getting divorced. Peake gets some cracking lines in what is the most outright comedic of the monologues ("she's Italian, porn's like Bake Off to them"), but it isn't long before things take a darker turn, as the conversation moves onto Nadia having never known her mother.

There's also Angel (Ioanna Kimbook), a vlogger and social media influencer addressing her 'Angel army' of followers. I must admit that when I first heard Inside No. 9 was going to include a character like this, I had some misgivings, since this is an aspect of modern youth culture that many writers have tried and failed to fully grasp, and therefore effectively satirise, before. Thankfully, it turns out there was no need to be worried. From the language to the editing, they have managed to pretty much nail the YouTuber style, and newcomer Kimbook (this is her first TV credit) delivers a spot-on performance.

As for the rest of the characters, Pemberton plays Galen, a deranged serial killer in a Louisiana prison. We don't know exactly for whom his video message is intended, but he promises that he will pay them a visit when he is released, and not in a good way... Meanwhile, Shearsmith plays Aidan, a dying man making emotional videos for his as yet unborn child to someday watch. The sixth person in the mix is Diana (Sandra Gayer), a soprano singer, who doesn't say much but delivers a spine-tingling rendition of Amazing Grace.

The direct-to-camera style of Thinking Out Loud gives it an unsettlingly intimate vibe, and I challenge anyone to watch it without feeling both drawn in and on edge. If you choose to watch the episode again once it is over and you have finally discovered the connection between the characters, you'll be rewarded with new meanings to the monologues that you couldn't have detected before. Next week the series will wrap up with The Stakeout, a two-hander with Shearsmith and Pemberton as police officers, which sounds like it will be an entirely different beast yet again!

Contributed by Sophie Davies.

Inside No.9 Continues Monday at 10.00pm on BBC TWO



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