REVIEW ‘How do you Plead?’ is one of Inside No.9’s creepiest episodes.

by | Jun 7, 2021 | All, Reviews

 Having previously appeared (via audio only) in series 3 episode The Devil of Christmas, Derek Jacobi becomes the first guest star to make a second voyage Inside No. 9. This weeks instalment, How Do You Plead? takes place in a lavish penthouse apartment, where a seriously ill man fears that hes approaching the end of his time on earth. 

At the outset of the episode, agitated Webster (Jacobi) has just brought his own birthday party to an abrupt end, rudely dismissed his guests and summoned his trusted nurse, Bedford (Reece Shearsmith), to his side. Apparently, he has been babbling about his old cases and telling everyone that Bedford is the only one who can help him in this time of need. What unfolds is a gripping story of morality, good and evil, with some unexpected twists and turns in its tail.

How Do You Plead? is for the most part a two-hander between Jacobi and Shearsmith, and the dynamic between their characters brings to mind The Dresser  a play (which starred Shearsmith around five years ago) about an ageing actor and his long-suffering assistant. We learn that Webster is a former barrister, known as the lion of the Bailey in his prime, with a winning streak of 45+ years and a mysterious talent for getting even the most obviously guilty individuals off scot-free. Now in palliative care, hes spluttering, swearing and demanding fentanyl, a long way from his glory days. Has he urgently called for his nurse due to some sort of deathbed revelation?

Bedford is around the thirtieth nurse that Webster has got through, and he stands out from his predecessors because he is relatively unphased by his patients bad temper. He is upbeat and unafraid of teasing Webster (at one point telling him that he enjoys taking his temperature as it keeps him quiet for a few seconds) while Webster is in awe of his nurses kindness and ability to keep his cool. I have been known to blurt out fiddlesticks in moments of crisis Bedford responds to an observation that he rarely swears.


On the night we meet them, Bedford has cancelled plans at the last minute to attend a friends concert at the Royal Albert Hall so that he can tend to Webster. Youre a better man than me the lift attendant (Steve Pemberton) remarks knowingly as they make their way up to the old mans apartment.

Given this is Inside No. 9, nothing in How Do You Plead? is as clear-cut as it seems and everyone has something to hide. At this stage, Shearsmith and Pemberton know what viewers have come to expect from the show, and theres a nice moment where Bedford, after opening Websters filing cabinet of old case notes, claims that theres a human head inside. Of course its nothing so gruesome, but something from Websters past will be catching up with him before the night is done Theres also mention of a harrowing incident for Bedford which has left him haunted by the image of a choking schoolboy. This gives rise to a scene that puts this episode up there with The Harrowing and Séance Time as one of Inside No. 9s creepiest.

  Inside No.9 Concludes Monday at 9.30pm on BBC Two

    Contributed by Sophie Davies.

Sophie Davies

Sophie Davies


Sophie is a writer with a particular interest in TV comedy. In addition to writing TV reviews and features, she also hosts two TV podcasts - Smashed Prawns in a Milky Basket, about the work of Julia Davis, and It’s an S Pod Thing, about the various TV series of S Club 7.


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