With Inside No. 9 now over for another year (Series 5 was confirmed for 2019 this week), we’re already quite sad (read: devastated) about it. But instead of staring into the void and waiting for the next year to pass as painlessly as possible, we’re counting down the show’s best episodes so far.
Note: our definitive ranking goes from brilliant to melt-your-brain amazing because, honestly, there are no bad episodes.
SPOILERS AHEAD! If you haven’t watched Inside No. 9 already, what are you even doing with your life?
24. Last Gasp (Series 1, episode 4)
Even though Last Gasp is taking the bottom spot on our list (someone’s got to), it’s still brilliant. The contrast between the mundanity of the number 9 being a regular suburban family house and the lengths some people will go to for money make it simultaneously sinister and amusing, and guest star Tamsin Greig is wonderful as a dead-on-the-inside WishmakerUK representative.
23. Empty Orchestra (Series 3, episode 4)
This is one of those rare Inside No. 9 episodes in which no one dies, but we ain’t mad. It turns out you can do quite a lot in a karaoke booth in half an hour. Highlights include Fran (Sarah Hadland) and Connie’s (Tamzin Outhwaite) duet of ‘I Know Him So Well’, Janet (Emily Howlett) getting sweet revenge on her co-workers, and Pemberton’s comedy accent.
22. Private View (Series 3, episode 6)
A story in a similar vein to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, the Series 3 finale kills its characters off one by one in a sequence of horrifying but weirdly hilarious deaths. Its impressive cast – which includes Fiona Shaw, Felicity Kendal and a cameo from Peter Kay – play off each other wonderful, and milk the comedy amongst the horror and suspense for all it’s worth.
21. Seance Time (Series 2, episode 6)
It’s a brilliant spoof of hidden camera prank shows with a tonne of horror nods thrown in for good measure. Though the episode often goes big with the jokes, the ending is still pretty chilling.
20. Nana’s Party (Series 2, episode 5)
Though a lot of the episode is played for laughs, Nana’s Party is also quite devastating. Each character is desperately tragic for different reasons, but in a good way. Like with Empty Orchestra, the only thing that dies are people’s dignity.
19. The Trial Of Elizabeth Gadge (Series 2, episode 3)
Combining laughs with the seriousness of a witch trial doesn’t always work, but after The Trial Of Elizabeth Gadge there’s no excuse for not getting the balance right. It’s basically a comedy version of Witchfinder General, but it’s somehow still just as harrowing.
18. Zanzibar (Series 4, episode 1)
The nonsense that goes on on floor nine of the Zanzibar Hotel makes for a pretty good farce on its own, but the fact that the entire episode is written in iambic pentameter adds another good point to the hypothesis that Pemberton and Shearsmith are some of the most imaginative TV writers working today.
17. The Understudy (Series 1, episode 5)
The Understudy isn’t quite as nasty as some of the other shit that goes on in Inside No. 9, but it’s still terribly grim and makes for a marvellously wretched viewing experience, especially if you’re a big fan of the Bard.
16. And The Winner Is… (Series 4, episode 5)
Easily one of the funniest Inside No. 9 stories, And The Winner Is… parodies what goes into selecting candidates for big awards shows. Though the cast (which includes Zoe Wanamaker, Kenneth Cranham, Noel Clarke, Fenella Woolgar and Phoebe Sparrow) works extremely well together, Shearsmith steals it as an insecure screenwriter that can’t get his scripts made. Everything he says and does is mortifying and hilarious.
15. Once Removed (Series 4, episode 3)
Once Removed does a Memento and tells the story of a string of murders on moving day in the country side in reverse chronological order, and it’s somehow even better on a second viewing.
14. A Quiet Night In (Series 1, episode 2)
Though Pemberton and Shearsmith have proven time and time again that they’re good with words, A Quiet Night In proves that they’re also just as good without them. Writing the second ever episode of a show that usually has talky bits as a silent film was a ballsy move, but it paid off and then some.
13. La Couchette (Series 2, episode 1)
The Series 2 premiere episode is definitely on the farcical side of the genre spectrum, but in true Inside No. 9 fashion it gets dark very quickly. It’s also a bit of a masterclass in filmmaking and making use of the space you have, because that Couchette was cramped as hell.
12. The 12 Days Of Christine (Series 2, episode 2)
It’s not as funny as some of the show’s other episodes, but it didn’t need to be. It’s a massive punch in the gut, but in the best possible way. Sheridan Smith is absolutely perfect as Christine, and we know we’re going to be thinking about this one for a long time.
11. Cold Comfort (Series 2, episode 4)
Directed by Pemberton and Shearsmith, the concept for Cold Comfort is genius. Filmed like CCTV footage, it relies entirely on its script and cast (both of which are obviously brilliant) and toes the line between reality and the weird and wonderful alternate universe that goes on inside the writers’ heads.
10. To Have And To Hold (Series 4, episode 4)
One of the darkest episodes of the entire series, To Have And To Hold is one that really stays with you. We all know Steve Pemberton is awesome, but he really raises the bar as Adrian, a boring wedding photographer who has secretly been keeping his ex-cleaner as a sex slave in a soundproof bunker at the back of his dark room. We’ve never gone from feeling sorry for a character to wanting to stab them in the face more abruptly.
9. Tempting Fate (Series 4, episode 6)
The Series 4 finale somehow manages to be a pretty close reimagining of The Monkey’s Paw by WW Jacobs while still being completely unpredictable. It’s one of those episodes that fill you with overwhelming dread while making you clench every muscle in your body, and it’s delicious.
8. The Bill (Series 3, episode 2)
The Bill is basically just one long pissing contest gone wrong, but every line, shrug and facial expression is pure gold. We would happily watch three hours of this, and want more when it was over.
7. Tom & Gerri (Series 1, episode 3)
No one knows what’s real and what’s not in this darkly comic and intensely intriguing saga. Once again, it hits the twist element out of the ball park. And no matter how many times we watch it, the scene in which Tom (Shearsmith) and Migg (Pemberton) meet for the first time will always be hysterical.
6. The Harrowing (Series 1, episode 6)
The Harrowing was the first time Inside No. 9 really had fun with horror beyond gruesome twists. It’s gothic, it’s weird, it’s genuinely scary, and it’s one of the very best.
5. The Devil Of Christmas (Series 3, episode 1)
Pemberton and Shearsmith seem to like to try out outlandish ideas for the hell of it, and it always pays off. The series’ Christmas episode is basically a pitch-pefect festive 1970s horror film but better (it was even filmed on legit 1970s cameras), and Derek Jacobi’s commentary on top of what is already a pretty great story is horrible and wonderful in equal measures.
4. Sardines (Series 1, episode 1)
As far as first impressions go, the show’s premiere episode is staggeringly good. Taking place almost entirely inside a wardrobe and ending with a relatively distressing mass murder involving lighter fluid, a Zippo and a locked wardrobe door, it sets the tone for the remaining 23 episodes perfectly.
3. The Riddle Of The Sphinx (Series 3, episode 3)
If we had to sell Inside No. 9 on one episode, it would probably be this one. The dialogue is tight, the story is clever, and the final act is so horrible it could make your nan faint. Who thought we’d ever get so worked up about cryptic crosswords?
2. Diddle Diddle Dumpling (Series 3, episode 5)
Taking place over the course of a full year, Diddle Diddle Dumpling looks at a very middle class family and how that family is slowly but surely pulled apart by its patriarch’s obsession with a miscellaneous shoe he found on the pavement. It sounds ridiculous, but it’s so, so good. It’s also extremely aesthetically pleasing (oh, the symmetry!) and features one of the best non-twist-related Inside No. 9 scenes in which David (an absolutely on point Shearsmith) gets emotional giving the shoe to a stranger. We think about that scene a lot.
1. Bernie Clifton’s Dressing Room (Series 4, episode 2)
Not to be dramatic, but Bernie Clifton’s Dressing Room is what TV was made for. Thirty minutes is all Pemberton and Shearsmith need to present two characters you’ve never seen before in your life and make you really, truly care about them to the point where your heart feels like it’s made of both cotton wool and broken glass, and there are tears and snot all over the couch cushions but you don’t know how they got there.
Special mention: Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith’s Series 2 commentary. Just listen to it all, you can thank us later.
Inside No. 9 Series 5 is set to air in 2018 on BBC Two. Get all the latest genre news with every issue of SciFiNow.