Death Be Not Proud ★★★½
Well this certainly was a pleasant surprise. As couple Jenna Coleman (Doctor Who) and Kadiff Kirwan begin to move in to their new purchased flat, they express some concern over the small price they had to pay for it due to it previously having a dead body disintegrate in the bathtub. What initially starts out as a traditional ghost story (Coleman home alone, a growing sinister crack in the wall) very quickly becomes potentially Pemberton and Shearsmith’s best twist yet.
There were endless clues of course, from the episode’s title to the ping pong balls and the blender. The flat seemed familiar in layout but it wasn’t until Pemberton’s David Sowerbutts showed up at the door that I realised we were getting a continuation of the duo’s previous series Psychoville. And what a delight it is to see the characters again too. His and Maureen’s (Shearsmith) relationship was always one of the highlights of the duo’s oeuvre and seeing memories of the two of them together will plant the widest smile on fan’s faces. The inclusion of Emily and Mr. Jelly are an added bonus.
Still the episode works on its own too, and tells a complete story that simultaneously explains the paranormal goings on and rounds up the story of the Sowerbutts in a way that feels fresh and in-keeping with their characters. It’s an episode that dances joyfully in the macabre and mines it for comedy throughout. Maureen’s restless soul haunts flat 9 (it used to be flat 2 before the refurbishment) and controls those within it. The back and forth between memories and modern day allows Coleman’s smaller-than-advertised role to still feel meaty too, with the narrative leading towards a classic rug-pull in the last moments.
Whilst many of its gags and themes are carry-overs from their previous work, the two stars effortlessly slip back into their roles and Shearsmith’s Maureen commands the screen every time she’s on it. Pemberton’s David however has grown emotionally, but he’s still the same strange man at heart that we all know and love. Fans loved it, but time will tell if it will end up being remembered as a standout moment in Inside No. 9’s back catalogue.