The Stakeout ★★★
The series closes with a stripped back and minimal story featuring Reece and Steve as cops in their number 9 squad car on a stakeout in the middle of a graveyard… as one does. But even though the creepy angel statue is illuminated in the back window for its entirety, this episode doesn’t divulge into the supernatural… not yet anyway. Instead after opening with Shearsmith’s S/PC Varney (a sly nod for those in the know) laying supposedly dead, caked in blood in the back seat it appears we’re in for a murderous police procedural.
In fact, it’s the episode’s strong grasp of the genre’s tropes and the likability and chemistry between the two that works the best. PC Thompson (Pemberton) and Varney are newly together, and as they gradually develop a budding relationship there are glimpses of a disturbing past as Thompson’s previous partner, DC Dobson (Malik Ibheis) had his throat slashed and is buried in the very graveyard they’re kept up in. Director Guillem Morales suitably makes the most of the limited setting and cleverly plays with light and silence, building a palpable sense of oncoming dread thanks to a superb limited soundtrack.
Yet, even with this restricted set up this is perhaps the first time Inside No. 9 travels to another location, as Thompson is revealed to be ignoring his duty to watch for a subject by the docks. Obviously the two head there and this offers insight into Dobson’s murder and Thompson’s disbelief in counselling and eventually the guilt that he feels for his partner’s death. It all works so well that there’s no real need for a supernatural twist… yet still we get one. And it’s a doozy too. These boys really do spoil us.
All the signature signs are there of course. From Varney’s disgust at the smell of Thompson’s garlic-infused takeaway, to his well-rested demeanour, his worry for Thompson’s blood pressure, his inability to answer Thompson’s riddle about coffins, his need to be invited back in the car (always with an excuse, mind you) to even more obscure literature references like being unable to cross running water. Yes, Varney is revealed to be a vampire in disguise. Not only that, but he’s the vampire that transformed Dobson a month ago and is using Thompson as his new child’s first feast. In hindsight of course it’s a classic twist we should have seen coming from the two, but when it’s pulled off with this sense of grace and aplomb it’s difficult not to get caught up in it.