Spoilers ahead for this review of Inside No.9. As we move beyond the midway point into the seventh series, Pemberton and Shearsmith deliver an abduction thriller “Kid/Nap.” Notably, this expansive episode breaks its one location rule, taking place in as many as three locations throughout its twenty-nine-minute run. Much of the action is documented through a split-screen as multiple storylines run parallel. The results are interesting, to say the least.
We begin with Lara Grant (Daisy Haggard). She’s a bored trophy wife to Shearsmith’s Dominic, a wealthy, self-absorbed hedge fund manager in London. The screen splits as Lara and Shane (Daniel Mays) wake up on two sides of their respective beds and prepare for the day ahead. Shane is an unkempt man, heavy on the eyes and the drink (he’s necking back half a pint for breakfast). Lara, by appearances, has everything she wants, but probably not a man who loves her. Shane fixes himself up in a postman’s outfit and leaves for Lara’s address. Dominic leaves for work, passing Shane, the very man who minutes later abducts Lara.
If Shane has a day job, it’d be best if he sticks to it. As it turns out, he’s not that suited to the criminal life. Shane is wearing a monkey mask and carrying a voice-changing toy for anonymity. Tied to a chair in a dingy bungalow, Lara points out that there’s little point in him wearing a mask or disguising their voice, as Shane did neither at her front door. So Shane gives up trying to hide his identity. After dismissing a phone call from Lara as a prank, Shane calls Dominic and demands 1.3 million. Shane’s associate, Cliff (Jason Isaacs), enters the bungalow.
Shane was a drinking buddy of Cliff’s cousin from his Army days. Cliff reveals that his partner in crime has ambitions to become a pastry chef but opts to break legs for money. Everyone has to make a living somehow. However, neither Cliff nor Lara intend to pay Shane as they plan to make their getaway by plane. Plus, Shane has no passport. With Shane sent on an errand to the shops, Cliff releases Lara. The two are working together to dupe Dominic out of ransom money. The entire kidnapping plot is a fake. However, Shane returns sooner than expected, and they have no time to tie Lara to the chair. With no time to continue the ruse, they stage an escape attempt in a bid to continue the plot.
Lara takes Cliff hostage, and Shane buys it. Cliff’s attempt to take the gun from Shane leads to a fight and Cliff is shot. Lara breaks the illusion as she mourns Cliff’s death, and the penny drops for Shane. The kidnapping plot, by appearances, turns real. At Dominic’s office, he receives Lara’s bloody earlobes as a warning to pay the ransom. DI Ellis (Pemberton), the detective in charge of the investigation, sends Dominic into the bungalow following Shane’s request that he transfer the money in person. Dominic is given an earpiece by means to communicate with the police outside.
DI Ellis advises Dominic to use the safe word ‘granola, granola’ in the event things go south. As Shearsmith points out, it’s not an ideal safe word to casually slip into a conversation. Dominic enters the bungalow as DI Ellis and his team of armed police wait outside. The smarmy hedge fund manager transfers the funds – not before first attempting to haggle the ransom fee. This is followed by another twist. Shane knocks out Dominic, and Lara jumps from the chair, not tied up.
Shane swaps his clothes for Dominic’s police protective gear, while DI Ellis has no clue what’s happening from outside. He can only hear audio from inside the bungalow courtesy of the microphone attached to Dominic. Lara uses the voice changer to create a conversation between herself and the kidnapper, leading DI Ellis to believe she and Dominic have a chance to escape. In reality, Shane and Lara are ready to make a run for it. As the armed team storm the bungalow, Ellis watches Shane and Lara escape in a getaway car. Ellis finds Dominic unconscious inside and Cliff’s dead body. Somewhere else, Lara and Shane pull over. She asks him if he wants to know where they’ll be heading next, to which Shane tells her he’s all ears.
The use of split-screen to tell the story from multiple angles is an effective one, particularly from a comedy outlook, while the expansive nature of the episode feels out of place. The story is low-key but layered with numerous twists and turns that feel both predictable and humorous. As one-dimensional as they often feel, every performance is bursting with life – and this is courtesy of the fantastic cast bringing them to life.
Daisy Haggard’s Lara is stuck in a relationship rut, going to incredible lengths (staging her abduction) to rinse her selfish husband out of millions and make a new life far away from the one she hates. The final scene leaves me with no doubt that she’ll ditch May’s dippy postie at the airport, considering he has no passport and no intention to go to the police, given his role in killing Cliff. Daniel May’s incompetent postman kidnapper and Shearsmith’s oafish, money-obsessed hedge fund manager are poles apart as characters.
However, they are bristling with charisma and will make the best of us laugh. After Cliff’s death, May comes out with a line about Lara suffering from Stockport Syndrome, and it is perfection. At another point, Shearsmith meekly attempts to haggle the ransom fee with the hostage-taker, while Pemberton’s hard-nosed DI Ellis calls the hedge fund manager a tosspot.
Jason Isaac’s small part was a surprise, and he’s a marvellous actor who shines in everything he does. That being said, Isaacs was woefully underused in this episode, and his death, premature as it was, was disappointing. “Kid/Nap” is far from Inside No.9 at its best, but it’s Inside No.9 at its most. The story is funny, dark, and heartfelt with an upbeat ending as Daisy Haggard’s dissatisfied wife pulls off the perfect heist and drives away in search of a new life. Everything from the writing, the performances, humour, and resolution are great – but the scale is too much.
“Kid/Nap” breaks the golden rule of Inside No.9, and it’s hard to say it’s all the better for it. After more than six and a half series to date, the show reaches a strange place. If Pemberton and Shearsmith are experimenting with how to expand the scale of their stories, then the gamble does not pay off. It feels more like an Outside No.9 episode than anything else. It’s the weakest entry in Series 7 so far – and one that, in the long term, may not be remembered fondly.
For more Inside No.9 content, take a look at last week’s review for “Nine Lives Kat”. What did you think of Inside No.9? Give us your thoughts in the comment section below!