Spoilers ahead for this review of Inside No.9.
In the dead of night, Edward (Reece Shearsmith) enters a lavish suburban bungalow rather clumsily. As he sends kitchen cutlery clattering, his dippy brother Harry (Steve Pemberton) rings the bell. The property belongs to their late mother, Annie. Since her death, the bungalow has remained untouched. The new owners are away on holiday, guaranteeing that the brothers will be undisturbed. The new tenants claimed the property with the peculiar request that everything, from the furniture down to the floor fittings, are left in place. The conversation steers from the practicalities of bungalows to Edward and Harry’s estranged relationship in the wake of Annie’s passing before the two brothers put aside their arguments to focus on the most important order of business. With the rugs pulled up and the furniture removed, the two brothers organise a necromantic ritual to summon Annie from beyond the grave – and discover the truth behind a cache of ill-gotten gains stashed away years earlier. Edward has fallen on hard times. After a series of business “ventures” fall apart and a job tending to a bar overseas goes the same way – Annie’s fortune is integral to Edward’s future.
In order to resurrect Annie from the afterlife, a blood sacrifice is required. Harry attempts to kill Mr. Macy, a beloved parrot belonging to Annie. The bird evades Harry’s knife and makes for an open window. With his options limited, Edward decides, with only greed in mind, to kill his brother instead. The ritual is interrupted right before Edward can make the sacrifice by the unanticipated return of Reggie and Frances (Phil Daniels and Anita Dobson), the new occupants of the house – and former East End criminal associates connected to Harry Blackwood, father to Edward and Harry. Reggie is as East End as they come, his dialogue brimming with old Cockney rhyming slang, while Frances, his trophy, bleach-blonde-haired spouse is overly fond of psychic readings and true crime documentaries involving women who kill.
The cached loot, it is revealed, was stolen from Reggie by Harry Sr. In retaliation, the vicious gangster killed Harry and Annie and acquired their home to find the missing haul concealed on the property, which explained why they wanted everything left unchanged. Edward’s plan to raise Annie from the dead via a necromantic ritual sends Reggie and Frances into a fit of laughter as they prepare to dispose of the brothers with a “bear paw,” a slang euphemism for an electric saw. At the last moment, Frances persuades Reggie to complete the ritual in favour of securing the fortune. Supported by her belief in slippery fortune tellers and psychic predictions (including one of being attacked by a tiger, which culminates in a box of Frosties falling on her head in an Aldi supermarket), are in Reggie’s opinion, misguided and ridiculous.
However, a recent tarot reading suggests Frances will be betrayed. This leads us to the final act of the episode. In a sequence that will win the prize for the goriest moment of an Inside No.9 episode, Edward’s foot is sawed away to satisfy the necessary blood sacrifice. The faint-hearted will want to avert their eyes as the execution of the amputation is delivered with extreme close-ups. As Frances holds up Edward’s severed foot to benefit the ritual, Edward is possessed by his mother, or so it would seem. The possession leads to a damning revelation, as Frances discovers Reggie’s two-decade-long extra-marital affair with Annie Blackwood. As Frances had mentioned earlier, her tarot reading indicated she would suffer a betrayal, resulting in the trophy wife plunging the knife into her husband’s chest.
With Reggie dead on the floor, Frances decides to catch up on a true crime documentary, telling the brothers she expects them to be gone by the time Edward wakes up. Edward later admits to Harry that the necromantic ritual did not work and that Annie’s possession had been staged, perhaps in a bid to turn Frances against Reggie, culminating in his violent death. His demise is presented as a blood sacrifice for the ritual before Mr. Macy, the parrot, swoops back into the living room. In the final scene, left on a note of purposeful ambiguity, it would seem Annie Blackwood has channelled her afterlife form through a parrot to speak to her sons. Harry raises the question of where the stolen spoils had been hidden. The parrot ponders the query moments before the credits play, leaving the question unanswered.
In true Inside No.9 tradition, the purposefully ambiguous ending will leave audiences to reach their own conclusions on the outcome. As for the story, it has an array of seemingly disparate elements that come together brilliantly. The parrot, East End gangsters, trophy wives, true-crime thrillers, psychic readings, and a deep dive into the dark arts of raising the dead through necromancy. What did you think of Inside No.9? Give us your thoughts in the comment section below. For more Inside No.9 content, take a look at the Series 7 finale review for “The Bones of St. Nicholas.”