Inside No. 9 S6E4: Hurry Up and Wait

by thethreepennyguignol

They got my ass.

Hurry Up and Wait is one of those episodes of Inside No. 9 that feel like it could have sprung from any other classically twisted horror show: Tales of the Unexpected, The Twilight Zone, Creepshow (watch Creepshow, everyone, by the way). The kind of slow misdirect in the build-up that points to one horrible ending – and then, in those last moments, pulling the rug away to reveal an even more horrible one.

Set inside a small caravan masquerading as a green room for the production of a new crime show, Hurry Up and Wait follows an extra James (Reece Shearsmith) waiting for his big scene in the show following the real-life abduction of a baby a few decades earlier. Once he encounters the odd family within (Steve Pemberton, Pauline McLyn, and Donna Preston), he becomes convinced that they actually have something to do with the abduction, and proceeds to try and uncover the mystery single-handedly.

Before I get into the main thrust of this article, I would just like to take a moment to point out all the small things I enjoyed about this week’s outing: that acid-sharp writing (something about Preston’s Bev specifying that her favourite film is “Dumbo One” took me the fuck out), Adrian Dunbar playing the classic actor-playing-themselves-but-as-a-huge-wanker trope that just never gets old, that claustrophobic single setting of the caravan that seems to close in around Shearsmith as the episode goes on; it’s witty, it’s well-made, and like so much of the rest of this season, it takes a few jabs at the industry in which Inside No. 9 resides, and it’s altogether just such a sublime piece of television that I almost just want to say that and leave this review right here.

But the twist really got my ass, and I want to talk a little about that. The set-up for the episode – the plot that it follows for a good chunk of its half-hour runtime – has James and the viewer increasingly convinced that Bev is actually the grown-up baby Ryan, forced to live as another gender to conceal their identity. Now, to be honest, when the episode seemed to be heading this way, I was seriously hoping it would think better of it: using trans people as a kooky twist just isn’t my jam, much the same way as last season’s dud about Dissociative Identity Disorder felt too down-punching for its own good. But it was seeded carefully and slowly enough that it felt as though it was the inevitable end to the episode. Just like James, we’re convinced as viewers that this must be it – Inside No. 9 is known for its twists, after all, and here was one that would feel pretty giant.

But then – he’s wrong. James is wrong. He doesn’t solve the mystery, and neither do we. Dunbar cuts his lines down to just a nod, and he shoots his scene and leaves. That’s the end of it. It’s a delightful bit of wrong-footing from the show, one that plays on our expectations as the audience to be twisted; it offers us up the twist, leads us down that path, and then sticks two fingers up and tells us that we were stupid for thinking it.

Oh, and then delivers us just one of the most deliciously nasty endings of the entire show’s run: baby Ryan’s corpse has been right there under our noses all along, in the form of the doll that Bev’s been cradling for the whole episode. That zoom-in on the little skeleton hand is one of the gnarliest things that Inside No. 9 has done in a while, and honestly, giving us no time to try and work out what the actual twist might be after wrong-footing us with the male-to-female one makes it land all the harder. A twist is best when it comes with as little chance for the audience to guess at it as possible, even better when its hidden there in plain sight under our noses the entire time. You can’t sit there smugly at the end, having figured it out, because this episode never wanted you to. It scammed you out of your pocket money and then spent it on cigarettes.

Inside No. 9 knows what we expect from it, and it’s willing to mercilessly and gleefully screw with us just when we think we know what’s going on. They got my ass, sneaking a twist in wrapped up in another twist wrapped in a blanket wrapped in a babydoll. And that’s why I continue to love on this show just as much as I do.

If you enjoyed this article and want to see more stuff like it, check out my other blog, No But Listen, as well as my fiction work! You can also support me on Patreon to help keep this blog running and keep my very demanding little cat in treaties, and me out of her clutches for another month yet.

(header image via IMDB)