Inside No. 9 S7E2: Mr King

by thethreepennyguignol

Sometimes, horror is a reflection on the inherent loss that comes with ageing, the transformative power of grief, the once-profound friendships that have flayed away to nothing over the years. And sometimes, horror is “what if some creepy Welsh children wanted to cut your legs off?”.

Inside No. 9, of course, runs the gamut of pretty much every type of horror you can imagine, but this week’s episode, Mr King, relies rather heavily on the second kind. And, after last week, it feels a little…pedestrian.

Maybe that’s not fair. Mr King, after all, is a really good example of the more traditional horror that Inside No. 9 taps into, wrapped around a healthy dose of League of Gentlemen’s unsettling small-town nastiness. Following a new teacher, Alan (Reece Shearsmith), after he arrives to work at a school in a small Welsh town, it tracks the development of his time at the school as he slowly uncovers the truth behind his new job, as well as what happened to his much-beloved predecessor, Mr King.

I do really like the primary school setting, not least because I grew up as a profoundly weird little girl in a small, rural primary school myself, – framing this grim story against the cheerful backdrop of kid’s posters and silent reading makes for a fun contrast, and the child actors are all clearly gleefully enjoying their breaks from playing Good Little Kids and descending into some delightful evil. I think that the wraparound of global warming as a way to connect modern concerns to the themes of regeneration and giving back to the Earth, a contrast of the urban approach versus something more influenced by traditional ritual.

If you’re reasonably well-acquainted with horror, which I have to imagine most people watching this show at least are by now, the folk-horror tropes are there from the start, which makes the eventual fate of Alan somewhat predictable; the fertility symbolism, the crop growth, the language barrier to divide the incomer and the locals. The atmosphere-building feels a bit rushed, with characters acting at comical levels of insane to underline the bizarreness of the situation, highlighting the limited runtime in a way most episodes manage to disguise a bit better. The global warming angle feels a bit lacking, even if its premise is quite interesting, more tacked-on to add a relevant cultural point than it is to be explored in a meaningful way.

Inside No. 9 doing a more traditional horror episode usually comes as something as a treat for a horror nut like me, but Mr King was a bit of a drop-off from the excellent opener of last week’s Merrily, Merrily. It’s far from bad, but it’s also far from the best the show has done. A spin on a horror standard, while generally pretty fun, lacks some of the bite that I’ve come to expect from Inside No. 9.

If you liked this article and want to see more stuff like it, please check out the rest of my Inside No. 9 reviews. I’d also love it if you would check out my horrible short story collection, and, if you’d like to support my work, please consider supporting me on Patreon!

(header image via British Comedy Guide)