Inside No. 9 S8E6: The Last Weekend

by thethreepennyguignol

Well, here we are, at the end of another season.

I wrote, at the beginning of this season of Inside No. 9, about my doubts for the show’s ability to continue pulling off such high-concept anthology stories after nearly a decade of them. I have to admit, though, this season has been one of my favourites in recent memory – I don’t think there’s been a dud this time around, or even an episode that’s been less than excellent. Last week’s 3 by 3 was a proper bit of event TV, something that’s decidedly hard to pull off in this streaming era of television, and Love is a Stranger remains one of the most impressive pieces of short storytelling I’ve seen the show shoot for. Season eight has felt like peacocking, in the best way possible – a reminder of just how fantastic this show can be and just how rich this loose premise really is.

So it all rests on this week’s episode, The Last Weekend, to prove this season’s place as one of the best of Inside No. 9. Following a long-term couple, Joe and Chas (Pemberton and Shearsmith, a welcome return after their absence last week), the episode takes on a suitably uneasy tone as they celebrate their nine-year anniversary.

Now, this is an interesting episode, a real game of two halves: the first half is mostly focused on Reece Shearsmith’s Chas, as he navigates the impending loss of his long-time partner Joe to terminal cancer. Sharing what will likely be their last weekend in their holiday home together, the episode finds a melancholy and genuinely affecting tone – the story is structured around the five stages of grief, as Chas and Joe try to face the resentment, grief, and anger that has built up in their relationship since they’ve been forced to handle his illness.

Like so much of Inside No. 9, there is a really skill in building the story, character, and emotion here – there’s a long take from inside a bathroom cupboard as Joe lines it with his medication and talks to Chas, the medicine bottles literally framing their conversation. It’s an absorbing story, and it’s great to see Pemberton and Shearsmith take centre stage after handing over to other actors last week – the depth in their real-life relationship adds layers to this one, the warmth of it radiating off the screen, a bittersweet sadness overlaying their obvious and lived-in affection.

Right up until the point where one of them murders the other, of course.

The final five minutes of this episode are tonal whiplash in the most exceptional sense: Joe reveals that Chas bullied Joe’s late daughter into suicide, and the previous nine years of their relationship have been nothing more than a facade to allow Joe to waste Chas’s life and get close enough to him to kill him. He buries him in cement, covers him in honey, and leaves him to be scoffed alive by various rural beasties while he listens from the next room. It’s a fucking brutal death, genuinely made my skin crawl, but at first the shock of the tone shift was too much for me to keep up with.

But I think that’s the point – in the same way Chas had come to totally believe in the life he had built with Joe, we as the audience were totally convinced of it too. The commitment to the bit of the twilight months of their relationship feels like a real betrayal, a brutal and gleefully horrible backstab to close out the season. And, for a show built on the twist, it’s kind of perfect – a story that’s totally absorbing and a satisfying arc in it’s own right, only to end with a savagely unpredictable close for both the episode and the season. Inside No. 9 has told some brilliant stories about grief and loss, and it lulled us into believing this was another one, only to flick out the knife with an inventively nasty ending.

I think The Last Weekend is a really solid end to an excellent season, and one that feels very true to the roots of the show. I’m not sure how well it will stand up on a rewatch with the twist in mind, but the fresh viewing experience was a really fun – and genuinely surprising – one. I, for one, am so happy with the way this season has played out – it’s really been the best in a while, and I am already chomping at the bit for season nine.

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 BBC)