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TV Review: Inside No. 9 - Tempting Fate

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The final instalment of this year's run of Inside No. 9 sees Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton deliver their own take on a classic supernatural trope. 

Much like 'The Harrowing' in Series One, 'Tempting Fate' closes the fourth series on a particularly eerie note, with a tale that beckons its characters to be careful what they wish for. 

The No. 9 of this episode is a dilapidated council flat, once belonging to late hoarder Frank (Nigel Planer), who died unceremoniously within his squalor. Shearsmith, Pemberton and guest star Weruche Opia (of Bad Education) appear as three cleaners who have been ordered to get the place cleared. 

In such a dingy place as this No. 9, it's unsurprising that one of the first things they uncover is a dead rat - much to the disgust of Opia's novice, Maz. However, as they continue to delve into the increasingly claustrophobic maze of boxes and memories, they begin to discover more about the mysterious former tenant's life - including the fact that he was, in fact, a millionaire.

When Maz finds a secret safe, containing a VHS tape and a suspicious package (complete with a handwritten warning), the trio are shocked to discover that Frank apparently committed suicide after a wish-granting talisman ruined his life. The talisman in question, which they are all too keen to unwrap despite Frank's posthumous protest, may be familiar to fans of the series.

The unassuming brass hare that has appeared in every episode of Inside No. 9 so far (and recently also in The League of Gentlemen) takes centrestage this week, revealing itself to be far more than an ordinary ornament. Here, it is a bringer of doom, granting wishes with increasingly macabre twists and consequences - which in itself is an apt analogy for the anthology series.  

As has become expected of this series, the episode ends with a flourish of twists and misdirections in the tale, punctuating series four in an appropriately unsettling fashion. If you're familiar with W.W. Jacobs' short story, The Monkey's Paw (which the episode itself references) then you might find this particular instalment somewhat predictable, as Shearsmith and Pemberton take inspiration from the same foreboding morals of that tale.

Inflected with small bursts of humour - coming mainly from Opia's delightfully rambunctious performance - this isn't the best or most inventive episode of the series ('Zanzibar' and 'Once Removed' are the highlights of Series 4 to this particular reviewer), but it still carries the duo's acclaimed signature, marking a familiar end to what has been an otherwise surprising series. 

Inside No. 9: Series 4 will be available to buy on DVD from Monday 12th February. The series will return for a fifth season in 2019.

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