Inside No 9 | CTRL/ALT-ESC review

inside no 9 review ctrl alt esc
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Puzzles abound in the latest episode of Inside No 9. Here’s our spoiler-filled review of CTRL/ALT/ESC.

NB: This review contains spoilers.

As much as I don’t want to discuss the ending first, it’s difficult to come away from CTRL/ALT/ESC without thinking of Shearsmith and Pemberton’s series two masterpiece The Twelve Days of Christine, in which the heart-breaking final moments revealed that, well, the whole episode was in fact made up of final moments, those of the titular Christine as she lay dying after an accident.

This episode, while very different in tone, uses a similar narrative trick, only this time with a happier resolution.

Before we get to all that, the meat of the episode encompasses a family who’ve been coerced into an escape room by patriarch Jason. Setting up a vicious serial killer and a mention of Jason bullying a girl with the same name as one of the victims might have been leading us down the track of this being some elaborate revenge plot from a scorned schoolmate.

In actuality, the dialogue, from Jason mentioning that losing his daughter would kill him, to the joke about his wife Lynne, played by Katherine Kelly, kissing Jason was “necrophilia”, was seeding the truth – that the escape room was one big metaphor for Jason’s fight to show a sign of life before they switched his ventilator off.

Read more: Inside No 9 | Boo To A Goose review

Pemberton writes cryptic crosswords in his spare time, most aptly demonstrated in series three episode Riddle of The Sphinx and, more recently, as a prize task on Taskmaster, and the duo stretch their synapses once more to come up with the puzzles contained within the room. A rewatch will undoubtedly reward the effort put into linking every clue in the room to the truth of Jason’s situation. We also got a touch of Friday The 13th courtesy of a masked killer wielding a sledgehammer, which ramped up the tension in the final scene.

The difference is that while Christine was almost exclusively a character study, cramming more development into 30 minutes than some storytellers manage in whole feature films, the family in this episode was quite thinly sketched. While there was a nice moment with Jason and his eldest daughter, there was so much to set up for the ending that the characters weren’t given the same room to breathe, which perhaps held this episode back from becoming an Inside No 9 classic.

Inside No 9 returns to BBC Two on the 5th June with the Edwardian music based thriller The Curse Of The Ninth.

Read more: Inside No 9 | The Trolley Problem review

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