Every single episode of Inside No. 9, painstakingly ranked
If you disagree with my choices, you’re an idiot
There are few TV shows more inventive and gripping than Inside No. 9. For avid fans, it’s an ever-changing anthology collection of stories ranging from the gruesome to the creepy to the heartwarming.
For the uninitiated, it’s a show made by Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton. The pair star in every half hour episode, which feature a self-contained plot, a guest star or two, and usually a twist. All take place inside number nine, whether that’s a flat, house, warehouse, or hotel room.
It’s into its sixth series now. But where do you start? What’s the best episode? We’ve ranked every single series of the show. Two caveats here: Obviously these are my subjective hot takes, but if you disagree with a single ranking on this list, you’re a moron. Secondly, there aren’t really any bad episodes, so this is just a ranking from “amazing” to “yeah, pretty good”.
1. The 12 Days of Christine (series two)
Sheridan Smith absolutely wows in the tale of a woman wooed by a firefighter. Like all the best Inside No. 9 twists, you don’t see this coming. It’s simply devastating, and has it all – a tug on the heartstrings, a few unsettling sinister moments, and then a giant heave of the rug from under you. Face it, this is better than most films.
2. Tom and Gerri (series one)
Perhaps a controversial pick, but the gut punch at the end of this episode hits different. Migg is the perfect weird one-off character, and the setup is dangerously close to home after a few too many national lockdowns. Gemma Arterton is great, and the episode lets you know exactly how dark the whole show can get.
3. The Bill (series three)
A group of friends argue over who’s going to pay the bill. We’ve all been there, but it’s never gone this wrong. Set in a single location, you don’t exactly know where it’s going, but Philip Glenister is there. That’s what we’re here for.
4. The Devil of Christmas (series three)
Krammpusssss! The main plot would be creepy enough, but throw in the murderous voiceover and it’s a gory Christmas treat.
5. Bernie Clifton’s Dressing Room (series three)
As a sucker for the emotional manipulation the show is so good at, this had to be high up. Two magicians reunite to try and get the show back on the road. The budget setting makes you feel like you’re at school while watching it. If only they showed this on the wheel-in tellies.
6. A Quiet Night In (series one)
Two burglars creep around in silence while a couple argue – an outstanding concept, tense and mischievous, and played out to the full. A great episode that doesn’t feel like any other.
7. Diddle Diddle Dumpling (series three)
A man’s obsession with a shoe takes over his life. Firstly, anything with Keeley Hawes is going to be good. But this is actually great in its own right – a suburban horror story, complete with the requisite feelings of doom and paranoia.
8. Dead Line (live)
If you thought this wouldn’t work, you’re forgiven. Neither did I. And yet it really did – even down to the fake error message. A live triumph.
9. To Have and To Hold (series four)
For a show that does creeping suburbia so well, this is perhaps the most insidious example. A wedding photographer in an unhappy marriage has a dark secret. Some episodes leave a nice feeling when they end. This one just leaves you feeling a bit wrong. As it should.
10. Seance Time (series two)
Genuinely terrifying, and starring Pam from Gavin and Stacey. That’s top 10 in anybody’s book.
11. Wuthering Heist (series six)
Somehow doing a whole heist episode without showing the actual heist just works. It’s self-referential, fourth wall breaking, but in a smart way.
12. The Riddle of the Sphinx (series three)
A mystery plays out through a crossword in a Cambridge don’s office. If you can tell they had fun making it, you’ll have fun watching it – and that’s the case here.
13. Once Removed (series three)
If you’ve ever seen Christopher Nolan’s Memento, this is basically that.
14. How Do You Plead (series six)
And if you’ve ever seen Christopher Nolan’s Inception, the set up to this is basically the same – a dying, powerful man confined to bed. But far from developing into a mind-bending action thriller, this episode goes somewhere unexpected and dark.
15. Nana’s Party (series two)
Escalating farce at a seemingly normal party for an elderly nan. It just all keeps going hilariously wrong. Inside No. 9 at its most fun.
16. Thinking Out Loud (series five)
A cast of characters speak straight to camera as a dark mystery unfolds. Admit it, you didn’t see the twist coming, and it made you feel empty when it ended. It has the feel of how good Black Mirror used to be, and holds up well on a rewatch.
17. Misdirection (series five)
Smart and fun. Sometimes Inside No. 9 shows just how much can be done in half an hour – and this is one of those times.
18. Sardines (series one)
As the first episode of the show, this is most likely your way in to Inside No. 9. If you think of the show’s overall concept – a cast of characters put together in a space, until secrets start coming out, and eventually a harrowing twist – then this is the perfect introduction.
19. The Harrowing (series one)
Does what it says on the tin. A babysitter takes on a job at a cobwebby mansion. Although perhaps equal in the scary stakes to Seance Time, the other episode takes the edge for offering something beyond straight scares.
20. Cold Comfort (series two)
Played out over CCTV screens in a call centre, this episode promised a lot. It delivered – mostly – but not fully. A middling episode, with a middling amount of chilling drama.
21. The Understudy (series one)
Positively Shakespearean. Shearsmith’s understudy character is one of the duo’s more tragic characters. Fun fact – it’s based on Macbeth. A reference everyone can get.
22. The Referee’s A Wanker (series five)
Good setup, good twist. Maybe this is overly high up because I like football, but what are you going to do about it?
23. Lip Service (series six)
When a lonely middle-aged man settles into a grim hotel room, it feels familiar. But – as per usual – some gruesome twists get the blood going.
24. Private View (series three)
This episode, which takes place at a private art exhibition, is perfectly good. But by the lofty standards of Inside No. 9, it gets eclipsed by others.
25. And the Winner Is… (series four)
Eminently forgettable, even if it was good.
26. Zanzibar (series four)
If we’re being honest, this was just too confusing. The hotel caper doesn’t have crazy rewatch value, so it’s languishing in the middle of the ranking.
27. Empty Orchestra (series three)
The karaoke episode. Mucks around with sound well, and captures the
28. Love’s Great Adventure (series five)
Another Christmas episode, but not one that hits the heights of the Krampus. It’s understated, emotional, but not one I’m rushing to rewatch.
29. The Trial of Elizabeth Gadge (series two)
A perfectly middling middle ages episode. Fine to have on. You wouldn’t skip. Yes it’s all a bit silly, but that’s fine.
30. Hurry Up and Wait (series six)
This would have been really good if they resisted the temptation to make Adrian Dunbar play himself, with constant references to Ted Hastings. I like my thinly-veiled parodies to at least be veiled, goddammit.
31. Tempting Fate (series four)
Just a bit grim, sorry. There’s something about people in forensic suits searching through musty flats that doesn’t exactly make you want to watch the episode all over again.
32. Death Not Be Proud (series five)
Jenna Coleman is good, but this – compared to other flat-based episodes in Tom and Gerri and Tempting Fate – is the weakest of the three.
33. The Stakeout (series five)
Two police officers sat in a car watching a graveyard. Some people like this episode a lot – I thought it was forgettable – although I don’t really like vampire films.
34. Simon Says (series six)
It would have been a good episode, and in many ways was, but the obviousness of the Game of Thrones pastiche (“the fans hated the last episode and want you to do it again”) kept taking you out of the magic. Far too on-the-nose.
35. Last Gasp (series one)
This is by no means a bad episode, and the central conceit – that a balloon full of air must be preserved at all costs – is funny. But something needs to be second last on the list, and this is it
36. La Couchette (series two)
Sorry but it has Jack Whitehall in it so it’s bottom of the list.