24 Days Of Christmas
Inside No 9 continues to produce some of the best British TV. We make a lot of jokes over here about how the BBC stumble and fail to wrap up any of their shows in a compelling way (hello again, Dracula Episode 3), but Inside No 9 is one of those rare gifts that keep on giving. The show has become known for its twists and of course, structurally these generally tend to occur at the end of every episode. Tonight however, that’s not the case.
Love’s Great Adventure is one of those episodes that benefits from repeat viewings. On the surface, the story examines the financial difficulties of a working class family during Christmas with a simple familial set-up – husband, wife, kids – and slowly chips away at that facade with increasing urgency and flair as the episode progresses. It’s such a clever bit of storytelling but if you’re not paying attention, you’ll miss crucial details with this.
The episode begins with the family preparing for Christmas, opening each day on the advent calendar as we see a snapshot of their lives across 24 separate scenes. There are several different story threads running through this one that are easy to miss if you’re not paying attention.
Trevor and Julia raise their daughter Mia and grandson Connor, while Connor’s Dad Patrick is a bit of a loose cannon and in and out of his life. Mia’s Christmas prom is coming up and between paying for driving lessons and saving for Christmas, Julia just can’t afford the cash to splash out on a new dress for her. Feeling bad after an initial fight, she decides to make a dress from scratch using her sewing machine. As the days progress, we learn Mia passed her driving test but damages to her car throw question marks into the mix, as Julia admits that she was the one who caused an accident.
Connor finds himself opening the doors to the advent calendar but he misses off day 9. Before we get there however, Julia bakes mince pies with him but implores him not to taste any of the cooking, instead encouraging him to greet the carol singers while she opens up the tin of money… and finds it all missing. A fight with Trevor ensues the next day about this, while Connor is forced to make breakfast on his own.
Another day passes and the family work together to sort the tree out. However, partway through Patrick arrives and he opens the advent calendar with Connor. It’s here we see that Patrick was the one who stole all the money from the tin and also the one that hurt Trevor, breaking his arm and giving him a black eye.
The doors are opened faster toward Christmas Day as Patrick has a loan shark after him – hence the reason for him taking the money. Toward the end of the episode it’s implied that Julia is the one who’s saved Christmas by taking out the loan shark, running them over in her car at the roundabout. While this isn’t explicitly told to us, the nature of the advent calendar opening one day at a time does help piece this together. As Trevor and Jules express their love for one another, the episode ends.
Sometimes it’s not about the twist, sometimes it just needs strong acting and a solid story and Inside No. 9 delivered that tonight. The working class family set-up works really well here and hammers home just how precarious that knife-edge point of living on a single pay-check is. Hearing Trevor trying to vouch for an extension on his direct debit, or seeing Patrick in trouble are very real issues families deal with and this, wrapped up with the stress of money and Christmas, hammers home that idea of living from day to day.
This episode is both the best and worst of the season so far. Many people will miss the subtle twist about Julia (I did the first time around!) and others will leave feeling disappointed expecting something big to happen at the end. At the same time, the episode works really well on an artistic level, with a strong theme running throughout and some really solid plotting.
At this point, Inside No 9 completely eclipses anything Black Mirror could put out and is certainly in the running for being one of the best shows of the year. This episode is such a clever change of pace and character, bringing with it a poignant and touching look at the struggles of a working class family, wrapped up in an ingeniously edited story that leaves it up to us to figure out the fragments of plot along the way. This is such a great anthology series and another reason why the TV licence should remain if we’re graced with wonderful bits of telly like this.
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