Inside No. 9’s latest episode is titled Misdirection – and that’s exactly what this episode does. It misdirects you, tricking you into thinking the episode is going a certain way before turning everything around and revealing its dastardly plot at the end. It’s such a clever story and one that, much like the others this season, tie back into the theme of the episode in the best possible way.
This week it’s all about magic tricks, and we begin episode 4 of Inside No 9 with our main magician Neville, sitting and watching in awe as a man named Willy Wondo puts a sheet over his head and levitates into the air. After showing off the trick, Neville tries to talk the man into giving up his secret. He refuses though, telling him he’d rather just be doing birthday parties. Determined not to leave empty-handed, Neville kills Willy in a gruesome fashion.
We then skip forward 9 years to find Neville working as a top magician, having won awards for his achievements. In particular, the flying chair trick is something he’s claimed as his own. A man named Gabriel arrives and begins interviewing him, coming across as an enthused fan of magic.
As they talk magic and begin dancing around the real issue here, Gabriel tells Neville he’s been working on a trick and goes on to perform it for him. Afterward, Gabriel distracts Neville long enough to try and break into his safe. Only, he doesn’t manage to crack the code and instead finds himself face to face with Neville. It turns out Gabriel is Willy’s grandson and promises to return with a search warrant to claim back what Neville stole from his family before storming out.
Clearly this gets under his skin and it’s made worse by his wife phoning and telling him she’s been receiving threats at the hotel from someone claiming to be him. Only… it’s not Neville and someone is clearly playing him for a fool. Determined to get the upper-hand, Neville begins burning evidence, opening the safe and getting ride of the surveillance footage from inside the workshop.
The next day a Detective Inspector arrives and informs him his wife has been murdered. Unfortunately Neville deleting the security footage now looks very suspect. It turns out Gabriel used his technological tricks to plant a bloodied knife inside the safe, having cracked the combination when he was at his apartment the previous day. Knowing he’s been played, Neville looks on incredulously as he’s taken away and imprisoned.
Misdirection is a very clearly written episode. There’s multiple layers and intricately crafted ideas here that work so well across 30 minutes. Out of all the episodes this season, misdirection is arguably the best. The surface level tricks between Neville and Gabriel have a real Prestige edge to them; two magicians battling it out and trying to one-up the other.
The second layer deals with that of the audience, tricking us into believing the episode is going one way before revealing the illusion and big reveal at the end – just like a real magic trick. That’s before even mentioning the idea of technology advancing quicker than traditional magic, or the way the episode depicts a new generation of magicians thinking outside the box and not playing by conventional rules – something cyclical from Willy to Neville and then Gabriel.
There are so many ways to interpret this episode and the beautiful ensemble at the heart of this make it one of the strongest episodes of the season – dare I say it, one of the strongest of the entire five seasons so far. Whether you’ve watched Inside No. 9 in the past or not, this is a must-watch and a beautifully dark and thought provoking episode in its own right.