This was the darkest episode of the series so far, and dark is something that Inside No.9 does really well. Last week’s episode was clever, but for me it wasn’t as enjoyable as the previous two. This one, however, feels like a return to the classic horror comedy that is the mainstay of Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith.
To Have and to Hold tells the story of Adrian, a wedding photographer, whose own marriage is less than perfect. The episode is inspired by the classic wedding vows – for better or worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death us do part – and sees Adrian and his wife Harriet preparing to renew their wedding vows. But despite the plan to renew their vows, it is obvious right from the start that their marriage is on the rocks. Later in the episode, Harriet describes Adrian as “the most boring man alive”, and it does seem like this is the case. If he isn’t working on wedding photos in his cellar darkroom, he’s doing jigsaw puzzles at the kitchen table, and Harriet is clearly bored.
It soon transpires that they have a myriad of marital problems – Harriet was unfaithful; they were unable to have children; Harriet was upset by Adrian flirting with the couple’s former cleaning lady; and they are also experiencing money troubles – but Harriet still seems desperate to save their marriage. Desperate enough to try to get Adrian interested in some role play, dressing up as a nurse for one of the most cringeworthy scenes I’ve ever seen on TV. Adrian, shall we say, does not respond to her efforts, and the couple are eventually interrupted by a happy newlywed couple who arrive to view their wedding photos. Harriet is drunk and spiteful, still dressed as a kinky nurse, and embarrasses Adrian in front of his clients.
Harriet makes an angry comment about not knowing what Adrian likes, before she storms upstairs. In one of the few laugh-out-loud moments of this episode, he tells Harriet he’ll “be up in a minute”, to which she snaps back, “chance would be a fine thing.” Adrian goes down to his cellar and locks himself in. It’s at this point that we get the first big reveal of the episode. Adrian makes himself a Pot Noodle, which Harriet buys for him because he says they are convenient for when he’s working. He moves some furniture to reveal a door, and we see a hand reach out for the Pot Noodle from the darkness. What at first seemed to be an episode about an excruciatingly loveless marriage suddenly takes a very dark turn, as Adrian unfastens his trousers and closes the secret door behind him.
In one last-ditch attempt to rekindle their relationship, Harriet presents Adrian with tickets to Paris for his birthday. Adrian immediately panics – the thought of being away from home for an extended period obviously causes some logistical problems when you have a sex slave locked up in your cellar. Adrian innocently asks Harriet if she took out travel insurance in case one of them couldn’t go on the trip for some reason, and when she confirms that she took out insurance, he throws himself down the cellar stairs, ending up in a bloody heap at the bottom.
The next scene shows Harriet doing a jigsaw, and the newlywed couple we met earlier return with a thank you gift for Adrian. Harriet informs them that Adrian has died, leading to yet another awkward scene where, despite Harriet’s obvious raw grief, the couple drop hints about wanting to buy the house if she ever decides to sell. They leave, and a cleaning lady enters the room – Agnes, the cleaning lady who Harriet thought Adrian had sacked nine years previously, but who instead has been locked in the cellar for all that time. In one final gruesome detail, it’s revealed that he fathered a son with her, and gave him the name he’d chosen for a boy when he and Harriet had been trying for a baby.
In a glorious final twist, we see the young boy take a Pot Noodle down to the cellar and open the secret room where he and his mother were once kept prisoner. Adrian is not dead after all, and now it is him who reaches out from the darkness. Harriet takes her wedding vows very seriously – until death us do part.
I love the grim, darker episodes of Inside No.9, so this one was a big hit with me. I’m fascinated with serial killers and other assorted monsters who are always said to have seemed so normal before their crimes were revealed, and Steve Pemberton really tapped into that for the character of Adrian. I don’t know quite how Pemberton and Shearsmith get me to be so invested in characters that I only see for a brief thirty minute story, but I get sucked in every time, and I absolutely loved Harriet and Agnes getting such fitting revenge. Enjoy your noodles, Adrian…