I still think the only flaw of this excellent series has been the order of the episodes. It hit such a high at the start of series four with the excellently written ode to Shakespeare, Zanzibar, and the unexpectedly heartbreaking Bernie Clifton’s Dressing Room, that every episode which followed felt like it wasn’t quite as good. To Have and to Hold was excellently dark, and had a great twist, but the best episodes were all definitely in the first half of the series.
That’s not to say that Tempting Fate was anything other than thirty minutes of great TV, but I think I’d have scheduled it earlier in the run, as I don’t think it was strong enough to round off such an excellent series.
Tempting Fate tells the story of three cleaners sent into a hoarder’s flat (flat number 9, obviously) to clear it after the owner’s death. There are some funny references to 1980s pop culture, and plenty of Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith’s trademark dark humour. Pemberton and Shearsmith star as Keith (a bit of a jobsworth) and Nick (a recovering alcoholic), who are training less-than-enthusiastic new recruit Maz, played by Weruche Opia. The funniest lines in the episode all belong to the gloriously clueless Maz – at one point she refers to an overweight woman as “a beast” instead of “obese”.
The cleaning job takes a weird turn when Maz and Nick discover a locked safe which contains a video tape and a hare ornament. The video tape turns out to be a suicide note from Frank, the owner of the flat. He tells them to destroy the ornament because, despite the fact that it will grant wishes, it will bring upon them a terrible curse. It seems Frank wished to be rich, won the lottery, and then was plagued by terrible misfortune, ultimately ending in his death. Nick is spooked, but Maz wastes no time wishing for a big stack of money, which Keith duly uncovers hidden in a Monopoly box. But the curse turns out to be true, and Maz immediately dies in a bizarre accident reminiscent of the board game Mouse Trap.
Horrified, Nick implores Keith to destroy the ornament and get rid of the money, but Keith hits him over the head with the hare. In a monologue that reminded me slightly of when the bad guy reveals his whole plan to James Bond as he rigs an improbable trap for him, Keith reveals that he heard about Frank’s lottery win and killed him in order to make off with his fortune to pay for his sick son’s medical treatment.
Keith knocks out a gas pipe and prepares to tie up all the loose ends before he makes his escape, but then Frank, who is supposedly dead, shambles into the kitchen complaining of being hungry. It seems that one of his wishes was to live forever and so, despite numerous attempts, he can’t die. Meanwhile, Nick has regained consciousness and has used their final wish for something unselfish, thinking this would lift the curse – he’s wished for Keith’s son to be cured and, sure enough, the boy appears to show his father that he has made a miraculous recovery. But it’s too late, and Keith realises that Frank is about to turn on the cooker and blow them all sky high.
This old-fashioned morality tale was hugely entertaining, but not a classic. I still feel like the tragicomedy Bernie Clifton’s Dressing Room would have been a more fitting final episode, as the rest of this series never managed to quite return to those heights.
But the good news is that Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith will be returning to number 9 for a fifth series, and I’m already looking forward to finding out who’s lurking behind the door next time.