That Time A British Halloween Special Beat 'Black Mirror' At Its Own Game
So I guess by now, we as a civilization are in agreement that Netflix’s run with Black Mirror hasn’t achieved the quality of the first two BBC seasons (yes, and its Christmas special, we know). Sure, the Netflix version has had its highs, but in terms of consistency, the show hasn’t surpassed those tight, suspenseful, challenging, mind-bending first seasons, instead being Flanderized into the ‘technology is evil’ gimmick to its own detriment. In this context, those out of the loop might be surprised that another British anthology -- in this case, a dark comedy that also veers into drama and horror -- pulled a twist on the gimmick with a bunch of new ideas and tricks that Black Mirror couldn’t have done. We’re talking about the show (excuse us, programme) Inside No. 9:
This is just the first episode, but does its Halloween special give you the heebie-jeebies like Black Mirror never could? No major spoilers in the following, but holy crap, it does.
Created by comedy theater nerds Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton, Inside No. 9 began airing in 2014, and besides its creators, it stars a bunch of British ‘hey, I know that face!’ faces you probably, erm, know. Always under the shadow of that other landmark anthology show, this plot-twisty series quickly gained a cult following even if that popularity hasn’t crossed over to American audiences (too busy watching NCIS: Bachelorette Housewives of Corporate Propaganda, we assume, absolutely confident we’re not wrong). Alright, but let’s get to the good stuff: the spooks.
In 2018, right between its fourth and fifth seasons, Inside No. 9 did a Halloween special titled ‘Dead Line.’ Here’s the gist of it and why it’s so damn good even without any major spoilers. First, unlike the rest of the show, the episode was live, so you were watching what was actually happening -- yes, exactly the remake of Fail Safe, which we are sure every Cracked reader knows by heart.
Moreover, articles on different platforms had set the stage for it weeks in advance: mentioning it would be the show’s scariest episode, that it was going to be broadcasted from the abandoned, haunted Granada Studios (it wasn’t actually performed there), and finally, that its chilling plot would revolve around Pemberton finding a cell phone next to a cemetery and deciding to track its owner to spooooky results.
Scared yet? Well, yeah, that’s not that scary. Alright, very light spoilers now (and it’s all you get, got it?). Remember we mentioned it was a live show? The important bit is that the plot just mentioned above isn’t really it -- it’s the bait.
Now, let us be very, very clear: even if you were to be like, ‘alright Talbert, you Dionysian bastard, I’ll watch it immediately,’ we’d still have to warn you that no, don’t watch it just yet, as there are a few episodes worth watching beforehand -- first, because they’re chilling, creepy, and awesome, and second, because, well, just trust us, wink wink.
Indeed, watching some episodes before ‘Dead Line,’ especially Season 1’s ‘A Quiet Night In,’ is really important if you wanna turn off the lights and get that sweet tingling down your spine. We’ll just leave with this: the episode is so confident in out Black Mirror-ing Black Mirror, that it even allows itself to throw its one and only casual reference to that show. Almost as if it knew its intersection of bleakness and technology had given the genre’s Big Kahuna a run for its money. So yeah, go discover the show; Season 7 just came out this year! (Ugh, gee, sorry, Series 7).