Inside No. 9 Series 8 Delivers Its Most Distressing Ending Yet

Nobody deserves the pain of “The Last Weekend”. Spoilers.

Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith as Joe and Chas in Inside No. 9 episode 'The Last Weekend'
Photo: BBC Studios

Warning: spoilers for Inside No. 9 series 8 episode 6 “The Last Weekend”.

Locked inside a burning wardrobe, paralysed by Puffa fish venom and cannibalised while still alive, decapitated by a magician’s guillotine, savaged by vampire attack, frozen to death in the elements, sacrificed in a Pagan ritual, bludgeoned, shot, and sliced up on camera… In almost 50 episodes, Inside No. 9 has played out a great many nauseating deaths. “The Last Weekend” though, takes the biscuit – honey and oat, obvs.

It started as the touching story of Chas and Joe (Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton once again playing lovers, as they did in this show’s first ever episode “Sardines”), a couple celebrating their ninth anniversary in a remote Scottish holiday cabin. Elegiac title “The Last Weekend” though, plus scenes labelled for each of the five stages of grief, signalled that there was more to these two than met the eye, which turned out to be very much the case. Joe, we were led to believe, had prostate cancer. Chas was facing losing the man he loved, and Joe was facing his own death. 

Another heartstring-tugging Inside No. 9 episode then, one more about real drama than grotesque surprises? No no no no no no no. This was classic Inside No. 9 in all its horrid glory. The story-behind-the-story was that Joe had caught Chas in his trap nine years ago and had spent the intervening time torturing him to make him press pause on life. As Molly said in a cheeky bit of foreshadowing during the game of Monopoly “Joe’s cancer doesn’t exist”. 

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Joe’s cancer didn’t exist, and nor did their relationship – in Joe’s eyes at least. It was all a ruse he’d cooked up to torment Chas, whom Joe blamed for his teenage daughter’s suicide attempt, which left her in a nine-year coma from which she never awoke. After switching off Olivia’s life-support, Joe sought out Chas – a former pop star who’d sent his young fan spiteful and abusive messages online – in order to destroy him. 

Job done, judging by where we left Chas – cemented into a bathtub with only his milk and honey-covered face exposed, awaiting Scotland’s mozzie population and other local vermin to chew him to death. Inspired by the practice of “Scaphism”, Joe had orchestrated everything to lead up to this final confrontation: nine years of Chas’ life wasted to pay for nine years of Olivia’s.

Inside No. 9 fans being curious people, I can’t be alone in having Googled Scaphism after that episode and then very much wishing I hadn’t. There are elements to this purported ancient torture method – originally conducted with the victim not in a bathtub but as the meat in the middle of a rowboat sandwich – that went unmentioned in “The Last Weekend”. They involve the rowboat hollow filling up with the parasite-attracting results of force-feeding the victim for days at a time. It’s certainly enough to put you off quiche, served hot or otherwise. 

Revenge was a dish served extremely cold for Joe, in a story that demanded a gargantuan buy-in from the viewer. ‘Man driven mad by grief enacts complex vengeance scheme on enemy’? Okay. ‘Man driven mad by grief enacts complex vengeance scheme that relies on the successful seduction of, and establishment of nine-year relationship with, his enemy while maintaining a sustained cancer treatment charade and preparing to commit a baroque murder as well as pitching woo to a secret finance manager fiancée’ is a very big ask. (Lose the Mick story and you could better sell Joe as a simple madman. With her, the whole thing slides apart like a poorly layered moussaka.) 

A hindsight rewatch, as ever, lets you pick up on the script’s concealed subtext, and the hints that something nasty was on the way. References to being in the middle of nowhere, to Joe gaslighting Chas, to anger driving people insane, to Joe being nicknamed Nelly the elephant “because he never forgets”, to Joe wanting to pay Chas back and give him what he deserves… Even the buzz of mosquitos between each scene becomes a sinister death knell.

How you answered this episode’s big ask will depend on how much store you set in plausibility when it comes to these devilish, compact, well-acted films. A lot and you might still be shaking your head at the screen. Barely at all, and the episode’s turn from sincere bereavement drama to extremely nasty revenge horror will have tickled you, as will have the return of the fan-favourite Reece and Steve dance routine. Ta-ra, Blue Jean Babies. See you for series nine.

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Inside No. 9 series 1-8 are available to watch on BBC iPlayer in the UK.