Psychoville episode 3 review

Best series of the year so far? Mark certainly thinks so...

The third episode of what’s rapidly becoming my favourite TV show of the year was a cracker. Just the right amount of revelations to keep the main story ticking on; just the right number of hidden secrets to make them want to come back for more in a week’s time. Psychoville has been truly brilliant thus far and I’m already sucked in to the great mystery behind it all. Who is the black-clothed blackmailer? Who is the female who was killed? And could a clown look any scarier than Reese Shearsmith’s pitch-perfect Mr Jelly?

The series is beginning to really gather pace now after the scene-setting and character-bedding first couple of episodes and for the first time we caught a glimpse of how these people are all connected. An asylum was the scene, fittingly, for this black comedy, and we got to see nurse Joy, dwarf actor Robert, blind-eBayer Robert and serial killer David, all under the watchful eye of Mr Jolly. That’s Jolly, not Jelly, which was a key plot point of this episode.

It turns out that Mr Jelly wasn’t actually the intended recipient of the blackmailer’s scribblings after all and a simple mis-reading of an ‘O’ as an ‘E’ has turned the series on its head, at least as far as Mr Jelly’s role is concerned. It’s yet another example of the script’s cinematic leanings, one of my favourite aspects of the series. You can tell that Shearsmith and Pemberton love and understand cinema and that knowledge gives this show a style all of its own. It wouldn’t seem out of place on the big screen with bold colours, intelligent camera angles and superb set pieces abounding.

This was viewed no more so than in the episode’s opening gambit, Jelly’s nightmarish vision of being tried for his crimes (now understood to be Jolly’s) in Clown Court. As the clowns’ ultra-bright colours permeated the blacker-than-black backdrop, I couldn’t help but give a wry smile. This is intelligent, highly viewable comedy with a substantial amount of dramatic purpose thrown in.

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As for the other characters, Robert’s pursuit of the green alligator naturally ended in disappointment as the family that were selling it had misplaced it all of a sudden – look in your son’s backpack – and the interplay of his character with the Crabtree sisters was subtly done. Robert’s telekinetic powers ended up hurting the one he loves – the bitchy Snow White played wonderfully by Man Stroke Woman‘s Daisy Haggard – and David fries another victim. Was it just me or was the latest unfortunate a little, well, thick?

They were all playing second fiddle to the asylum revelation and Mr Jelly, though, and while the black comedy is clear throughout, I was most impressed by how the script throws in some of the broadest laughs you’ll ever see after 10pm. Mr Jelly’s fight with Mr Jolly in a jungle gym was a particular highlight, bubble guns and ball pits taking the place of actual weapons. It’s the way this pre-watershed humour is woven in to the decidedly post-watershed stuff that leaves me wanting more and it’s just one of the reasons why Psychoville is shaping up to be my favourite series of this year.

It’s dark, laugh out loud funny and has a plot to die for. Who’s next I wonder? Over to you, David.

Check out our review of episode 2 here.