Warning: this review contains spoilers.
Last week’s first episode of Psychoville series two was a fabulous opening salvo, and ended on a superbly unexpected jab of horror, in which poor, delusional Joy got a pencil in the neck from a mysterious Scottish detective – I don’t know about you, but I definitely see that one coming.
This week opens with a tantalising first glimpse not only of erstwhile actor Robert trapped in a rickety wooden cage – a fate that I’d almost forgotten had befallen him, to be honest – but also the fabled locket that was the frequent talking point in last week’s opener. It’s a decidedly weird opening sequence, as Robert makes his escape while his captors argue over flat leaf parsley and Haribo.
Meanwhile, Hattie’s pressed into her marriage of convenience – a situation that will almost certainly drive her to breaking point in the next few episodes or sooner. Of all the new characters introduced so far in this new series of Psychoville, she’s perhaps the one I’ve been less taken with, but the moment when she strode earnestly down the aisle to the strains of Martine McCutcheon’s This Is My Moment was absolutely golden.
My favourite character, though, is undoubtedly grouchy old Oscar Lomax. He receives a weird series of objects through the post, including a radio ham (a radio stuffed into an actual cut of ham) and the final page of a book, triggering a series of reminiscences that appear to have something to do with comic actor Tony Hancock. Great though all the characters are in Psychoville, Lomax is surely the most engagingly lugubrious.
It’s another densely packed episode – more densely packed than last week’s opener, in fact, with events constantly switching between the apparently incidental (Mr Jelly’s hilariously inept mind reading attempt at a local pub) to the homicidal (the Sowerbutts’ bungled attempt to murder their nut intolerant quarry, Robin). The latter scene leads to one of the funniest (and politically incorrect) moments in the episode, as Maureen bursts into the kitchen dressed as Tina Turner.
So densely packed is this second episode that things can become a little confusing at times, with laugh out loud moments – Grace Andrews’ continued demands for advanced technology in her office, or the exchange between Reece Shearsmith’s snippy librarian and a forgetful old lady – contrasted with quickly related plot points and blink and you’ll miss them gags.
There is, however, a fabulous cameo from John Landis as a ruthless film director, and it’s good to see Christopher Biggins once again playing himself, and Daisy Haggard back as dizzy actress Debbie Hart, the girl who’s unwittingly taken ownership of the locket that is the focus of so much anxious searching.
Then again, this is the second episode in a row that has ended with the death of a fairly central character, and this week it was the turn of Robert, reintroduced just minutes before, to fall foul of the Scottish detective – or so it would seem, since the homicide didn’t actually occur on screen. With characters being offed at the rate of one per week so far, who’s going to survive until the end of the series?
Psychoville’s writers are excellent at book ending moments of humour with moments of horror or pathos. The moment where David accidentally told his mother Maureen that she’s terminally ill (while she’s still in her Tina Turner outfit) is a touching one, though diminished somewhat by their guest’s flatulent nut allergy. Hattie’s dignity, as she walked down the aisle in her marriage of convenience, was brilliantly played, too.
This was another great episode of Psychoville, then. Its last-minute murder didn’t go for the jugular in the way the first one did (and it’s sad to see Robert despatched so abruptly), but it was another superbly written and acted entry in a reliably entertaining series.
And, of course, there was that haunting, gesticulating spectre of doom once again, whose appearance still brings me out in hysterics. “Not now, Silent Singer!”
Read our review of the series premiere here.
Psychoville airs on BBC Two, Thursdays at 10pm.