Psychoville series 2 episode 3 review

Spoilers ahoy, as we delve deep into the third disturbingly funny episode of Psychoville, which proves to be the most unexpectedly tragic yet…

Warning: this review contains spoilers.

Dreadful, dreadful news, gentle reader. One of Psychoville‘s most well-drawn and loveable characters is dead. It’s an eerie coincidence that one commenter at the foot of last week’s review wrote, “They wouldn’t kill Lomax… would they?” But they have.

“Kill your darlings” is a piece of advice frequently given to writers, and it’s one that Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton appear to have taken to heart for this second series. Scottish detective Finney (if he is, indeed, a detective) has become the show’s very own angel of death, and Shearsmith and Pemberton have used him to dispatch a central cast member at the rate of one per week.

And as if the abrupt, bloody killings of Joy and Robert weren’t jarring enough, this week we have the shattering demise of poor Oscar Lomax to contend with, a traumatic moment whose shadow loomed large over the entire episode.

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But let me rewind a little. Elsewhere in the episode, all kinds of new strange details have come to light. Mr Jelly’s still pretending to be the late entertainer, Mr Jolly, which leads him to a posh country estate and straight into the middle of an illicit organ trafficking operation. It turns out that Mr Jolly had a sideline as a dodgy surgeon, a role Mr Jelly is ill equipped to fill. Does this plot strand have something to do with the mysterious Mr Mansour of Andrews Nanotech, whom Grace was seen talking to at the beginning of the episode?

Meanwhile, an unexpected phone call leads David to the person who’s been tormenting him with “I know what you did” notes. Remember Simon, the Haringey Council worker whom David confessed his crimes to at the end of the last series? In a scene that playfully references Hitchcock’s Strangers On A Train, we learn that he’s the tormentor, and that he has a plan that involves David killing a moderately wealthy relative.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about committing the perfect murder,” he says. “I have a great aunt who has a will that could leave me debt free for the first time since the credit crunch.”

David reluctantly agrees to the crime, but asks that, in return, Simon finds a way of ending the suffering of the former’s terminally ill mother, Maureen. “Criss cross,” David says, ominously.

Psychoville newcomer, Hattie, meanwhile, is becoming more sinister in each consecutive episode. Apparently unable to get her head around the fact that her new husband, Shahrouz, is entirely uninterested in her, Hattie makes repeated, fruitless attempts to seduce him. These overtures reach their zenith in the frankly hideous scene in which she’s seen, erm, “consummating” their relationship while he’s asleep in the bed next to her. I’m still trying to erase the moment from my mind.

Librarian Jeremy Goode, spurred on by the Lynchian gesticulations of the Silent Singer, is still in hot pursuit of his missing book. The scene in which he menaces a young girl with his talk of the Jabberwocky is inarguably the funniest in the episode. “Jabberwocky would like to read that book, Chloe,” he says grimly, with eerie light reflected in his glasses. “Would you like me to send him to your room to look for it?”

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For sheer comic delight, a brief yet joyous scene in a toyshop called Hoyti Toyti comes a close second, with Jason Watkins’ performance as its softly spoken proprietor a genuine highlight.

And then we come to the most unexpectedly sad strand of the entire episode. Oscar Lomax, we learn, is none other than Tony Hancock himself. But just as we’ve adjusted to the sight of a more clean-cut Oscar, wearing the trademark hat and coat from Hancock’s Half-Hour, along comes the evil detective, posing as Oscar’s estranged son, Billy, and hangs him.

It’s a moment where the black humour that has defined the series briefly evaporates, leaving an unusually affecting, even upsetting air in its place. If you’ve become as invested in the character of Oscar as I have, it will surely rank as the most hard hitting in any episode of Psychoville yet.

Horrid though it is, the death of Lomax does communicate an important message: that irrespective of their prominence in earlier episodes, no character is safe from the presence of the dark detective, or the ruthlessness of writers Shearsmith and Pemberton.

Read our review of episode 2 here.

Psychoville airs on BBC Two, Thursdays at 10pm.

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