REVIEW Inside Man (S1 E2/4)

It seems the first episode of Inside Man really divided viewers last night. Some loved it, and thought it was fresh and invigorating; some thought it was just plainly ridiculous and couldn’t buy some of the more fantastical and head-scratching elements of the plot.

Why, for instance, did priest Harry Watling (David Tennant) so readily accept a memory stick if he knew it might be dodgy from someone who was quite obviously disturbed? Why did he so quickly accept responsibility of what was on the memory stick, and instead just go to the police (surely a tech person could find out that the memory stick wasn’t his)? And why did he tell his wife and why did his wife so easily accept that he had assaulted and imprisoned their son’s maths tutor in the family home’s cellar? And one more… why does a prison warden not only turn a blind eye but actively encourage one of his death row inmates to solve cases from inside the prison?

All of these things really annoyed people. And the fact this was written and created by Steven Moffat – who always divides opinion anyway – adds up to a big-old jumble of opinions, some of them preconceived.

But here we are, and I found the first episode – flaws and all – to be really entertaining. It was high-concept and it was fun, darkly funny, macabre and posed some real moral dilemmas.

We started episode two in the prison, with Jefferson Grieff and Beth Davenport, the latter desperately trying to persuade him to look into the picture Janice Fife texted her as she was being assaulted by Watling. Grieff wasn’t keen on the case and turned things back onto Davenport – she could sit in on his next case and could write whatever she wanted, but as a consequence, she couldn’t utter another word about her ‘friend’.

Again, another little moral dilemma to chew over – would she forgo her friend’s safety for the advancement of her career? Davenport chose the former and began to get involved in another case of Grieff’s, acting as his eyes and ears out in the real world.

Back in Blighty things were tense in the Watling house, as you would imagine. Mary Watling (Lyndsey Marshall) had been drinking and actually thought it might be better to kill Janice Fife. She had googled methods and everything. How else would they get out of this mess?

Harry, meanwhile, set out to clear his name all with a deadline hanging over him – the next evening Janice Fife was due to Skype with her sister (a weekly chat she never missed). First, he attempted to get Edgar (where the memory stick came from in the first place) to admit it was his while recording the conversation.

It didn’t work and the disturbed verger denied ever owning the flash drive.

Watling even tried to elicit a confession in church wearing his full kit and caboodle.

And then another head-scratching moment – failing to get a confession, Harry Watling angrily asked Edgar to place the contents of the flash drive on his own laptop. Edgar couldn’t quite believe it and asked why on earth he would help him (he wasn’t the only one).

“Because I’m a fucking vicar,” he shouted. Harry Watling was willing to sacrifice himself to save his family AND to save Edgar.

That took some believing.

By the end of the episode, Edgar had taken his own life but his suicide note said that the vicar wasn’t a ‘pedo’ and he was protecting someone (I have a little theory about this, we’ll see if it comes to fruition… let’s just say I’m now wondering if Janice Fife is all she says she is).

The real bravura scene in this episode came when Mary went down to the cellar to share a bottle of whiskey (it might have been some other type of booze to be honest) with Janice Fife. Janice, it seems, had been thinking during her time in the cellar and tried to spring her own plans. First, she disarmed Mary Watling and offered to help her kill her, and then began some pretty impressive mind games by trying to turn Mary against her husband.

All interest, twisted and twisty-turny stuff and confident, bold writing.

But there was a problem with this episode, I thought – where episode one brought together the disparate, floating story strands, this one pulled them apart again. Grieff and Beth Davenport were solving a case in the US a la Sherlock, while Watling was doing something very different in the US. They didn’t quite fit together.

We’re promised that these two parts will re-fuse in episode three, and it’ll be all the better for it.

Paul Hirons

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

READ MORE: OUR EPISODE ONE REVIEW

Inside Man is on BBC One and iPlayer in the UK

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