Inside No. 9: “Mulberry Close” Delivers a Darkly Comic Take on True Crime and Suburban Life

A twist-filled episode that satirises our fascination with suburban murder mysteries and true crime documentaries.

Inside No 9 Mulberry Close
Inside No 9: Mulberry Close (Image Credit: BBC)

Mulberry Close,” the third episode of the ninth season of the acclaimed anthology series Inside No. 9, offers a darkly comic take on suburban life and the true crime genre. With its unique narrative approach and unexpected twists, this episode delivers a fresh and satirical viewing experience.

The episode is almost entirely framed through the lens of a video doorbell, capturing the lives of the residents of Mulberry Close, a seemingly idyllic suburban street. We are introduced to a young couple, Damon (Reece Shearsmith) and Val (Vinette Robinson), who have just moved into number 9, and their presence soon disrupts the peaceful dynamic among the close-knit neighbors.

Sheila (Dorothy Atkinson) and Ken (Steve Pemberton), living across the road at number 8, are portrayed as a nosy pair, irritated by the new couple’s lifestyle and garden gnomes. Larry (Adrian Scarborough), who lives next door, completes this quirky community.

However, the tranquil surface of Mulberry Close soon cracks, revealing a darker underbelly. Eerie sounds emanate from number 9, including frequent arguments and mysterious nocturnal noises. When Val suddenly disappears, the locals, led by Sheila and Ken, are quick to suspect foul play. Their suspicions are heightened by the appearance of a man wearing a skeleton mask outside the house, adding a chilling layer of intrigue.

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Here, the episode subverts expectations. In a drunken twist, we learn that the man in the skeleton mask is merely Damon returning from a Halloween stag party. This false alarm sets the tone for the episode’s satirical take on the true crime genre and the audience’s—and characters’—eagerness to jump to conclusions.

Sheila, Ken, and Larry’s bungled break-in attempt, fueled by their self-appointed neighborhood watch duties, descends into farce and highlights the comic talents of the ensemble cast. Despite their growing conviction of Damon’s guilt, their suspicions are ultimately misdirected.

In a shocking reveal, it is Larry who snaps and commits a brutal murder. Val’s life is tragically taken by a brick to the head, driven by Larry’s mistaken belief that she poisoned his dog, Popcorn.

Yet, the episode is not done with surprises. In a meta-twist, we discover that the doorbell camera footage has been used to create a Netflix-style true crime documentary, titled The Mulberry Close Murders, narrated by Michael Ball. This clever device satirizes the voyeuristic appeal of true crime and the proliferation of sensationalised suburban murder stories on streaming platforms.

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The episode “Mulberry Close” is, in my opinion, a standout installment in the Inside No. 9 anthology. The black comedy and clever writing shine through, offering a fresh and satirical take on the true crime and suburban life genres. The technical execution is impressive, creating a unique and engaging narrative experience. However, I do share the criticism that the use of the “fridging*” trope feels unnecessary and could have been handled with more narrative sensitivity. The treatment of Val’s character, while serving the story’s twist, adds to the ongoing discussion about the portrayal of women in similar narrative contexts.

It may be in it’s last season but Inside No. 9 continues to challenge expectations, ensuring its place as one of Britain’s most innovative comedy-drama series.

Inside No 9: Mulberry Close aired on BBC Two on Wednesday 22 May, 2024.

*”Fridging” is a literary trope and narrative device in which a character, often a female character, is killed, assaulted, maimed, or otherwise harmed, primarily to serve as a plot device or to motivate another character’s journey. The term was coined by comic book writer Gail Simone in 1999, inspired by an infamous scene in the comic book Green Lantern where the hero finds his girlfriend murdered and stuffed inside a refrigerator.

Andrew Martins, reviewer, recapper, deep diver, scifi specialist. Thinks Blakes 7 is better than Star Trek. Yes I do go to fan conventions and no I don't dress up. Well okay maybe I do a bit.