Nobody’s safe. Anyone can die. There is no ‘main’ cast. And nobody is who they first appear to be.
We revise our earlier opinion on Hattie, for instance – of course we do. She’s not sweet, she’s a monster. But like all monsters from this stable, she still manages to be recognisably human. Her loneliness has forced her to be.
Meanwhile, our tortured librarian becomes ever more a sympathetic character as you realise that Jeremy Goode is desperately trying to be, well, good. In his exchange with Rachel – she who’s lost the book – he asks her ‘Do you ever see The Silent Singer?’, before confirming that he’s seen the figure a little too often lately, but hopes the return of the book will restore the balance. You realise two things as he says this: one, that he’s essentially a character straight out of a HP Lovecraft story, painfully attempting to keep the thin gauze of reality together – and, more disturbingly, that there’s a fair chance that he’s gone through all this before.
In many ways, he’s turning out to be something of a hero of this series – even if he’s one hero we’d never want to be saved by. There’s a good chance that you’ll find yourself laughing almost not at all during his scenes, faced with a demonic Britney Spears alongside a deeply upsetting, scratchy soundtrack, like angry depressed wasps inside his (and your) head.
The real strength of this series is that, although the hook might be Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith playing multiple characters, they’re brave and clever enough to give some really decent characters to other actors, making concrete the idea that there’s a ‘real’ world that actually makes sense just outside Psychoville and that these ‘real’ people don’t deserve to be trapped here.
In terms of the actual story arc, there seem to be some vague hints at a DNA storyline underpinning all of this (an idea not dispelled by the final shot), which, given the revelations within this episode, might end up referencing some of the more shlock horror films of the 1950s. The stakes are high, and there’s a real sense that time is running out for some of the characters. That the storyline itself is plotted so sharply, with twists and revelations so perfectly meted out, marks this as a superior comedy.
Airs at 10pm on Thursday 26th May 2011 on BBC Two.