‘Psychoville’: Series 2 Episode 5 review

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When is a sitcom not a sitcom? When the Venn diagram of situation to comedy is balanced heavily in favour of the non-funny bits? This certainly seems to be the case with Psychoville as it nears the end of its second series.

You’d think, of course, that an absence of obvious gags would signal some kind of failing – but far from it. This displays a great confidence in the story telling, demonstrating that the Psychoville boys’ secret weapon has always been favouring character over the odd knob gag. Although, to be fair, there’s a few knob gags here, too. And all of them odd.

As the locket gets shunted from one character to the next (as Imelda Stauton comments, ‘It’s like pass-the-bloody-parcel’), the stakes get ever higher for the surviving characters, to such an extent that there’s not really enough room for jokes. So much so that in one sequence, when someone is seen dancing disco with a corpse, your reaction isn’t the usual mixture of being disturbed and finding it hilarious, but simply to find it all strangely moving.

As the characters get less, the situation gets more densely plotted, which allows Reece Shearsmith to again play what appears to be something of a party trick (playing one character who, in turn, is impersonating another) and further the clues within the narrative. In some ways, there are no surprises now – we have more than enough information to have a good guess as to what (used to be) inside the locket, but the fun is watching the survivors stumble upon the awful truth for themselves.

Along the way, Mr Jelly finally, briefly, becomes a complete man, and, finally, is addressed by his correct title – but isn’t able to appreciate it at the time – while we learn a great deal more about the origins of The Silent Singer, which seem to have been inspired, however improbably, by A Beautiful Mind via The Shawshank Redemption.

Meanwhile, Michael (Tealeaf to me and you) is faced with a twist which he meets with the grim expression of one who’s always known how things will turn out, and David’s family dynamic shifts in such a way that you’re left wondering if he’s in any way really relevant to the ongoing storyline.

The final death in this episode (yes, there are more than one) is not entirely unexpected – there have been hints littered throughout the last couple of episodes – but it still manages to be shocking, unfair and sad. There are many more questions than can possibly be comfortably answered in next week’s final episode and that’s probably all to the good: at least it suggests that there’ll be a third series (even if the ratings sadly suggest otherwise). But before that, there’s a locket to retrieve. And as this episode ends, you suddenly realise there’s a very good chance that those you’ve dismissed as the bad guys might be the only ones you can trust.

Airs at 10pm on Thursday 2nd June 2011 on BBC Two.

> Order the Series 2 DVD on Amazon.