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Recap / Inside No 9 S 6 E 5 How Do You Plead

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The best criminal defence barrister in England, Webster (Derek Jacobi), is slowly dying. His only friend is the kindly nurse Urban Bedford (Reece Shearsmith), but as they spend a long, dark night together, both learn there is more to the other than meets the eye.


Tropes include:

  • The Atoner: Urban got into nursing because of his ongoing guilt over killing a classmate he had bullied.
  • Background Body Part: The lift attendant is positioned amongst Webster's balloons in a way that looks like horns.
  • Be All My Sins Remembered: Urban is extremely insistent that he doesn't deserve Webster's praise because of his past cruelty. It actually saves his soul.
  • A Birthday, Not a Break: Justified. Webster's Deal with the Devil stipulates that his soul gets collected on his birthday.
  • Blood Oath: Webster signed the amendment to his contract with the Devil in blood, and does so again to amend the terms.
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  • Chekhov's Gunman: The elevator operator, innocuously introduced in the opening scene, turns out to be the Devil.
  • Chromosome Casting: All the characters are men. (Although Steve Pemberton plays the Devil, who seems fairly exempt from gender, but appears here as a man.)
  • Compartment Shot: Urban fetching the hatbox is shown from inside the cupboard.
  • Convenient Photograph: Feigned. Webster managed to find a photograph of one of his clients at a party at the same time he was supposed to be murdering his wife. It turned out that he murdered his wife, and that photograph came from The Devil.
  • Daydream Surprise: Urban's Past Experience Nightmare is only revealed to be a dream when we see him wake up from it. Apparently, he's been Plagued by Nightmares since the incident.
  • Deal with the Devil: The plot is based around Webster having made a literal deal with the Devil years ago in exchange for success in his career.
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  • Didn't See That Coming: Webster's plan to exchange Urban's soul for his own relies on Urban being the good and pure person Webster has always interacted with. Webster certainly wasn't expecting him to actually be a murderer, albeit a regretful one. You wouldn't normally even expect for a Camp Gay to have been the school bully.
  • Enfant Terrible: Urban, who killed a classmate aged 13, was this.
  • Frivolous Lawsuit: Webster seems to have had a history of these. When Urban asks how Webster would hypothetically get him acquitted for kidnapping and shooting his ex-wife at their daughter's birthday party, Webster says he would spin it as an accident and sue the company that sold the party balloons.
  • Gay Best Friend: Urban meets a lot of the specifications: he's Webster's Only Friend, although he's technically paid to spend time with him, he is extremely Camp Gay, we learn everything about Webster's background and hardly anything about his, and he puts a lot of work into lightening the mood. But there is a lot more to him.
  • Hairpin Lockpick: Urban opens the drawer with a hairpin. Lampshaded by him:
    "Just like in the films."
  • Hellevator: The Devil has been Webster's lift attendant for decades, and at the end, he takes him down in it.
  • Homage: The orange hitting the door in front of the troubled Urban is a reference to the red ball in The Changeling.
  • Ignored Confession: Urban outright tells Webster that his niceness is just a front to balance out his bad deeds. The old man doesn't pick up on the clue.
  • Kill the Lights: The devil creates a city-wide power outage shortly before midnight which makes the situation scarier. Even Urban's candle dies when the evil one enters the apartment.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Urban's instant reaction to stuffing an orange down a classmate's throat.
  • Please Don't Leave Me: Webster pleads Urban to stay with him when the lights go out shortly before midnight. It's only after the reveal that his true motive for this request becomes apparent.
  • Power Outage Plot: The fuse is tripped in Webster's apartment and the whole climax takes place in darkness.
  • Punny Name: Urban thinks that Webster is talking about "a weight" when he refers to Andrew Waite - but it is the first case that he won and why he sold his soul to the Devil.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: When the lift attendant's eyes turn red, Urban realises just who he is.
  • Reformed Bully: Urban used to be a school bully but mended his ways after the trauma of accidentally killing a classmate who confronted him.
  • Scare Chord: Plays during the Nightmare Sequence when the schoolboy reaches out for Urban.
  • See You in Hell: When Urban says he'll "be seeing" Webster, the Devil replies "you certainly will", indicating Urban is still going to hell despite his efforts to atone for his actions.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Tear Up the Contract: The devil tears the contract into pieces at the end when it's revealed that Urban doesn't work as a substitute for Webster.
  • This Isn't Heaven: A variant. In response to Webster yelling "Oh God!" in shock, the Devil calmly replies, "I'm afraid not."
  • The Three Faces of Adam:
    • The lift attendant is the Hunter, although he doesn't fear the future. He's constantly on the lookout for new souls to devour.
    • Webster is the prophet, who is looking back on his life and doing anything to stave off going to Hell.
    • Urban is the lord, who is trying to atone for the terrible crime he committed in the past by being a saintly person.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Urban tries to rescue Webster from Hell. In return, Webster tries to substitute Urban for him in Hell.
  • When the Clock Strikes Twelve: That's when the Devil will come to collect Webster.
  • Whole Plot Reference: To Dr Faustus.

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