Inside No. 9 – ‘Diddle Diddle Dumpling’

Series 3, Episode 5


The number 9 isn’t the door number this time, it’s a shoe size, with the shoe being a huge part of the plot.

It’s spring, and David (Reece Shearsmith) is out jogging, when he spots a single shoe left on the grass on the pavement just outside his house. It looks brand new and there are no signs of damage. There’s also the fact that it is one shoe rather than a pair. Why is it here?

He puts it on the garden wall, and goes inside. He lives with his wife Louise (Keeley Hawes) and they have a child, a daughter named Sally (Rosa Studwick).

David brings the shoe inside saying someone might come back for it. He later prints off 20 posters saying he will give reward money to whoever the shoe belongs to hoping they will get in contact and collect it. Louise is beginning to think he’s going a little far with it. She also says a friend of the couple, Chris (Steve Pemberton), might come over and suggests he could help David get a job similar to what he did before, implying that David isn’t currently employed.

It’s now summer, and Chris is visiting. It’s been three months since David found the shoe, and far from forgetting about it, he has become increasingly obsessed with the shoe, to the point where Louise is getting stressed about it. When he can’t find it, she says she has thrown it away. He goes through the bin and brings it back.  It’s revealed that he has created a website and has been asking the police for CCTV footage. He wants to get the media involved, have celebrities talking about it, get it trending on Twitter as “#thelostshoe”. Louise is frustrated and worried about David’s behaviour, and Chris even times how long David can go without talking about the shoe, and it’s less than a minute. David says at one point the shoe and its pair “deserve to be together”.

Louise tells Chris that David hasn’t been well,  and Chris is quite understanding about it. There appears to be an unspoken acknowledgement that something else is going on.

Eventually a man named Ted (Matthew Baynton) comes about the shoe. He says he’s from Norfolk and was down here for a wedding, one of the shoes must have fallen out of his bag. David asks a lot of questions and has Ted describe the shoe in detail and pick the tread from photographs, and even throws in a trick question, asking the colour of the laces when it doesn’t have any, it’s a slip on. Ted answers them all, and even has the other shoe with him. David seems distraught to be letting the shoe go.

It’s autumn, and David appears to be in work again. Sally rehearses a role in a school assembly in front of him, which Louise seems uneasy about. Sally has to recite a nursery rhyme called ‘Diddle Diddle Dumpling’ which is where the title is taken from. Some particularly noteworthy parts of the rhyme for this episode are “Diddle diddle dumpling my son John” and “one shoe off, one shoe on”.

In winter, Louise finds the shoe on the grass again. She goes in and David has been going through photographs, receipts and paperwork. He says he has found a photo of Louise’s college days, with Ted in there, and also a receipt from a few days before Ted arrived for a shoe matching the description of the one he found. Louise confesses that yes, she set all that up, but it was to help David get over the shoe.

David says, what we all probably suspect by this point, that it was never really about the shoe. Six years ago the couple’s son, Joseph, died. He was Sally’s twin, but she doesn’t remember him. Louise notices to her horror that David has blood on his hands, literally. David tells her that he went to Norfolk and got the shoe back from Ted. Ted apparently didn’t want to give the shoe back, saying David was being unreasonable. David can’t remember what happened next. There is the sound of police sirens outside…

A close-up to the set of family photographs at the end zooms in on a picture of David with two twin babies. It then zooms in on one of his shoes. It’s the shoe that he found. In the end credits, we see CCTV footage of how the shoe ended up outside their house in the first place. David put it there himself.

The very strong implication is that David killed Ted. There has also been speculation from viewers that he killed Sally too, with his comments that “They [Joseph and Sally] should be together”. That would make the second set of brother and sister twins in this series of Inside No. 9 in which at least three of the individuals met an early death.

‘Diddle Diddle Dumpling’ is one of the most interesting episodes from directing point of view. The director was Guillem Morales, who directed all episodes in series 3 apart from ‘The Devil Of Christmas’.

In ‘Diddle Diddle Dumpling’ there are two of many things on opposite sides of a room. The door number is 22. (2 the number, and the fact that 22 is 2 numbers both of which are 2… if that makes sense). There are 2 jam jars, 2 lamps, 2 chairs on opposite ends of rooms, 2 hare bookends. (I’ve not mentioned it before, but they have a small hare figure hidden in every single episode of Inside No. 9. I haven’t been very good at finding them, but this one was easy.) At one point, the meals on David and Louise’s plates are set out identically.

The episode makes use of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, with the time passing being represented by the Vivaldi music for each season, and every season is also represented by pictures drawn by Sally.

I liked that line about how Oxfam didn’t take the Angelina Ballerina videos because nobody has VHS players anymore. I used to work in a charity shop seven years ago, and they didn’t take videos back then for that same reason, so I’m guessing they sure as hell don’t now!

Inside No. 9 has been compared generally to another dark comedy-drama anthology series, Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror. The two episodes of Inside No. 9 which remind me most of Black Mirror are ‘Diddle Diddle Dumpling’ and ‘The 12 Days Of Christine’. I’m not
sure why really, whether it’s the more domestic setting or that both ‘The 12 Days Of Christine’ and ‘Diddle Diddle Dumpling’ are a lot more drama than comedy.

‘Diddle Diddle Dumpling’ saw one of Reece Shearsmith’s best performances. Keeley Hawes was very good too. However, I don’t think it’s the strongest episode to be honest. It’s well acted and directed, but it feels a little slight somehow, which is very odd as apparently quite a few scenes had to be cut for time.

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