There are several irresistible TV ideas that will continue to be produced until the end of time: “coppers – what if one was actually good?”; “brilliant detective solves a murder while still grieving their deceased child”; “we’re incompatible as a couple…unless?”; and, of course, “I’m a renegade spy”. These shows will never cease production and I will happily continue to watch them. Thus, I am eagerly anticipating the third season of Slow Horses, premiering on Apple TV+ on Friday, December 1st.
The quality of Slow Horses is impressive. We should discuss it frequently. Gary Oldman’s performance as Jackson Lamb is outstanding – he portrays him as a repulsive character with greasy hair and a red, pore-filled nose, stumbling around like a bulbous garlic. The rest of the cast is also excellent, with Kristin Scott Thomas playing an elegant yet mischievous matriarch, Jack Lowden as a strong and witty man who can both fight and deliver clever lines, Christopher Chung as the slimy computer expert Roddy Ho, and Kadiff Kirwan who has always been a likable presence in any role.
It would be simple for a British espionage story in its third installment to become convoluted – with too many layers of backstory, too much reliance on code words, and too much pressure to increase the intensity of chase scenes. However, Slow Horses manages to maintain its composure. The action scenes are appropriately thrilling without devolving into exaggerated gunfights. The puzzle-solving moments are plausible for a clever individual to decipher. The protagonist, Oldman, communicates through a worn-out mobile phone while eating a kebab and casually reveals that he already knew the information hours ago. The characters are just concerned enough about time and there is a good balance of realistic dialogue amidst all the espionage. When characters jump from high places, they actually sustain injuries. While spy thrillers have become increasingly reliant on technology in recent years, it’s doubtful that anyone at Slough House is familiar with modern apps.
The appeal of Slow Horses, a series about a team of demoted MI5 spies who make mistakes on the job, may lie in their frequent mess-ups. While watching a perfect super-spy in a movie can be enjoyable, seeing one out of breath and making mistakes on the sofa is more entertaining. Jack Lowden’s character, with the seemingly unrealistic name “River Cartwright,” is a great self-saboteur who is always getting caught by enemies or despised by his former colleagues. Each episode, which lasts an hour, moves quickly and strikes the right balance between spy action and characters complaining about their jobs. The gritty London setting adds to the overall enjoyment of the show.
What is happening in this series? The usual plot: one person wants a file, another refuses to give it, there are sudden phone calls, someone is tied up, there’s a secret, a reveal of “I can’t let you get away with that,” a fake sniper red-dot, quick punches, and an urgent meeting on a bridge. Gary Oldman follows a tail, turns a corner, and gasps. It may seem cliché, but Slow Horses is actually quite charming – the conversations between characters during kidnapping attempts are well-written and add depth to the story, making it easy to overlook any overused spy tropes. Creating good TV isn’t that difficult, is it? All it takes is reviving an old genre with talented actors and maybe throwing in a thrilling car chase. If someone could do that next year with a storyline like “Starting fresh in a new house, but the new neighbor seems suspicious,” that would be greatly appreciated.