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Review of season three of Slow Horses – Kristin Scott Thomas delivers an outstanding performance.


If you are not familiar with the type of espionage series that Slow Horses is, then the Bond-inspired chase scene in the streets of Istanbul at the start of season three will clarify it for you. A woman is running to deliver a mysterious document with the potential to change the world, while being pursued by her athletic lover. The action begins on foot and then moves to the water, adding to the high-end, well-funded excitement. As they switch to cars to maneuver through narrow streets, they do not use flashy sports cars or sleek motorcycles, but instead opt for a practical silver estate and a dirty hatchback.

The focus of Slow Horses is the gritty allure. After the excitement of the previous season, we catch up with the least important members of MI5 at Slough House, who are all stuck in different levels of monotony. River (played by Jack Lowden), who just can’t seem to catch a break, is back to the dull task of organizing boxes filled with seemingly insignificant paperwork. Meanwhile, Standish (Saskia Reeves) can only watch and tell him to stop complaining about it. Shirley and Louisa are both separately attempting to get drunk and find random hookups, while Ho and Marcus are hindering their efforts. Kristin Scott Thomas delivers a superbly snobby performance, almost bored to death as she utters lines like: “Just show me the way to the nearest exit.”

Gary Oldman as Jackson Lamb in season three of Slow Horses.

Next, we are introduced to Lamb (played by Gary Oldman), who is portrayed as a disruptive and unpleasant presence in the waiting room of a prestigious private doctor. His flatulence and sleeping behavior offend the refined clientele around him. This is characteristic of the Slow Horses approach: the main character is a messy, indulgent individual who loves kebabs, cigarettes, and alcohol, and claims to be inept at his job, but in reality is surprisingly skilled. Lamb is there for his mandatory medical check-up, which leads to entertaining discussions with his doctor about his lifestyle choices. Ultimately, Lamb declares himself to be a powerhouse.

Soon, these wandering spies realize they crave an exciting, intense mission worthy of true spies to tackle. The aftermath of the mysterious pursuit through Istanbul seems like the perfect starting point. While the initial episode focuses on humor surrounding the chaotic nature of the Slow Horses, things take a serious turn when one of their own is taken hostage. The team must join forces to uncover the truth and come up with a solution.

There is a contradiction present in this situation, as the focus is on incompetent spies. “You all are as helpful as a paper condom,” Lamb comments at one point, while the MI5 agents granted entry to the official building still view them as unqualified and childish spies. However, the Slow Horses, including River, are actually quite skilled, while those surveilling them are the true poor spies.

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In London, Lamb is being followed by a man who stands out like a cartoon character. Even though the man is dressed in a conspicuous manner, Lamb handles the situation with ease. The only time I question Louisa’s judgement is when she expresses surprise at the high cost of coffee in London, wondering if the coffee beans are flown in first class. This leads me to believe that the filming may have taken place in 2010. While Oldman and Scott Thomas are both famous and respected actors, they play supporting roles in this production, similar to how A-list actors often lead TV shows without appearing in every episode. However, as acclaimed actors, their performances are still enjoyable to watch.

As always, Slow Horses is a pleasure. It’s big, bold and unapologetically daft. It wallows in the traditions of a regular spy drama like a pig in muck, throwing in a subplot (or is it?) about a single diamond, missing from the haul of season two. There are anonymous letters and secret meetings and those red dots that make it clear a sniper has a gun trained on someone. There are plenty of big twists and loads of chase sequences, even if they are carried out in vehicles that are more practical for the school run than high-stakes secret service stuff. Yet there’s a layer of self-deprecation that keeps it lively and fresh. It is funny and crude, but tense and gripping, and as such, it is a roundly entertaining, solid spy thriller.

Source: theguardian.com