Slow Horses – Season 1 Episode 1 “Failure’s Contagious” Recap & Review

Failure’s Contagious

Episode 1 of Slow Horses starts in an airport, as a flight is bound to depart for Marrakesh. An agent called Cartwright is in the middle of this and believes he’s spotted a terrorist. Diana Taverner, the woman overseeing this operation, gives the greenlight to apprehend their suspect. Tackling him to the ground, it turns out he’s the wrong guy.

The real culprit is on the other side of the airport, currently waiting to go through the biometric passport control. Given how fast he gets through those gates, it’s incredibly unrealistic (as anyone who has used these will tell you!)

Anyway, our suspect heads into the toilet near arrivals and seemingly swaps bags. With alarms wailing, Cartwright charges after him as he heads down to Stanstead International train station. He makes it in time and confronts the man….only for him to pull the string and blow the place sky high.

We then skip across to “MI-useless”, or Slough House as it’s affectionately referred to. This is a safehouse full of rejected MI5 agents, with Jackson Lamb fronting operations.

Golden girl Sid is the only one Lamb looks on favourably, while the rest just seem to be along for the ride, itching to get their hands dirty and get back in the field. For now, their job entails all the grimy, nasty work, including sifting through rubbish and scouring numerous data logs.

Their target is a man named Hobden, although Cartwright has been tasked with finding intel on Simmonds (we’ll circle back to that later.) For now, Sid manages to dupe Hobden into letting his guard down in a diner. After spilling tea over his laptop, she hastily grabs his USB stick and copies the files over.

Cartwright eventually finds himself confronted with his past, heading back to HQ. There, he meets Karl Unger (nicknamed Spider) who happens to be the man feeding him the wrong intel during the explosion in the train station. “Blue tee white shirt” were his words, which led to Cartwright messing up and being relegated to Slough House.

Now, it’s around this point we learn that the exhilarating incident we saw at the start of the episode was actually just a training exercise.

Back at Slough House, Cartwright begins watching videos of a right-wing nut job claiming that those coming over to the UK in their dinghies should be confronted by the Navy. Oh and that Britain should be kept British. Nope, it’s not Priti Patel, Home Secretary and Sith in training, it’s actually videos for a sleazy businessman called Greg Simmonds, giving a speech with a logo that looks very similar to that of the Tories. This show isn’t even being subtle is it?

MI5 believe that Simmonds has been funding hate groups and that’s why Cartwright has been so dead-set on finding him. However, Lamb soon puts him in his place, pointing out that after 5pm he has no business in the office. If he continues though, Lamb promises to make his life hell. River Cartwright heads back home and speaks to his grandfather, David.

Their conversation mainly revolves around Hobden and his past. Here, we learn he used to be a communist in his youth until he switched sides. According to David, a list was leaked about him donating to the British Patriotic Party – something Hobden believes the MI5 had uncovered.

Meanwhile, a young man is snatched off the streets by a group of hooded thugs that night. Bagged and tied up, he’s paraded on TV that morning, with a right-wing nationalist group by the name of Sons of Albion taking all the credit. They’re even promising to cut his head off by sunrise.

While Slough House want to try and work the case, believing Hobden is a part of this, Lamb implores them to get back to their desk and continuing working their own mundane jobs. Well, Cartwright is having none of that and decides to head out in the streets.

The Episode Review

Slow Horses gets things off to a pretty promising start, despite the completely on-the-nose political messaging in here. Look, we all know the Conservative Party is evil incarnate but the way this show batters you over the head with that message distracts from more important elements, like building the various characters. It’s still early days though so we’ll have to wait and see where this one goes next.

There’s definitely an air of Suspicion here (AppleTV’s bunged espionage thriller) right down to the kidnapping, musical score and conflicted police forces. However, this show definitely has an edge over that one, with solid acting, some good characters and a far more engaging premise. There’s certainly lots to like with this, and with another chapter already released today, thankfully we don’t have to wait too long to find out what happens next.

Next Episode

Expect A Full Season Write-Up When This Season Concludes!


  • Episode Rating

7 thoughts on “Slow Horses – Season 1 Episode 1 “Failure’s Contagious” Recap & Review”

  1. Just watching this for first time and I went back and confirmed that cartwright was given description of “Blue shirt, white tee” which was not what suspect was wearing. White shirt, blue tee is what the bomber was wearing. Either the Aryan guy gave wrong description on purpose or it was an error. I suspect it was the first.

  2. Come on guys! I just googled the shirt color confirmed in the show, what River is told. And this link came up saying he was told Blue shirt, white tee. That is the opposite of what River was told! It’s a pretty big plot point. So glad I trusted my own instincts and watched to confirm.

Leave a comment