Failure’s Contagious -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Work Drinks -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Bad Tradecraft -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Visiting Hours -| Review Score – 3/5
Fiasco -| Review Score – 3/5
Follies -| Review Score – 4/5
Based on the book of the same name, Slow Horses gallops out the traps at a decent pace and despite a few wobbles along the way, finishes it 6 episode run on a high. Sure, the show may be a little simple and at times you do need to suspend your disbelief, but sometimes the simplest plans are the ones that work the best – and that much is especially true here.
Billed as a “darkly funny espionage drama”, Slow Horses essentially takes a motley band of misfits, throws them together and allows them to explore the dark underbelly of London in a single case that spans the entire show’s run-time. It’s not particularly imaginative, but it is very effective when it comes to getting the job done.
The story follows River Cartwright, who conducts a big operation early on that goes completely awry. Off the back of this, he’s dumped from the MI5 ranks and thrown into Slough House, the proverbial dead-end for a career-ending mistake. There, he meets the notorious, no-nonsense Jackson Lamb. Joined by several other rejected agents and scruffy characters, the group are thrown into the middle of a big mission involving a terrorist group known as the Sons of Albion.
Determined to “keep Britain British”, they kidnap a British Muslim by the name of Hassan Ahmed and threaten to behead him live on-air at 6am. As a race against time ensues, Jackson butts heads with the current leader of the MI5, Diana Taverner, as the pair work to track down the Sons of Albion before a botched operation and a very public tragedy causes a potential war.
It’s a simple enough set-up but the writers of Slow Horses have enough wherewithal here to keep the twists and surprises coming right down to the finale. In fact, there’s a lovely little reveal right at the end of season 1 (no spoilers here!) which helps to add some context to one of the characters we’ve been following across the story, haunted by the past.
Of course a show is only as strong as the ensemble in the driving seat and thankfully Slow Horses has a good cast of characters. Gary Oldman is inspired (as always!) in his role as Jackson Lamb while Jack Lowden brings the right mix of charm and charisma to his position as River Cartwright. Alongside them are a bunch of colourful characters who all stand out in their own way. This is simply a solid crime drama and the show pulls no punches when it comes to telling a good story.
Now, there are some contrivances and a couple of moments that will likely have veterans of the genre shaking their heads in disbelief. A few of the jokes don’t really work either, while episodes 4 and 5 depict a big old game of cat and mouse. Unfortunately, this approach bogs the story down and could have done with some tighter editing. Thankfully this is a minor blip as the show delivers an enthralling season finale that wraps everything up nicely.
Slow Horses combines all the elements you’d expect from this genre but does so in a pretty compelling and well written way. It’s certainly not without its flaws but the show makes good use of its ensemble and story to allow this to stand out as one of the better offerings on AppleTV.
Verdict - 7/10