Review: ‘Slow Horses’ on Apple TV+ is fast paced and extraordinary with a sharp wit

Slow Horses, now in a third season on Apple TV+,  is one of my new favorite TV shows. It’s been a long time since I’ve found a show that has grabbed my interest and hasn’t left my mind since I finished it, so this show is exhilarating. Slow Horses is adapted from a book by Mick Herron, part of a larger series called Slough House that are all solid spy thrillers. I haven’t had the privilege to read the book the show is based on, but the adaptation? Wow!

Slow Horses is a different kind of spy thriller. As a TV show, it shines. It gives you time to get to know the characters and flesh out the action. Everything has a chance to breathe. Every situation the show deals with is incredibly complicated, and the way the team, led by Gary Oldman’s character Jackson Lamb, finds solutions is impressive. It’s just good TV. Proceed ahead to read a spoiler free review of the first three seasons of Slow Horses. 

The Slow Horses of Slough House are there to be punished

The show is centered around the Slow Horses, the “loving” nickname for the people who work in Slough House. Slough House is a punishment branch of the British MI5 for spies that have screwed up. It’s essentially a dead end. You’re still in MI5, but not really part of MI5. You’ve been excommunicated for bad spy deeds.

Gary Oldman as Jackson Lamb in Slow Horses, now streaming on Apple TV+. Image courtesy of Apple TV+.
Gary Oldman as Jackson Lamb in Slow Horses, now streaming on Apple TV+. Image courtesy of Apple TV+.

Oldman’s Lamb leads Slough House. He’s a detestable old croak who hates all of his employees but, at the same time, cares for them deeply. While abusing them with deft insults, he directs them not to get involved in the action, which they ignore, and that’s where the drama from the series develops. 

Lamb’s relationships with the rest of MI5

Even though Lamb is an outcast, he keeps a close relationship with Diana Taverner (Kristin Scott Thomas), the Second Desk at MI5, and Nick Duffy (Chris Reilly), who is head of MI5’s internal affairs and tactical unit nicknamed the “Dogs.” First Desk at MI5 is Ingrid Tearney (Sophie Okonedo), but most of the decisions are made by Diana. If you see Ingrid in Slow Horses, just know that things have gone wrong, and it’s really about to go down. The fact that Ingrid is in 8 episodes should give you a clue as to the type of high stakes we’re dealing with.

Slow Horses is a team effort

What I love most about Slow Horses is watching a group of outcasts, misfits, and mess-ups solve complicated cases and save the day every time. It’s a team effort, it’s fast-paced, it’s extraordinary. As for the team of Slow Horses themselves – there’s River Cartwright, played by Jack Lowden. He’s a newer addition to Slough House along with Sid Baker, played by Olivia Cooke. Cartwright is a strong-willed legacy Slow Horse. His grandfather used to head MI5, and he’s stuck in Slough House because he messed up on a training exercise. Cartwright is the classic male protagonist who follows the beat of his own drum, but is still frustrated that he is stuck in Slough House. 

Jack Lowden as River Cartwright in "Slow Horses," now streaming on Apple TV+. Image courtesy of Apple TV+.
Jack Lowden as River Cartwright in Slow Horses now streaming on Apple TV+. Image courtesy of Apple TV+.

Catherine Standish (Saskia Reeves) is essentially Lamb’s right-hand woman. She keeps Slough House put together and running smoothly. Although she’s soft-spoken, she’s not someone you want to underestimate. Min Harper (Dustin Demri-Burns) and Louisa Guy (Rosalind Eleazar) have been a part of Slough House for a while, along with Roddy Ho (Christopher Chung), who’s the annoying and smug hacker. 

Slow Horses delivers intense scenes that are carefully crafted

Harper is an average joe who made an honest mistake of leaving a classified file on a bus. But he’s more than ready to jump into the action. Louisa and Harper have a very sweet and charming connection, proving they make a great team. Louisa is, as Cartwright lovingly puts it, “not complete shit,” and Moody (Steven Waddington) is an ex-Dog who works with Roddy. There’s Struan Loy (Paul Higgins), a family man who’s a little too needy to make friends at work. All in all, this group has repeatedly proved itself and squeezed out of crazy scenarios with stellar results. The Slow Horses aren’t so slow or a bunch of screw-ups after all. 

Slow Horses deserves a top spot in Apple TV’s programming for many reasons, but chief among them is how the creatives behind the show carefully write intense scenes. Moments that shift from dialogue hinting at subterfuge to scenes watching characters race against the clock. It’s amazing watching how this story comes together. With just six episodes in every season, you get mystery after mystery that unfolds into something grander than what you started with. It’s a fast watch.

The action doesn’t take over the story in Slow Horses

Often, with thrillers, the action can take over the story. The action attempts to make up for holes in the story and lack of character development. In Slow Horses, there’s a perfect mix of dialogue to understand the politics of each major character’s decisions and impulse decisions that heighten the show’s action. 

Another great thing about Slow Horses is the complexity of the story. I love shows that don’t dumb it down for the audience. Slow Horses doesn’t hold back. The story is complex, and in every single season, there is a new challenge and mystery to uncover and a new villain to take down. With every season, you must watch the show closely to pick up on subtle queues and unspoken promises. You see two people come to an understanding in one scene, and in the next, they betray their promises in order to save their own skin. If you look away, you’ll miss it. Slow Horses isn’t passive TV. 

Every single season, the mystery, the action, the bar is raised, and it gets better and better. The Slow Horses are constantly being talked down to and underestimated, yet they still figure out the mystery before the top minds of an international intelligence agency can get close. Slow Horses distinguishes itself with its sharp wit, sensational cast, robust writing, and a narrative that defies predictability. Amidst a sea of crime procedurals and intelligence-focused shows, Slow Horses stands as a beacon of originality, continually raising the bar each season. It’s a testament to the show’s ability to blend real-life UK politics with a gripping storyline that never loses its edge.

Slow Horses is now streaming

The first 3 seasons of Slow Horses are now streaming on Apple TV+. Visit the official website to watch the show.

Slow Horses is getting a fifth season. That means we’ll have many more years with the misfits of Slough House.


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