Slow horses comes out of the gate with a new season that picks up where the inaugural season left off and never takes a breather until the earth-shattering conclusion. While season 1 seemed at times unsure of what it wanted to be, season two ups the ante – as does the action and drama.
Gary Oldman, Jack Lowden, and co. return as the disaffected MI5 agents of Slough House, a sort of cesspool for British intelligence officers who have made more than their fair share of potentially career-ending mistakes. Last season introduced Oldman’s Jackson Lamb, the leader of this ragtag group of would-be spies, and Lowden’s River Cartwright, who began her espionage career by blundering through a training exercise. The Slough House team also includes recovering alcoholic Catherine Standish (Saskia Reeves), Louisa Guy (Rosalind Eleazar) and Min Harper (Dustin Demri-Burns), who have developed a romantic relationship since season 1, and tech genius Roddy Ho (Christopher Chung), all of which are given bigger story arcs and more to do this season. Aimee-Ffion Edwards joins the team as Shirley Dander, who is also good at tech stuff as well as a general badass and Kadiff KirwanMarcus also rounds out the Season 2 group at Slough House.
While the main plot of season 1 revolved around the kidnapping of a young Muslim man, the stakes for season 2 are much higher, both for the Slow Horses and for Britain as a whole. For starters, a former MI5 agent, Dickie Bow (Phil Davis), is found dead on a bus, and it’s clear to Lamb from the start that this isn’t a simple heart attack, as the police claim. The season here launches into a deep dive into Russian sleepers, Cold War secrets, and possibly a terrorist plot to destroy London’s prominent Glass House skyscraper.
Season 2 barely gets going for any of its six episodes and keeps you guessing as to who is involved in what and who may live or die. The agents at Slough House may be seen as dumb, but it’s clear from the start that their jobs are just as dangerous – maybe more so – than the top MI5 agents at ‘The Park’. By the time you get to episode 3, “Drinking Games,” you’re fully invested in each of the Slough House agents, including newcomers Shirley and Marcus. So when things take a sudden turn, you’re suitably devastated by the disastrous turn of events.
Louisa and Min and their relationship play a huge role in Season 2 as they work on a mission outside of Slough House in an effort to be reintegrated into The Park. Seeing these two in the foreground is rewarding and gives the team a lot more depth. Standish also gets her chance to shine, and it’s clear that she isn’t given enough credit for her work as an agent. In the previous season, she seemed relegated to office work and keeping everyone in line. In season 2, she is her own force and does things for the good of the team as a whole.
River, of course, is the main character, along with Oldman’s Lamb, and remains in the spotlight, finally having the chance to prove his mettle at MI5 – and perhaps more importantly to him than he’d admit, at Lamb. River goes into full spy mode this season, taking on a new identity and working undercover. Will he screw it up, like he did in the infamous training exercise that started Season 1? It’s fun to watch and find out. River’s problem is probably that he is too focused and too determined to prove to everyone around him that he can live up to the legacy of his grandfather, the legendary MI5 agent David Cartwright (Jonathan Pryce) — and sometimes River’s greatest quality, his ambition, blinds him to what’s right in front of him.
Of course, Oldman proves once again why he’s one of the best actors out there with his performance as Lamb, the wise and perpetually unimpressed leader of Slough House. You can practically feel it through the screen. After all, as MI5 Second Desk Diana Taverner (the ever powerful Kristin Scott Thomas) points out that he has some questionable personal hygiene practices or lack thereof. But there’s no doubt he knows his stuff, even if he’s been relegated to Slough House. Oldman has even more chances to brilliantly embody Lamb in Season 2, possibly with more jokes than in Season 1, more attitude and more of a glimpse of the legend he once was. The final showdown with Nikolai Katinsky (Rade Serbia) in Episode 6, “Old Scores,” is particularly tense as you constantly wonder if Lamb has finally met his match in the form of his old Russian nemesis. Which of the seasoned agents will come out on top? Honestly, you’re not sure.
There’s also some kind of showdown between River and a sleeping Russian agent, Louisa encounters some shady Russians, and Ho faces off against a terrifying assassin. These and many other moments play into one of the things that do Slow horses Season 2 so satisfying – everyone gets their chance to shine this time and you’re never really sure if they’ll make it out alive or not. Each of the plots work together to create a gripping overall arc that is sure to get your pulse racing and your anxiety soaring. With the series being renewed for Seasons 3 and 4, it’s exciting to think that this show could only get better with time, considering how much Season 2 shines.
If you’re looking for a spy/espionage drama with lots of dark humor and intrigue, look no further than Slow horses. It really is an absolutely thrilling ride and a joy to watch. Season 2 takes what worked in the first season and expands on it exponentially. With nearly every episode ending on a cliffhanger, your only complaint might be that you have to wait another week to see what happens next.
Slow horses Season 2 premieres on Apple TV+ with the first two episodes on December 2, with subsequent episodes airing every Friday until December 30.