Slough House’s Slow Horses are on the run in this week’s installment of the Apple TV+ dark comedy about rogue failed spies working at the bottom of the British intelligence circus.
Slough House chief Jackson Lamb makes a Faustian bargain with Standish. River can’t help but check on Sid. Min’s crush on Louisa deepens. Struan gets picked up. Ho is in the wind. And everyone’s afraid of Taverner.
It’s another cracking potboiler of an episode this week as the noose tightens around everyone.
Slow Horses recap: ‘Visiting Hours’
In this week’s episode, titled “Visiting Hours,” Lamb (played by Gary Oldman), River Cartwright (Jack Lowden), Louisa (Rosalind Eleazar) and Min (Dustin Demri-Burns) have about an hour to disappear. They can be tracked to the crime scene where the government’s fake kidnapping turned into a bloodbath.
Lamb and his crew of misfit agents were sent in to clean it up but arrived too late. That’s just as well, because they’ll work equally fine as fall guys now that the MI5 agent on the inside has been hacked to pieces.
The remaining kidnappers (Brian Vernel, David Walmsley, Stephen Walters) have taken their victim Hassan Ahmed (Antonio Aakeel) on the lam. Lamb isn’t sure whether they were set up to take the fall for the poorly planned kidnapping or if it was an accident. But he does know he wants his agents to flee, too.
Diana Taverner (Kristin Scott Thomas) wastes no time blaming the whole operation on Lamb and the rest of the Slough House’s slow horses. She sends her best guy, Agent Duffy (Chris Reilly), after the team. And she says she wouldn’t at all mind if Lamb dies in the process of picking him up. Duffy grabs “Spider” Webb (Freddie Fox), River’s old nemesis at the agency, to assist him, and they’re off.
What a messy situation
River goes to get tech wiz Roddy Ho (Christopher Chung). Min and Luisa go after Struan (Paul Higgins), but by the time they get there, MI5 has picked him up. He’s not nearly as savvy as the rest of the crew, so it’ll only be a matter of time before he cracks under interrogation.
Lamb, meanwhile, makes a public display of booking flights out of the country, but goes after his secretary, Catherine Standish (Saskia Reeves), instead.
Struan predictably buckles when Taverner promises him a promotion so he can go back to work if he confirms that the dead agent at the kidnapping safe house was working with Lamb. Struan is eager but also an idiot: He doesn’t realize she’s asking him to lie. He eventually gets the picture, though, and he hangs the rest of the horses out to dry.
River breaks protocol to visit Sid Baker (Olivia Cooke) at the hospital, and of course he’s picked up by CCTV and only narrowly escapes. Lamb and Standish are picked up, too, but they escape, thanks to a carefully concealed gun.
Now everyone just has to get to the meeting place in one piece before the kidnappers kill Hassan … or Taverner can leak their photos to the press in association with the murder of a federal agent.
You don’t even know my real name
This week’s episode feels slightly more deliberately paced than previous ones. We see more and more clues about the odd relationship Standish and Lamb have, and the shared misery in their past. Taverner knows that Lamb had something to do with the death of someone close to Catherine. (It seems like her husband or boyfriend or something, but the Slow Horses writers haven’t made that clear yet.)
It adds a very peculiar but winning wrinkle to their escape plan. We know it’s going to come out eventually, and it’ll likely end their relationship. But for now, it’s just a lit fuse in plain sight.
The sight of Olivia Cooke all bruised and hooked up to breathing tubes and the like is quite horrifying. Kudos to the makeup team for that awful sight. It reinforces that the stakes are as high as they get, even without the ticking clock element of the impending death of Hassan. Everyone’s in the frying pan now.
A key ingredient for spy-show success: Humor
So far, Slow Horses has proven to be a remarkably fleet-footed generic exercise — and I’m loving every minute of it. If nothing stands out on a week like this, it’s because the plot is all business. There isn’t much room for character development or anything else. There is a little bit (reasonably charming) about Min and Louisa’s burgeoning courtship, but that’s largely just shading.
To see this so soon after Suspicion, another Apple TV+ thriller that dealt with similar archetypes and motivating factors, highlights the things that show was missing: namely humor.
I enjoyed Suspicion well enough, but I wasn’t as anxious to get to next week’s episode as I am watching this. And considering my enmity toward Gary Oldman, an actor with a very weird personal history who’s just kind of grunting his way through this show, that’s no mean feat.
Watch Slow Horses on Apple TV+
New episodes of Slow Horses arrive Fridays on Apple TV+.
Watch on: Apple TV+
Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.