Slow Horses‘ magnificent second season comes to its excellent, exciting conclusion this week on Apple TV+.
Louisa’s revenge is at hand. Jackson discovers why the Russians have it in for him. River, Roddy, Shirley and Kelly are headed for a showdown with Chernitsky. And Standish is close to the truth. A season of intrigue explodes into armed combat and tough talk as the spy thriller wraps up season two and prepares for its next outing — which can’t come soon enough.
Slow Horses recap: ‘Old Scores’
Season 2, episode 6: In the season two finale, entitled “Old Scores,” Jackson Lamb (played by Gary Oldman) has figured out that Katinsky (Rade Šerbedžija) means to embarrass, kill or ruin him — or all three if he can manage it. Katinsky is after him because Lamb killed his most important contact in the English service years and years ago.
That man? Charlie Partner, Catherine Standish’s (Saskia Reeves) old boss and lover? Possibly? They were close, that’s for sure. We knew that Lamb and River’s uncle David (Jonathan Pryce) had Partner killed and made it look like a suicide. But we didn’t know why until now.
Catherine doesn’t answer when Lamb calls her because she’s downtown trying to make sure Marcus (Kadriff Kirwan) and Louisa (Rosalind Eleazar) get out of the Glasshouse before Alex Tropper’s (Catherine McCormack) plane hits it. The elevators don’t work because of the shutdown, so she takes the stairs several dozen stories up.
She doesn’t know they’re locked in a room with a shot Webb (Freddie Fox) and a bleeding Russian. Louisa gets it out of the Russian that they needed to shut down the Glasshouse to get at secret files in the service’s computer system. They killed Nevsky to get passwords into the computers, and to steal money electronically, but also to steal diamonds from his safe. And now Pashkin is going to get away with everything in a first aid helicopter.
River (Jack Lowden) is waiting around with Kelly (Tamsin Topolski) and Duncan (Adrian Rawlins) when he makes a horrible discovery. Alex and Andre Chernitsky (Marek Vašut) never loaded the bomb they were making into the plane. It was a false flag. They just wanted to shut down the Glasshouse with a terrorist threat to get at the files.
River has a heartbreaking moment where he realizes he has to call in and admit he’s made a mistake — the second time he’s embarrassed himself in front of Diana Taverner (Kristin Scott Thomas). This is the best moment Jack Lowden’s had all season — it’s marvelous to see the actor melt down.
He calls it in, then calls Roddy Ho (Christopher Chung) to see if he can track the plane to make sure they didn’t shoot it down. However, he can’t access his computer — he’s in the field, tracking Chernitsky. River doesn’t know Shirley (Aimee-Ffion Edwards) is on her way to help him, so he gets Kelly to fly him to the next stop. Shirley manages to help Roddy fight off Chernitsky, but he gets away (after he stings himself with his heart-attack agent when he tussles with Ho).
A showdown (and a throwback)
Jackson and Katinsky meet up at the latter’s offices to have their showdown. Katinsky wanted to humiliate Lamb because back in the day Lamb fed bunk information to Charlie. That made its way to the Kremlin, and resulted in Katinsky having to flee Russia in the first place.
(I know Slow Horses is technically adapted from one of Mick Herron’s books, which are kind of drunken, surly, depressive riffs on John le Carré. But it’s a little funny that this plot thread comes straight out of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which was adapted in 2011 and starred Oldman, too, in roughly the same position. I bet Herron didn’t see that coming. Anyway, it’s a good bit of subterfuge, so I don’t mind.)
Wrapping up loose ends
River figures out where Chernitsky is headed — to kill his Uncle Dave for his role in the Charlie Partner murder and cover-up all those years ago. When Katinsky calls Chernitsky, though, it’s River who picks up. Dave shot and killed Chernitsky first. Then Katinsky kills himself. Now there are no more witnesses to the Partner murder. And that means Lamb gets another stay of execution from Catherine, who still doesn’t know he killed Charlie.
Peter Judd (Samuel West) demands accountability and Taverner won’t let him have much. She decides to hang it on the prime minister. They’ll say the aircraft was a radar glitch, and the radar needed funding that the PM said “no” to a while back.
Judd and Taverner stay in bed together, and Lamb and the rest of the horses go back to their daily business. But first, they gather for a funeral. They secretly tack Min’s name to the wall at the church where all the high brass of British intelligence are buried (after Taverner denies them the funeral). Lamb also writes Dickie Bow’s name on a postcard and sticks it to the wall, but it falls down the second he walks away.
He was a Joe
Excellent, just excellent. The chase sequences here (which are something of a Slow Horses specialty now) are really quite thrilling. The scene of Roddy trying to get away from Chernitsky is genuinely exciting and nerve-wracking. It makes you realize how much you care about everyone here — even huge asshole Roddy Ho, who would deserve to get murdered on a train — but, against all odds, you don’t want him to.
That is of course the genius of Slow Horses. The show puts a bunch of bickering screw-ups together and makes us love them against our will. And after the high note this season ends on, after weeks of watching them do their jobs to the best of their abilities and be there for each other in daring ways, I am more than ready for the next bit. Bring on season 3.
Watch Slow Horses on Apple TV+
You can now watch the first two seasons Slow Horses in their entirety 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.