Two seasons in a single year is an anomaly but you should be able to stomach as much espionage action as Jackson Lamb can stomach food and booze. Second season of Slow Horses, which is a spy thriller series with splashes of dark comedy, adapts another one of Mick Herron's novels in his 'Slough House' series called 'Dead Lions'. Lamb (Gary Oldman) and the rest of disgraced Slough House crew—River Cartwright (Jack Lowden), Catherine Standish (Saskia Reeves), Louisa Guy (Rosalind Eleazar), Roddy Ho (Christopher Chung), Min Harper (Dustin Demri-Burns) and new members Shirley Dander (Aimee-Ffion Edwards) and Marcus Longridge (Kadiff Kirwan)—find themselves investigating criminal activities that trace all the way back to Cold War tensions as Russian villains with ties to their government leave behind a body of former MI5 agent.
While Jeremy Lovering takes over as the directing duties for this season, it's noteworthy that showrunner Will Smith and their creative team still seem to be well aware about what worked initially and what may still be improved. Season opens again with a long sequence that sets up what affects Slough House crew which is a brilliant bit of writing to introduce conflict to viewers, and as information is then passed around, you get to know new players such as Dander and Longridge. Casting and performances continue to impress; Oldman fine-tuning his snark, Chung's delivery of Ho's doucheness is sharper and Edwards fits in nicely. Reeves, however, is the secret weapon that Lovering utilises well as the actor takes full advantage of Standish becoming a more active part of the storylines than before, providing a chance for her to show more range.
After that, the creatives can then turn their attention to improvements and those certainly include the filmmaking qualities overall. First season, though decent in that regard, was occasionally searching for its style but this time around it suitably plays with the show's comedic moments while slowing down during thrills, David Chizallet's photography and score by Daniel Pemberton and Toydrum leading the way. Their music especially finds some anxiety in industrial sounds which compliments London's noisiness and criminals' rougher edges.
Where these six episodes still lack in order for the show to become what it really wants to be is its character work. It teases with you bigger, more corrupt evil hiding in plain sight but wastes a bit too much time on monotone, mostly forgettable baddies while separating the main crew when interesting stuff comes out when they share scenes. This is television, let's start to flesh out everyone since they're not just words on the page anymore.
Smileys: Tone, writing, score, Saskia Reeves
He's a bye-ker.