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'Slow Horses' Season 3 Review: Apple TV+ Spy Thriller Offers Lambs To The MI5 Slaughter

Gary Oldman holding an ice cream at a park
Apple TV+

No more farting around, it's time to catch up on Slow Horses and let Jackson Lamb, a guy as graceful as a gazelle, air out the dirty laundry instead. The spy thriller series' third season continues to adapt Mick Herron's 'Slough House' series of novels, this time tackling 'Real Tigers'. Our loveable and despicable Slough House crew—Lamb (Gary Oldman), River Cartwright (Jack Lowden), Catherine Standish (Saskia Reeves), Louisa Guy (Rosalind Eleazar), Roddy Ho (Christopher Chung), Shirley Dander (Aimee-Ffion Edwards) and Marcus Longridge (Kadiff Kirwan)—find themselves further in the middle of MI5's politics and conspiracies after the opening scene shows Sean Donovan (Ṣọpẹ Dìrísù) discovering his lover and MI5 agent Alison (Katherine Waterston) dead after she threatens to unearth the agency's dirty secrets.

First of all, it's been a while since a show has had a trajectory like the one that Slow Horses is on, slowly but surely improving and becoming more confident when it comes to its strengths. The writing of the show, led by showrunner Will Smith, has right from the get-go managed to balance the novelistic thriller elements with amusing characters that you want to spend time with through a TV screen, but the scripts have clearly begun to cater to those characters and actors playing them as the show has went on. That's a strong sign of a series that has gas left in the tank of a ''total pussy magnet'' because then you can find quirks, friction and conflicts that keep things moving and shifting. The humour especially is more refined in this third season as it feels sharper in terms of delivery and how it relates to a character's personality.

Taking advantage of that refinement is Oldman in particular; the actor has somewhat been lurking in shadows of some of his castmates previously, but there's a certain kind of urgency, bite and fatigue now exuding from his portrayal of Lamb, and not just because of what he's eating and inhaling. It contrasts well with passive personalities such as Ho and Cartwright, who also get more shades and colours along with the rest of the crew, and even MI5 higher-up Diana Taverner (Kristin Scott Thomas)—a character who finally seems to have a proper purpose in the series as we come to learn.

That type of rejuvenation is also thanks to director Saul Metzstein's efforts as the care for details such as background action, slight physicality that actors juggle in addition to the dialogue and more intricate locations establish this as the best-directed season so far. Collaborating with DoP Danny Cohen and a solid stunt team, there's an added level of pressure and finesse for the show, which complements the thriller genre. Only with some of the stuff in the last two episodes, where characters are stuck in improbable first-person shooter--esque missions, does the quality relent a little bit. Lousy gun fights and chases underline how the action doesn't reflect the hook of the series, which comes from low expectations, unclear stakes and small victories. Slow Horses is still capable of becoming top-tier TV, but that might require leaving something to the novels when it doesn't quite translate visually.

Smileys: Directing, humour, Gary Oldman, writing

Frowneys: Some issues with ending

Here comes the party bus(ting through your front door).


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