Slow Horses — Episode 1, Failure’s Contagious Review

Where Spooks Go To Die

By Mark

Slow Horses is the latest series to come to Apple TV Plus and is based on the series of books by Mick Herron and brought to TV by writer Will Smith (“ Paddington 2”, “Veep (TV)”) and director James Hawes (“ Snowpiercer (TV) “, “Raised by Wolves (TV)”).

To begin with we are with River Cartwright, Jack Lowden (“ Fighting with My Family”, “ Dunkirk”). He’s at an airport, earpiece in, keeping an eye on a suspect. James ‘Spider’ Webb, Freddie Fox (“The Crown (TV)”, “White House Farm (TV)”), is the one in his ear, guiding him, feeding him intel as well as giving orders which are coming from Diana Taverner, Kristin Scott Thomas (“ Tomb Raider”, “ Darkest Hour “).

They’re telling him to ‘hold position’, don’t go in, they wait and wait and then tell him to go. By this time the suspect has begun to make his way onto the plane so River gives chase bringing him down prior to boarding, only to find that this isn’t the man.

River is asked to confirm the sighting of the suspect, he does so, saying, “blue shirt, white t-shirt”, Spider is confused, he says it’s the other way round…They get back on CCTV and find the real suspect, making his way towards the train station at the airport.

River gives chase, again, barging people out of the way, roughly in some cases. He reaches the true suspect but is too late, the man detonates his back-pack.

Meet Jackson Lamb, Gary Oldman (“ Darkest Hour”, “ Killers Anonymous “), head of the Slough House arm of MI5. This is where Spooks who have majorly f*cked up in their careers end up, with little to no hope of ever getting out.

Lamb doesn’t seem to care anymore, he’s obviously intelligent, obviously knew his stuff, maybe still does, but he’s been left to rot looking after these f*ck ups, maybe even himself.

River is now shifting through rubbish on the office floor, we don’t know how long has passed, but we do learn that it was a training exercise, though had it been real it would have resulted in hundreds dead, more injured and millions in damage.

Catherine Standish, Saskia Reeves (“Us (TV)”, “Belgravia (TV)”), Lamb’s assistant, asks him what on Earth he’s looking for, but he doesn’t know, just doing as he’s told. Lamb later says he’s looking for the remnants of a once promising career.

Another agent from Slough House, Sid Baker, Olivia Cooke (“ Naked Singularity”, “ Sound of Metal “), is sitting in a cafe. She distracts a reporter, Robert Hobden, Paul Hilton (“The Crown (TV)”, “Swansong”), and swipes the contents of his laptop.

Taverner wants Sid to bring the laptop with the contents of the USB stick on to her. But it ends up being River, who has a run-in with Spider whom he blames for him now being in Slough House. On the way to HQ, Regents Park, River opens the Flashbox and copies the files onto his own USB.

There’s nothing on the USB, just PI to many decimal places. River goes to see his grandfather David Cartwright, Jonathan Pryce (“ Save the Cinema”, “ The Two Popes “), the one who pulled some strings to keep him in MI5, to ask him about the journalist. He doesn’t know much, but it seems like he knows more.

In Leeds a standup comedian is telling edgy jokes, mainly about religion, he’s white but it’s his friend who is writing the jokes, he tells his friend he’ll confuse people by laughing at the muslim jokes. He’s being watched though, but is it the comedian or the friend?

This is a fabulous introduction to Slow Horses, you are left in no doubt that everyone in that office has a back story, something has gone wrong in their lives and that’s lead them to be in this decrepit sh*t hole of an office.

Some seem to just get on with it, not be that bothered by it and try to make the best of it. River doesn’t seem like one of those, he desperately wants to be back in the action and he’s going to do whatever he can to make it happen.

Originally published at



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