Slow Horses (Season 3) Episodes 1 & 2: “Slow Horses” is slowly becoming like Amazon Prime’s acquisition of “Bosch” – a reliable form of long-form storytelling having an arsenal of source material (Slough House has eight books in their series, with the ninth book currently being written) by Mick Herron, a game cast with a charismatic lead, and an acerbic yet suspenseful tone which brings back the espionage genre but presents it with its own sour bite.

The third season of Slow Horses returns under the tutelage of creator Will Smith (Veep, The Thick of It), but with a different director at the helm. However, Slow Horses as a whole hasn’t changed. Very much being “anti-Bond” and yet having far more of a satirical bite than the Le Carre tonality of espionage, there is a slovenly nature in the story which lends well to the character of Jackson Lamb (Gary Oldman), who gives a bravura performance. But as Season 3 progresses, the supporting characters are also getting fleshed out more, with all of the actors getting enough meat to chew on.

Slow Horses (Season 3) Episode 1 “Strange Games” Recap:

Spying, as it turns out, is truly a strange game, especially when it plays into relationships and breaks them foundationally. The episode opens in Istanbul, where we are met with a couple enjoying their “honeymoon period.” As we learn through their conversations and later from the man trying to snoop through her things to find out a blueprint called “Footprint,” both Allison Dunn (Katherine Waterston) and Sean Donovan (Doge Sipru) are intelligence agents, with Donovan being sent to verify and recover “Footprint” from Allison.

Allison feels betrayed and asks him to leave, but as soon as Donovan leaves, she recovers the hidden blueprint beneath the ice-packed sink and calls her handler to deliver it. The result is a stakeout, with Sean chasing her first via a boat, where she manages to evade him by navigating her boat in front of a cruise liner and driving back to the docks. Then she starts driving outside the city, with Sean following her on foot through the cobbled streets, until she manages to divert the car through a traffic jam and escape by the main road.

Sean, too, “borrows” one of the cars and follows her discreetly as we see her go to a stadium to meet her handler. However, by the time Sean reaches the stadium, he sees a man driving away from the stadium in Allison’s car. Realizing something is wrong, he runs up the stairs to search for her, only to find Allison’s dead body, having been pushed over. Her contact had killed her after having retrieved the file.

A year after these events, we realize that Slough House is getting smacked with boxes and boxes of files. For Catherine Standish, itemizing these files becomes essential, even though River Cartwright, understandably jaded after the last two events of his life in Slough House, doesn’t believe that the Slow Horses’ work would ever be noticed or even validated. Thus, even after failing to deliver the last box, because its bottom opens up and the files tumble down the stairs, River is nonchalant. As Catherine tries to remind him to be professional, even in the menial of tasks, and to listen to her, River calls her a martyr and asks her to stop worrying about him.

It upsets her greatly, and as she crosses the road and walks away, River realizes that it had come out harsher than he had intended. He, however, did not notice the tall black man who had pushed him out of the way and had been following Catherine until much later. The show then takes us on a tour through the lives of the other residents of Slough House. Jackson Lamb, in his own irascible and slovenly ways, with nary a thought of personal appearance, had come to do a physical checkout.

While his blood work has come back normal, his lifestyle of smoking cigarettes incessantly and drinking two or three bottles of whiskey a week would not be endorsed by the doctor as part of a regular checkup by MI5. Lamb, however, convinces the doctor to write the number, signifying the limit an agent can imbibe spirits at, because at this point, while Lamb is content to sit around and waste away his days at Slough House, he is also unsure what else he is good at this late in the game other than playing the strange games.

Of the other players playing the strange games, none had been more affected emotionally than Louisa Guy. After the death of her colleague and lover, Min Harper, last season, Guy had become more closed-off and much more inclined to go off in a temper. We see her nursing a drink at a bar that night, and while she is irritated at the man trying to flirt with her, she is open to taking him back home for a night of casual sex. We realize this is her coping with her grief.

Characters like Marcus and Shirley, who are confused at having been invited to a pub, have to deal with a burgeoning friendship at being the notable outsiders in the Slough House group while also having to deal with a delusional Ho, who had called Shirley to the pub to ask for help in convincing Guy to date him. Shirley answers that by punching him across the jaw (a perfect answer, honestly). And finally, Catherine Standish goes to her AA meeting, where she meets a new member (Sean), who invites her to a cafe to talk about AA sponsorship.

That would be the excuse because, as it stands out, Standish gets suspicious of the man keeping a watch on their table and tries to walk away, only to realize that her friend is trying to kidnap her. She escapes from the cafe through the back door and tries to run but is kidnapped by another woman pretending to be a passerby and asking for directions. Sean and his team kidnap her and escape in a car.

Slow Horses (Season 3) Episodes 1 & 2
Kristin Scott Thomas in “Slow Horses,” now streaming on Apple TV+.

The next morning, Louisa catches her date eating her ice cream in the fridge and kicks him out of the flat. Her reaction might feel like overkill until we see her rummaging through the ice cream bucket and taking out a diamond—one of the pieces of the diamond out of the 34 pieces from the end of last season that had been reported missing. As Louisa enters Slough House, she has a conversation with River, who is wracked with guilt regarding his conversation with Standish. Both of them suddenly look outside to find Lamb trying to make coffee.

Realizing that something is off, they ask him, and in typical Lamb fashion (answering while simultaneously insulting), he informs them that Catherine isn’t here yet. And Lamb is properly spooked because, contrary to all the alternatives Louisa is stating, she is never late, and if she were, she would have been informed. To offset his guilt, River informs Lamb that he remembered seeing a tall black man in his 30s following Catherine. Lamb orders Marcus and Shirley to go to Catherine’s to check out her flat while Louisa goes to interrogate her AA group.

There, Louisa learns about the new member and that Catherine had been seen with that person leaving to go to a cafe. While Shirley breaks open Catherine’s apartment to investigate, Louisa checks the restaurant’s back alley. She discovers a disconnected CCTV camera and Catherine’s hairpin. As Jackson walks out on his own, he realizes that he had been followed throughout the day as well, and for exactly this reason. Catherine has been abducted, and the target might be the “Slow Horses.”

The episode ends with a message being sent to River’s phone. The kidnappers, having reached their location, tie Catherine up in a room at the safe house, hold her at gunpoint, and send that picture. A call comes through Catherine’s phone to River. As River receives it, we hear Sean threaten him to meet at a specific bridge in one minute, or Catherine will be killed.

Slow Horses (Season 3) Episode 2 “Hard Lessons” Recap:

The episode doesn’t waste any time, opening with River sprinting out of Slough House and running towards Rendezvous Point. Like a feature for all the “slow horses,” they don’t inform each other about their plans because, inwardly, they think they are the heroes of the story. River Cartwright is designed to be a subversive take on the traditional hotshot agents, and his hastily running to “rescue” Catherine without any backup proves the point. As he reaches the bridge, he is shocked to find his old antagonist, James “Spider” Webb, waiting for him as a representative of the kidnappers.

Spider informs him that the kidnappers are blackmailing him and that if he is unable to convince River, they will kill his wife and kids. Understandably, River doesn’t believe him until he sees the laser scope of a sniper rifle pointed toward Spider’s tie. Barely covering Spider from the scope, he manages to break free the diamond-shaped pin from Spider’s tie and races from the bridge. At the bridge, River had been tasked by the kidnappers to extract the PM’s vetting file, which is situated deep inside the vaults of Regent Park. He has an hour to complete this task, or else Catherine and Spider’s family will die.

Knowing his spotty relationship with MI5, he almost threatens the receptionist at Regent’s Park to have him meet the leader of “The Dogs,” Nick Duffy. River has a plan, and he wants to access the lower levels of the park under the pretext of handing over the “missing diamond” from the last mission’s debacle. Duffy, to his credit, doesn’t trust River, and why would you trust someone who failed a training exercise (Season 1) and calls out failed evacuation warnings of terrorist attacks (Season 2)? River, however, hands him the fake diamond from Spider as the missing diamond.

But Duffy doesn’t believe him (understandable again) and threatens him to come to the lab to check the diamond’s legitimacy. On the way, they are met by Diana Taverner (Kristin Scott Thomas), second desk of Regent Park, who is weakened by her administrative powers from last year but still has the bark. We have seen her go to secret locations to supervise the transport of old files, an action that the Slow Horses have been hard at work on.

Taverner is also understandably miffed with the current first desk (Sophie Okonedo), and knowing her wily nature and the side-eyed glances she is giving her at the lobby of the park’s central terminal, we know that Taverner misses the power and must be eagerly making her moves. Her anger with River stems from both River’s own mistake of last season, and thus, he doesn’t want to see River for even a second in the building, ordering him to leave immediately.

Meanwhile, in the alleyway behind the cafe, Louisa investigates further. She has an awkward meeting with her last-night stand, but while trying to walk away from that awkward conversation, she sees a car being towed away. Realizing that this car might have been involved in the previous night’s events, she tries to ask the tow guys to help her look into the glove compartment. The tow truck guys dismiss her and don’t even take a look at her badge.

But them calling her a bitch is enough to send her into a white-hot rage, whereby she takes a crowbar and destroys the tow truck’s windshield and side mirrors before climbing on top of the carrier, breaking the window, and opening the glove compartment to find the registration file of the owner of the car. Lamb, meanwhile, is highly suspicious that someone has been following him. He instructs Ho to call a fake warning to the police and instructs Shirley and Marcus to follow someone suspicious.

From the window, Jackson identifies a guy wearing black overalls and a baseball cap and orders the two of them to follow him. The man grows wise of their staking out and tries to escape, leading to a foot chase through the lanes of London until he escapes in a getaway van. While Shirley Panting had managed to remember the plates, Lamb, who had nonchalantly reached that same spot, was unfettered. He knows that this is something much different than a traditional snatch-and-grab.

Slow Horses (Season 3) Episodes 1 & 2
Gary Oldman in “Slow Horses,” now streaming on Apple TV+.

Meanwhile, at the park, River had managed to sneak downstairs and was almost able to go into the lower levels, except he was stopped by an old foe, Hobbs. Like Spider, Hobbs takes great pleasure in pointing out River’s current predicament as a member of the “Slow Horses.” As an excuse, River goes below the level to the conference room to teach junior recruits how not to end up in Slough House. While Hobbs bought the excuse, he couldn’t buy Cartwright’s managing to come so deep into the park without a security pass.

River manages to temporarily incapacitate him by hitting his windpipe and running towards the file room. Hobbs informs his superior, Nick Duffy, about the debacle and how River managed to nick his security pass in the process. This comes as a double blow to Duffy, whose suspicions are proven true when the lab reveals that the diamond is fake. Upon learning from Taverner that River isn’t anywhere to be found, he informs the dogs to find him.

Meanwhile, while trying to stall time from Hobbs, River had managed to switch his phone on, which he had to switch off while entering the park’s security levels. That gives Ho time to track down River and update Lamb that he is at the park. Jackson, however, already has some inkling about what’s going on. He goes to the laundromat to meet with his contact, Sam Chapman. Through their conversation, we realize that Jackson has taken both the kidnapping of Catherine as well as his being followed as part of the same organization.

This work is done by an ex-military organization and not a mercenary, and as Chapman runs down the available private security firms, the one name that remains active in the UK is Chieftain. As for who is involved in letting Chieftain loose, Jackson and Chapman have it figured out immediately, even if we, as the viewers, haven’t. However, it could be entirely possible that someone deep within the park or even the cabinet could be involved.

Meanwhile, River has managed to enter the file room, where he is met by the librarian, Molly Gordon. We met Molly last season as an associate of Jackson Lamb, and both of these old soldiers had seen too much to understand pretty quickly that River’s mission and time running out are not as serious as the kidnappers are claiming to be. Thus, immediately ignoring River’s pleas to help him rescue Catherine, she takes the intelligent option of calling Jackson.

As River wallows in, having failed his mission, with seconds left to spare, Molly calls him to the phone, where River is immediately chastised by Jackson and told to stand down and sneak out of the park. River, conflicted, follows his boss’ command and Molly’s instructions to go through the service elevator leading to the car park, where he manages to sneak out by following an exiting car and avoiding the security at the front gate, vaulting through the side hedges.

Slow Horses (Season 3) Episode 2 “Hard Lessons” Ending Explained:

River calls Lamb, informing him that he has escaped. Jackson sarcastically congratulated him before informing him his mission hadn’t been what it looked like. Catherine has been kidnapped by a tiger team. River’s reaction to hearing that reveals he knows the difficulties that entail. The tiger team led by Sean Donovan, though, seems to be completely different from the aggressive messaging they wanted to point out to River.

They are feeding Catherine well, even giving her the option of having a ham or cheese sandwich. Donovan even sheepishly informs her that they need to move to a new location. However, Standish explains to them that if they had kidnapped her to convince Lamb to follow their commands, they were bound to fail. The glances shared by Sean and his teammate don’t reveal much, but there is a plan afoot, and Lamb is definitely involved in some fashion.

The episode ends with River gloating to Lamb about how he had managed to escape the park without anyone noticing. Ironically, as he hangs up the call, Duffy and his dogs find him and move in to arrest him. Duffy is not going to let go of him that easily. It is fascinating how the wars of espionage and spyware eerily resemble office politics, just spread out over a wider scale, and how the lower-level grunts get in the crossfire like any corporate shindig would. Slow Horses’ return brings the slovenly tone of the Le Carre type of espionage back to our screens, and honestly, that’s a win.

Read More: Slow Horses Season 3: Cast & Characters Explained, Release Date, Plot, Where to Watch, Episode Listings, Trailer & Other Details


Slow Horses (Season 3) Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Wikipedia
Slow Horses (Season 3) Cast: Gary Oldman, Jack Lowden, Kristin Scott Thomas
Slow Horses (Season 3) Genre: Drama & Spy Thriller | Runtime: 6 Episode
Where to watch Slow Horses

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