Slow Horses Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

 

River Cartwright (Jack Lowden), the grandson of retired intelligence officer David (Jonathan Pryce), showed great promise as an operative for the British counterintelligence service MI5, but failed a test mission at Heathrow Airport, as a result of which the “terrorist” managed to “detonate a bomb” in a crowded place. After such a puncture, River was exiled to work in the infamous Lame Horses department, located in a building called Slough House – this is where MI5 employees are sent to work, who somehow screwed up.

If MI5 itself occupies a huge modern building, located already in Regent’s Park, then Slough House is located in a shabby house in one of the godforsaken areas of London, and the entire staff of the department has hardly a dozen people.

And it is clear that this department is not at all a brilliant professional, but a loser like all of them. More precisely, the head of these “lame horses” Jackson Lamb (Gary Oldman) was once a brilliant professional, and even Diana Taverner herself (Kristin Scott Thomas), deputy director of MI5, treats him with great respect, but Lamb’s professional merits are far in the past , and now he is a hard-drinking, flabby and sloppyly dressed man with holes in his socks, who considers all his employees useless garbage and does not hesitate to remind them of this.

However, River Cartwright, once in this swamp, is not going to give up. And although Lamb has given him the terribly important task of digging through the trash of far-right journalist Robert Hobden (Paul Hilton), Cartwright still hopes to take part in the investigation one way or another. One of the employees of the department, as well as a local hacker with an intolerable character, will help him in this.

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This series is based on the stories of British writer Mick Herron, a big fan of John Le Carré. Unlike Le Carré, Herron had nothing to do with the British secret services, never collaborated with them, and does not claim any authenticity in his works. (He even has MI5 in Regent’s Park instead of Thames House.) Herron came up with this Slow Horses department, located in the Slough House building, where the delinquent employees are sent, and wrote several stories about it.

The name Slow Horses, of course, is more correctly translated as “Lame Horses”, and it is under this name that the series appears in some torrent trackers. And Slough House, probably, should be translated as “Swampy House”.

The script of the series was written by the famous British screenwriter Will Smith, who also worked on the famous series about the everyday life of the British government “The Thick of Things” and on the series “Vice President”, which already considered the everyday life of American politics.

“Slow Horses” is an interesting genre fusion. They actually start like a Bond movie – a very dynamic scene of a special agent chasing a terrorist. But the Bond movie ends with the same scene, because further the main events of the series revolve around the employees of this useless department, and their whole office life even makes you remember the British TV series The Office, however, Lame Horses is not led by a “born comedian”, whom David Brent from The Office considered himself to be a misanthropic drunk with a rich secret service past.

We will also be shown some of the events taking place within MI5 itself, and in parallel, the story of the kidnapping of a British student of Pakistani origin Hassan Ahmed (Antonio Aapkil) by British right-wing radicals from the Sons of Albion group will be shown. The kidnapping is terribly sensational, MI5 is closely involved in it, however, to the great displeasure of Diana Taverner, Jackson Lamb’s department is also involved in this investigation, and all sorts of interesting conflicts arise in connection with this.

The creators of the series very successfully juggle various genres: there is sharp social satire, and black humor, and a drama about abduction, and even almost humorous sketches. And all this, oddly enough, gets along well with each other, adding sharpness and relevance to the series.

The character of Gary Oldman does not immediately come to the fore: those who advised this series told me that the first two episodes might seem boring, so, they say, you will have to be patient. However, I note that this series captured me from the very first series, so I didn’t have to endure anything.

Interestingly, this is Oldman’s first appearance in the series (the role of Pontius Pilate in the mini-series with biblical stories can not be considered, and in “Friends” he was a special guest star). His Jackson Lamb has obvious allusions to George Smiley, the character in the movie Get Out the Spy based on Le Carré’s novel. Smiley was played by Gary Oldman, and he was nominated for an Oscar for this role.

So, Jackson Lamb is such a downcast and drunken George Smiley. The series hints at what a brilliant professional he used to be, while also revealing some shocking things about Lamb.

Oldman with this Lamb created an extremely interesting image. On the one hand, Lamb is an extremely unsympathetic character: a heavily degraded person who does not part with a bottle of whiskey, sloppy clothes, holey socks, a habit of bonfires all the time all around and, without hesitation, spoiling the air in the office. However, interestingly, in the process of how his department still has to participate in this investigation, you understand that Lamb still treats his employees well and somehow worries about them. In its own way, very Lambian, but nonetheless.

Well, not to mention the fact that Lamb quite wittily mocks his subordinates, and even when at some point he has to crawl out of his cluttered and smoky office and take part in the investigation, it becomes very good. Really cool character, another interesting role of this wonderful actor.

Formally, it is River Cartwright who is, as it were, the main character of the series. He is a real operative (the series talks about how he was simply set up with a failure on a test task), and even after such a humiliation as sending these losers to the department, he is not going to give up. Of course, every appearance of Gary Oldman greatly draws the attention of the audience away from Cartwright, but nevertheless, in my opinion, Jack Lowden played Cartwright quite well. Nothing impressed, but the character is quite consistent.

I kind of saw him before in Dunkirk, but I didn’t like this film sharply, and from there I remembered only a combat pilot who defied the laws of gravity, played by Tom Hardy, but I didn’t remember Louden there at all.

Kristin Scott Thomas did an excellent job as the MI5 deputy director – a kind of “ice queen”, a very strong-willed and completely adamant person. Her Diana Taverner periodically meets with Jackson Lamb, and it is very interesting to follow their conversations. Let me remind you, by the way, that Kristin Scott Thomas and Gary Oldman played the husband and wife of the Churchills in the wonderful film Darkest Hour, for which Oldman finally received his well-deserved Oscar.

Christopher Cheung did a great job of portraying Roddy Ho, the advanced hacker working at Lame Horses. And here it’s also interesting: on the one hand, this seems to be such a typical hacker-rashacker, but the role is by no means a stereotyped one – there are all sorts of interesting moments with him, Roddy begins to actively participate in the investigation closer to the final, well, the episode with how Cartwright he is finally told about why Roddy, a really talented hacker, was exiled to Lame Horses – he is very funny.

Olivia Cooke is good as Sid Baker: she is also an employee of the Lame Horses, while she is a high-level professional, and Cartwright cannot understand why she was sent to their almshouse. It is clear that the employees of the department do not like to share such information, but one way or another, the audience will still find out who got there and how.

It is interesting that the creators of the series, working with such seemingly stamped material as the special services and everything connected with them, manage to avoid stamps very well. Many of their decisions are quite unexpected. When you think that everything is clear here, in the end, events develop completely differently than you expected.

Also in the series, some seemingly very minor characters suddenly come to the fore, as happened with department employees Min Harper and Louise Guy. Their unexpected office romance, which also somehow overlapped with the climax of the investigation, was very curious, and there were many funny moments.

There, one could rather expect a romance between more significant characters – for example, between River Cartwright and Sid Baker, especially since there were certain prerequisites for this, but the creators of the series did not look for easy ways, and the result turned out cool and unexpected.

With “Sons of Albion” it also turned out to be unconventional and action-packed, but I don’t want to discuss this in the review so as not to spoil it. By the way, interestingly, three members of the group have the names of the famous American comedy trio “Three Stooges” (The Three Stooges) Larry, Mo and Curly, and the fourth is called Zeppo – named after Zeppo Marx from another famous comedy troupe “The Marx Brothers” (The Marx brothers).

What is the result? An excellent series that captures from the very beginning, develops brightly and dynamically, and by the end does not disappoint at all! Here’s what I recommend to see.

PS Interestingly, at the very end of the final episode, they showed a fairly detailed cut from the second season, which, obviously, has already been filmed. (It’s based on Mick Herron’s next book in the series.) And it looks even more interesting there, so look forward to it!

PPS Did everyone understand that the song for the credits was performed by Mick Jagger himself?

Slow Horses

Director: James Howes Cast: Gary Oldman, Jack Lowden, Kristin Scott Thomas, Dustin Demri-Burns, Rosalind Elizar, Chris Reilly, Saskia Reeves, Christopher Cheung, Antonio Aakil, Ballie Gill, David Walmsley, Stephen Walters, Brian Vernel, Jonathan Price, Paul Hilton

Series, UK-USA, 2022, 45 min. 2 seasons, 6 episodes in 1 season

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