The finale of Slow Horses offers a very in-keeping climax, showcasing its writers’ dedication to the tone, wit and character-focus that have made season 2 as much of a success as the first.
This review may contain slight spoilers for the finale (“Old Scores”) of Slow Horses season 2.
And with that, the second season of Slow Horses comes to an end in a manner befitting of its much celebrated tonality and wit. The finale offers us some action, the settling of old scores and a reassurance that while they may be a bit misfitting, the Slough House team are exactly that: a team.
As a plane potentially filled with explosives inches closer to central London, River (Jack Lowden) is still stuck in the countryside while Lamb (Gary Oldman) looks to settle a decades-long feud with Nickolai (Rade Sherbedgia) and figure out his ultimate end goal. Louisa (Rosalind Eleazar) and Marcus (Kaddif Kirwan) are stuck on the top floor of a skyscraper, frantically trying to figure out Pashkin’s (Alec Utgoff) motives, while Roddy (Christopher Chung) and Shirley (Aimee-Ffion Edwards) hunt down Baldilocks (Marek Vašut) on a busy commuter train.
Over the past few weeks, there’s been a lot of emphasis on tension. The building of it, the sustainment of it, and the excitement of its inevitable release. The finale doesn’t end with a bang or a whimper, instead it unravels its knots in a clinical, if a bit ramshackle, way and keeps its focus on character. Lamb’s armour is a bit dented it not fully cracked, and the personal nature of this case has affected him, even if he’d dare not let it show. River’s gung-ho attitude and desperation to prove himself might have caused chaos in central London, but he figures it out in time and still gets a hero moment. (Well, kind-of. Mostly. He’s there when the heroics take place, if nothing else.)
Director Jeremy Lovering and writer Will Smith keep season 2’s finale in keeping with what the series has done so well since its beginning. It is, and always has been, the spies and not the spying that holds our interest, and for a group that were literally dumped into the same work environment, they’ve become a… well, ‘family’ is probably too strong a word, but certainly a team. Last week’s review included a compliment of their competence, and this week they’ve doubled down and proved that, while not necessarily a step ahead, the Slough House team are certainly on a step alongside the bad guys.
It’s a finale in which the biggest fight scene takes place in and around a train toilet, and the biggest shootout happens amongst the flowerbeds in a country garden. It’s delightfully anti-climactic in a way that, if the show wasn’t as sharp, as witty or as willing to let its moments of heroism sink like a lead balloon, would be somewhat frustrating. It’s true that this season hasn’t been as sharp as it could have been, dragging its most tension-filled moments over two (perhaps even three) episodes when it could have been condensed into one, but the show has never lost its way in regards to its tone, its humour or its characters.
Regardless of the ins-and-outs of villainous plans, it’s been the interplay between the Slough House team that has always been the draw here. The entire season, regardless of pacing issues, the cast have been top tier. Lowden and Oldman haven’t shared as much screen time as the season has progressed, which is a bit of a shame, as is the under-usage of Kristin Scott Thomas as Taverner. But individually, they’ve given their characters much more dimension over the course of the season than during the introductory first. Lowden’s been allowed to showcase more humour, as opposed to the action-esque leading man he seemed set on becoming, and Oldman has brought such depth to Lamb that, even though his aloof façade is still intact, we’re much more able to glimpse underneath it now. But it has been Eleazar who has perhaps shone the most this season, with simmering rage battling against grief for precedence underneath her professionalism, and there are moments in this episode where she is genuinely quite scary.
Newbies Edwards and Kirwan were given moments of glory, if not that much development, in the latter half of the season, and Chung’s Roddy gets a little repetitive with his careless schtick, but there’s certainly promise for growth after his excitement out in the field away from his computer. Saskia Reeves’ Standish has felt like she was gearing up for a much more involved role in the finale, but ultimately ended up somewhat side-lined in what has become a recurring issue with that character, made all the more frustrating when her moments of brilliance have been some of the highlights over the past two episodes. But, once again, it does offer plentiful fruit for future seasons, wherein hopefully the focus will remain on the employees of Slough House and not necessarily the shenanigans they’ll undoubtedly find themselves embroiled in.
Overall, the finale, and season 2 as a whole, have been very in keeping with the crafted style from season 1 and equally entertaining. Aside from the over-prolonging of its central tension, it feels like the season has progressed organically and has always felt reigned in. There’s the sense that the behind-the-screens team never lost sight of what made the show work, and strived to keep its focus even as the plot threatened to grow wilder and wilder each week. It’s a genuine shame to once again be at the end of the season, because Slow Horses, for all its pacing quibbles, has never not been enjoyable. With no surprise teaser for season 3 at the end of this one, let’s hope it’s not too long a wait before we’re welcomed back into the dingy halls of Slough House once again. Perhaps we’ll even be eager for some more fart jokes by then, too.
The Season 2 Finale of Slow Horses is now available to watch on AppleTV+.