Episode 4 of Slow Horses showcases the talents of its writer and director in a condensed, energetic man-hunt that lets its ensemble shine.
This episode may contain slight spoilers for episode 4 of Slow Horses (‘Visiting Hours’).
In last week’s episode it was the stars’ time to shine, with the unleashing of Gary Oldman as the indifferent, can’t-be-arsed but secretly competent Jackson Lamb, and his clandestine rendezvous by the canal with Kristin Scott-Thomas’ Diana Taverner being the stand out moment. This week, though, it’s the turn of those behind-the-camera to be celebrated, with Slow Horses’ fourth episode showcasing Morwenna Banks’ sharp and clever script, and James Hawes’ slick direction.
The hunt is on for the Slough House team, as Taverner tries desperately to cover up her blunder and the Sons of Albion make their escape with Hassan (Antonio Aakeel). River (Jack Lowden), Min (Dustin Demri-Burns) and Louisa (Rosalind Eleazar) race to round up the rest of their team before the ‘dogs’ of MI5 can, while Lamb tries to throw them off the scent.
As opposed to some of the more obvious jokes of the previous three, this week’s episode is a lot more wry in its humour. There is, of course, the obligatory fart gag courtesy of Gary Oldman, but it doesn’t feel as out of place this week. The show is getting to the meaty parts of its plot and so there’s less emphasis on the comedy part of ‘dark comedy’, but as we mentioned in last week’s review, the show is so confident in itself and in its tone that it comes much more naturally and doesn’t feel shoehorned in.
Instead, the bulk of this episode is focused on moving the plot forward, shifting its chess pieces and rounding up Slough House ahead of a presumed confrontation next week. After all, we are already on episode four of six. Now, on paper, this episode sounds like ‘filler’: a way in which all the characters can be brought together so there isn’t too many plot threads to weave together by the end, or a way to pad out the run time so the conclusion isn’t reached too quickly. But in actuality, it’s so much more than that. Banks has crafted the script in such a way that an episode like this feels just as energetic as the all-systems-go, James’ Bond-esque airport action fest of the series’ opener. Frantic arguments in a transit van, hiding in a hospital lift and stealing a BMW outside of chip shop might not be the high glamour of 007, but it’s certainly entertaining.
Banks, along with the series’ director James Hawes, manages to convey a calmness, an assuredness that the show isn’t getting too big for its (admittedly pretty sizeable) boots. The switcheroo moments don’t feel like clichés, the episode isn’t trying to cover too much ground – it spans a couple hours, max – and it feels like it knows where it’s going, even if it’s difficult to predict as a viewer. Because Slow Horses isn’t likely to take the obvious route; it’s far too clever for that.
And while the work of Banks and Hawes is the biggest takeaway this week, those in front of the camera are hardly idle. Much like the first two episodes, this week feels much more like an ensemble piece, as it’s pretty evenly split between our heroes, the definitely bad guys (the right-wing nutters in the van) and the possibly bad guys (the spooks in the shiny offices). There’s even stuff for Christopher Chung’s Roddy and Paul Higgins’ Struan to do this week! It still doesn’t answer our Standish (Saskia Reeves) related questions, nor does it give us anymore of the every-charming Olivia Cooke, but there are still two episodes to go and Slow Horses doesn’t feel like it’ll leave much unfinished business, even for the prospect of a series two.
With only two episodes to go, it’s difficult to predict where Slow Horses is going. There’s a version where the heroes save the day, get the recognition they deserve and live happily ever after; but equally, there’s also a version where it all goes belly-up and they end up worse off than they started. Such is the tone of the show. But even so, it’s exciting not knowing where the next episode is going to lead, because it’s a pretty safe bet that ts creative team won’t let this train go completely off the rails.
Episode 4 of Slow Horses is now available to watch on AppleTV+.