Close this search box.

Slow Horses Season 3 Review (Apple TV+)

Season 3 of Slow Horses on Apple TV+ ups the budget and the action, but still leaves room for it to feel as fresh, funny and sharp as ever.

Slow Horses, perhaps the most unglamorous spy thriller to ever grace Apple TV+, is back for a season 3, and with it comes the reject group of MI5 agents who remain both a delight to spend time with and a blight for His Majesty’s Service. The show doesn’t bother with the fiddly bits – these are still coworkers who prefer to trade personal information on stake outs and in bullet-ridden cars – but it has the heart, humour and gall to still feel as fresh as ever. It continues to prove its mettle with a compelling narrative, impressive action and sharp, genuinely funny dialogue, which is exactly what has made it so fun in the past.

As with the previous two series, the opening sequence of season 3 acts as a cold opening, giving us the background information – or, rather, someof it – needed for the shambolic sh*t show the Slough House team will soon find themselves wading through. This time, we’re in Istanbul, where a young couple are enjoying a leisurely morning together. But things aren’t as romantically blissful as they appear, when one of them, Sean (Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù), accuses the other, Alison (Katherine Waterston), of being about to leak classified information. And then the chase is on, in water taxis, on foot through crowded streets and in a yellow VW Golf, with things culminates in the information changing hands and Alison face down on the concrete.

Fast forward a year, and the team at Slough House are nearly buried under stacks of boxes, having been given the enviable job of itemising years’ worth of archival paperwork. It seems there’s still little love lost between the ragtag band of misfits and those in the shiny MI5 ‘Park’ offices, spearheaded by Ingrid Tearney (Sophie Okonedo, of Janet Planet), with Diana Taverner (Kristin Scott Thomas) nipping at her heels. But when what should be a routine security test goes spectacularly wrong, it’s left to the Slough House gang to pick up the pieces.

At the risk of repeating the praise heaped upon the show from our previous reviews, it’s still worth noting just how well Slow Horses deals with its characters. The interplay between every single person on screen works, and, in season 3, the show continues to excel in giving everyone sharp dialogue and keeping its tone exquisitely judged. The stakes are higher this time around, with Slough House having a much more personal connection to the case de jour, but there are also serious consequences on the line for the whole MI5 too. And so while it goes all out on its action budget – bullets are flying everywhere and people are dropping like flies –, it doesn’t ever get too big for its boots. Nor does it forget to keep its focus on where it works best.

loud and clear reviews jack lowden in slow horses season 3, on apple tv+
Slow Horses Season 3 (Apple TV+)

As such, season 3 doesn’t introduce too many new players to the board, instead choosing to explore the dynamics already established within the Slough House team. River (Jack Lowden), desperate to prove himself and be taken seriously, and Louisa (Rosalind Eleazar), still grief stricken over Min’s death but desperate to move on before she’s ready to. Shirley (Aimee-Ffion Edwards) and Marcus (Kadiff Kirwan), the not-so-new newbies with addiction issues, who bicker like siblings even when getting arrested. And then there’s Roddy (Christopher Chung), perhaps the team’s weakest link, the obnoxious hacker with some very questionable ideas who is often left to click at a keyboard or follow the others until he’s out of his depth.

Catherine (Saskia Reeves) has perhaps the least to do in season 3 of Slow Horses, although she is still an integral part of the team, but there’s no escaping that it’s Gary Oldman as Jackson Lamb who runs the show. A bad curry and some steep stairs away from keeling over, Lamb is as lackadaisically competent as ever. The show never lets its audience underestimate him, but never does it over emphasise how far he’s prepared to go. He’ll do the bare minimum, because he’s smart enough to know that’s all he needs to do. He still hides any emotion behind deep sighs, inventive insults and a haze of cigarette smoke, but Lamb remains one of the most intriguing – and flatulent, crude and out-of-shape – spooks on the small screen. Oldman clearly relishes it, and so should we.

Dìrísù, as good in this as he is in pretty much everything, and chronic over-sharer and super-keen-to-be-at-work Douglas (Sion Daniel Young), are perhaps the best of the new bunch, but there are also a couple of familiar faces given a lot more to do this time around. Chris Reilly’s Nick Duffy, the head thug of MI5’s band of ‘Dogs’, has more time to relish in causing havoc and bodily harm, and Freddie Fox’s Spider slithers in and relishes in being a smarmy git. But giving Okonedo and Scott Thomas’ double act – the lady-in-charge vs the lady-in-waiting – the freedom to battle it out, albeit behind sharp grins and false niceties, gives director Saul Metzstein the chance to remind audiences that the script writing – from Will Smith, Mark Denton and Jonny Stockwood – hasn’t lost its edge in the slightest, even when things do get heavy handed with the action.

Metzstein keeps things pretty low-key throughout all six episodes of season 3 and gloriously delights in subverting the tropes of the spy genre. Almost the entire basis of this series is dedicated to the notion that, a lot of the time, espionage involves a heck of a lot of paperwork. It’s easy to see why there isn’t a James Bond film in which he’s just nursing his wounds, dotting the Is and crossing the Ts. It’s British bureaucracy at its finest, and Slow Horses has enough strength in its material that it doesn’t need to rely on overkill and showiness.

That being said, there is a lot more action this time around, flexing Apple’s budget and stretching the grounds of incredulity a smidge more than before. (It’s a little difficult to believe that that many machine-guns-for-hire would miss two agents with handguns in a room full of paper.) But, even when it seems to be getting predictable, Slow Horses has a habit of hiding a rug pull moment with another one. It’s very tricksy of them, and very fitting for Britain’s unluckiest spies.

It’s still genuinely funny – Oldman responding to the, frankly, ridiculous names of private security firms with a suggestion for them to consider “Rock Hard Cocks” is perhaps the standout line – and there are also some genuine shocks. Showrunner Will Smith and series director Metzstein are so good at judging tone that it never feels discombobulating to swing from funny to serious in a flash. Nor does it ever feel farcical, as much as it has its tongue firmly in its cheek, things are rarely silly. Undercutting heroism is still the order of the day, but it has yet to become a schtick because the show is still executing it perfectly.

So, with season 4 – and the just announced season 5 – on the horizon, where does Slow Horses go from here? While it can certainly up the budget and the action, as evidenced, the heart of the show needs to remain the spies themselves, rather than the shenanigans they get up to. It’s the ‘horses’ of Slow Horses that are the draw here, however banged up, hopeless and covered in sh*t they are. This is certainly one of Apple TV’s biggest draws, and only seems to be getting better.

Watch on Apple TV

Slow Horses Season 3 is now available to stream on Apple TV+.

Loud and Clear Reviews has an affiliate partnership with Apple, so we receive a share of the revenue from your purchase or streaming of the films when you click on the button on this page. This won’t affect how much you pay for them and helps us keep the site free for everyone.

Thank you for reading us! If you’d like to help us continue to bring you our coverage of films and TV and keep the site completely free for everyone, please consider a donation.