I’m always a little unsure of whether to review a series at the end of the first season if I know for sure there is more coming. But with shows where the second season hasn’t even premiered yet, I feel much more inclined if only because I’m not sure if I’ll get there. And given we don’t even know the release day of season 2 yet, I guess I’ll go ahead and review this new British spy thriller.
Slow Horses is a fresh spin on the British spy thriller primarily because it’s also a comedy. Or, rather, it’s funny. It’s not really a pure comedy in any sense, but more a conventional British spy thriller with comedy in it. And that feels pretty fresh to me, given how self serious most of these shows and movies normally are.
The comedy comes from the fact that the titular Slow Horses are banished spies, banished supposedly for their incompetence. And their boss, played as a relentless dick by Gary Oldman, is constantly belittling them even when they are not fucking up. But there is a fair amount of incompetence and so a fair amount of laughs.
The plot itself is reasonably compelling even if it feels as though it should be set in the US. (I know nothing of the real MI-5 but I know the FBI and US police and security agencies have done things that are at least a tiny bit on the spectrum towards what MI-5 gets up to here. Nothing remotely close to this but still in the general direction.) As it’s only six episodes there is plenty of plot for the runtime which is nice. And, as is often the case with novel adaptations, it never really goes off the rails like some spy TV show sure wont to do.
I have a few minor nitpicks which mostly pertain to the final episode. This show is set in nearly real time (except for the opening) and it’s just bizarre to me that there are supposed to be talk shows running live at 3 in the morning. (Maybe that’s actually a thing.) And the distances some people travel in the final episode don’t make a lot of sense if you think about it for a moment. There were a couple of other things that I’ve forgotten but they were minor.
On the whole, it’s a fun spin on the genre and works as a spy thriller while making you laugh. Given that the next season is also based on one of the novels, I look forward to the next season.
Slow Horses Season Two
The second season feels less fresh than the first one, for various reasons. Obviously we know the characters now, and that is at least part of it. But I think this season is perhaps a little less funny than the first one. It just feels a little more conventional in terms of every aspect, not just the story but the feeling of the show.
But they still play with our expectations a little bit. The plot is fairly convoluted and the star of the show doesn’t actually get to have a big moment with one of the main villains.
I still quite enjoyed this for the same reasons I enjoyed the first season, but the returns diminished just a little bit.