Gary Oldman, Jack Lowden, and co. return as the disgraced MI5 agents of Slough House, a sort of dumping ground for British Intelligence officers who have made more than their fair share of potentially career-ending mistakes. Last season introduced us to Oldman’s Jackson Lamb, the leader of this ragtag group of would-be spies, and Lowden’s River Cartwright, who started his espionage career by blundering through a training exercise. The Slough House team also includes recovering alcoholic Catherine Standish (Saskia Reeves), Louisa Guy (Rosalind Eleazar) and Min Harper (Dustin Demri-Burns), who’ve developed a romantic relationship since Season 1, and tech genius Roddy Ho (Christopher Chung), all of whom are given bigger story arcs and much more to do this season. Aimee-Ffion Edwards joins the team as Shirley Dander, who’s also good at the tech stuff as well as being a general badass, and Kadiff Kirwan‘s Marcus also rounds out the Season 2 group at Slough House.
While the main plotline for Season 1 revolved around the kidnapping of a young Muslim man, the stakes for Season 2 are much higher, both for the Slow Horses and for Britain as a whole. To start things off, a former MI5 agent, Dickie Bow (Phil Davis), is found dead on a bus, and it’s clear to Lamb from the start that this is not a mere heart attack, as police claim. The season therein embarks on a deep dive into sleeper Russian agents, Cold War secrets, and possibly a terrorist plot to destroy the prominent Glass House skyscraper in London.
Season 2 barely lets off the gas for any of the six episodes and keeps you guessing about who’s involved in what, and who may live or die. The agents of Slough House may be considered screw-ups, but it’s clear early on that their jobs are just as dangerous — maybe even more so — as the top MI5 agents at “The Park.” By the time you get to Episode 3, “Drinking Games,” you’re fully invested in each of the Slough House agents, including the new ones, Shirley and Marcus. So when things take a sharp turn, you’re properly devastated by the disastrous turn of events.
Louisa and Min and their relationship play a huge role in Season 2, as they work on an assignment outside of Slough House in an effort to be reinstated at The Park. Seeing these two step up to the forefront is rewarding, and gives the team a lot more depth. Standish gets a chance to shine, too, and it’s clear that she’s not given enough credit for her work as an agent. In the previous season, she seemed relegated to office work and keeping everyone in line. In Season 2, she’s her own force and gets things done for the good of the team as a whole.
River, of course, is the main character, next to Oldman’s Lamb, and he remains in the limelight, finally getting a chance to prove his mettle to MI5 — and maybe more importantly to him than he’d admit, to Lamb. River goes into full spy mode this season, assuming a new identity and working undercover. Will he screw it up, as he did in the infamous training exercise that started Season 1? It’s fun to watch and find out. River’s problem is probably that he’s too focused and too determined to prove to everyone around him that he can live up to the legacy of his grandfather, legendary MI5 agent David Cartwright (Jonathan Pryce) — and sometimes, River’s biggest quality, his ambition, blinds him to what’s right in front of his face.
Of course, Oldman once again proves why he’s one of the best actors out there with his performance as Lamb, the wisecracking, perennially unimpressed leader of Slough House. You can practically smell him through the screen. After all, as MI5 Second Desk Diana Taverner (the always-powerful Kristin Scott Thomas) points out, he has some questionable personal hygiene practices or lack thereof. But there’s little doubt that he knows his stuff, even if he has been relegated to Slough House. Oldman gets even more of a chance to brilliantly embody Lamb in Season 2, with possibly more quips than in Season 1, more attitude, and more of a glimpse at the legend he once was. The final showdown with Nikolai Katinsky (Rade Serbedzija) in Episode 6, “Old Scores,” is particularly tense, as you constantly wonder if Lamb has finally met his match in the form of his old Russian foe. Which one of the seasoned agents will come out on top? You’re honestly not sure.
There’s also a showdown of sorts between River and a sleeper Russian agent, Louisa encountering some shady Russians, and Ho facing off against a terrifying assassin. These and many other moments play into one of the things that makes Slow Horses Season 2 so satisfying — everyone gets a chance to shine this time around, and you’re never really sure if they’re going to make it out alive or not. Each of the plotlines works together seamlessly to create an engrossing overall story arc that’s sure to get your pulse pounding and your anxiety rising. With the series renewed for Seasons 3 and 4, it’s exciting to think that this show may get better and better with time, considering how much brighter Season 2 shines.
If you’re looking for a spy/espionage drama with lots of dark humor and intrigue, look no further than Slow Horses. It really is an absolute thrill ride and a joy to watch. Season 2 takes what worked in the first season and expands upon it exponentially. With nearly every episode ending on a cliffhanger, your only complaint may be that you have to wait another week to see what happens next.
Slow Horses Season 2 premieres on Apple TV+ with the first two episodes on December 2, with subsequent episodes airing every Friday through December 30.