Gary Oldman, sharp writing, transports very entertaining slow horses | TV/Streaming

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Based on the 2010 novel of the same name by Mick Herron, “Slow Horses” opens with an intense action scene in which an MI5 agent named River Cartwright (the great Jack Lowden of “Dunkirk” and the upcoming “Blessing “) attempts to apprehend a potential bombing suspect at Heathrow Airport. Everything goes horribly wrong, and Cartwright, despite having a legacy in the spy business thanks to his famous grandfather David (Jonathan Pryce), is taken to a place called Slough House, which is not nearby. Slough but is far enough from the pulse of the British spy game that it might as well be. As if Slough House wasn’t a degrading enough nickname for this group of outcasts, they get a secondary nickname based on it that gives the show its title.

The ‘Slow Horses’ are led by Jackson Lamb (a fantastical Gary Oldman), a curmudgeon who makes his disdain for his current mission known on a daily basis, telling his team that they are basically paper rejects and that he hates everything. which concerns them. River doesn’t like being there too, and he jumps when he suspects their latest grudge job might be something more. Why are they digging through the trash of a famous white supremacist? When evidence needs to be turned over to his former MI5 allies, including Chief Diana Taverner (Kristin Scott Thomas), Cartwright fights his way through the investigation, essentially dragging the entire team with him, which includes characters played by Olivia Cooke, Rosalind Eleazar, and Dustin Demri-Burns. The surveillance turns out to be linked to the kidnapping of a young British Muslim, whom a fringe group threatens to behead on national television.

“Slow Horses” is another spy story in need of redemption, but writer Will Smith (no, not that one) never takes his concept too pretentiously, allowing for scenes that almost approach mid-length comedy. work among these outcasts, some of whom are in Slough House just because of an understandable mistake. Director James Hawes – a vet who has helmed shows like “Doctor Who,” “Black Mirror” and “Raised by Wolves” – knows how to balance the intense plot of a kidnapping spy drama with rhythms of characters that keep the show from feeling distant. And so we get clues to Lamb’s past, a budding relationship between spies Min and Louisa, and questions about why a clear talent like Cooke’s Sid would even be there. A show like this has to find the right rhythm, a balance between character plot and espionage, and it’s almost perfect here, at least when the show focuses on slow horses – long scenes with the kidnappers , especially in later episodes, feel like they could have been shortened a bit, to be fair.

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