TV Review: ‘Slow Horses’ Season 3

Gary Oldman in 'Slow Horses' season 3 premiering November 29, 2023 on Apple TV+.

Gary Oldman in ‘Slow Horses’ season 3 premiering November 29, 2023 on Apple TV+.

Launching on Apple TV+ on November 29th (with two episodes), ‘Slow Horses’ makes a triumphant return to screens with another winning blend of character work, memorable dialogue and compelling action.

While Gary Oldman’s Jackson Lamb continues to be the standout, but there isn’t a weak link in this cast, and some new recruits (including one who is only in the first episode) only add to that feeling.

Related Article: Gary Oldman and Saskia Reeves Talk Apple TV+’s ‘Slow Horses’ Season 2

What works about ‘Slow Horses’ Season 3?

Kristin Scott Thomas in 'Slow Horses' season 3 premiering November 29, 2023 on Apple TV+.

Kristin Scott Thomas in ‘Slow Horses’ season 3 premiering November 29, 2023 on Apple TV+.

Apple TV+ is clearly happy with the success of this adaptation of Mick Herron’s popular spy thriller novels, as the streaming service commissions seasons in batches of two –– which is why we got a taster of the second as the credits rolled on the first.

That will continue with Season 4, which has already been shot, and on the evidence of the quality of Season 3, that’s a very good thing.

Even in this era of peak television and shorter streaming seasons, there are shows that have run out of steam only a couple of seasons in. Fortunately, ‘Slow Horses’ is most definitely not one of them. Showrunner Will Smith (not that one) and his team have kept the entertainment value consistent through all the seasons so far, and the third is no exception.

If you’ve never seen the show, this is a very different world to the usual heroics of, says James Bond or Jason Bourne. It’s much more street level, scruffier and set in the world of MI5’s rejects, who have somehow fouled up on duty and are shunted off to a satellite office of the security service.

Gary Oldman in 'Slow Horses' season 3 premiering November 29, 2023 on Apple TV+.

Gary Oldman in ‘Slow Horses’ season 3 premiering November 29, 2023 on Apple TV+.

Slough House (from where the team gets its nickname) is the butt-end of the intelligence world, a place careers go to die when they can’t hack it at the sparkling glass and solid concrete world of the service HQ in Regent’s Park.

And yet… As led by the drunken, flatulent Jackson Lamb (Gary Oldman), they somehow always manage to make it work. When big crises threaten the UK, the team is often drafted in, usually without really wanting to take part.

Oldman is very clearly having the time of his life playing Lamb, all stained shirts and stringy hair whose outward appearance and brusque manner (a choice line of his from this season is, “you’re about as welcome as a turd in a hot tub”) hides a keen intelligence and a strong feeling of loyalty to those who earn it. While he insults his team constantly, he’d lay down his life to help any one of them in truly dire straits.

Saskia Reeves and Jack Lowden in 'Slow Horses' season 3 premiering November 29, 2023 on Apple TV+.

(L to R) Saskia Reeves and Jack Lowden in ‘Slow Horses’ season 3 premiering November 29, 2023 on Apple TV+.

He’s primarily supported by Saskia Reeves’ Catherine Standish, an alcoholic but longstanding officer who runs Slough House and gives Lamb the counterbalance he needs.

Elsewhere, River Cartwright (Jack Lowden), who started to show as the audience’s point of view when he’s banished to Lamb’s team after a bad call on a training exercise, has really become part of the gang –– realizing that he might have actually found the perfect place to work. Even if he complains about it from time to time.

The rest of the team are all interesting characters, including the arrogant (without much cause besides his hacking skills) tech bro agent Roddy Ho (Christopher Chung), the world-weary Louisa Guy (Rosalind Eleazar), who is still recovering from the death of her partner/lover in Season 2 and newer recruits Shirley Dander (Aimee-Ffion Edwards) and Marcus Longridge (Kadiff Kirwan) get some much-needed depth, even if it does mean they’re both thrust into danger.

This is a perfectly gathered ensemble that play well off of each other, and the supporting cast is just as good –– Kristin Scott Thomas brings icy cool to the role of Diana Taverner, essentially second-in-command at the Regent’s Park HQ and endlessly bristling at being passed up for the top job.

That position went to Sophie Okonedo’s Ingrid Tearney, and she takes plenty of pleasure in reminding Diana of the place. Okonedo is so good as the bookish bureaucrat whose owlish nature sheathes a spine of steel.

When it’s time for the action to kick in, ‘Slow Horses’ doesn’t stint –– we won’t go into spoilers for this season’s big confrontation, but if you’ve seen the previous seasons, you’ll know it truly leans into the idea of conflict with stakes.

What doesn’t work in ‘Slow Horses’ Season 3?

Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù in 'Slow Horses' season 3 premiering November 29, 2023 on Apple TV+.

Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù in ‘Slow Horses’ season 3 premiering November 29, 2023 on Apple TV+.

There is very little that’s wrong with the new season of ‘Slow Horses’ –– while some could quibble that each new storyline brings some variation of espionage genre tropes: a threat to the nation; a conspiracy to keep secrets long buried; one of the team being kidnapped for leverage.

Each time, however, the writers undercut them with the humor and style of the show.

‘Slow Horses’ Season 3: Final Thoughts

Jack Lowden in 'Slow Horses' season 3 premiering November 29, 2023 on Apple TV+.

Jack Lowden in ‘Slow Horses’ season 3 premiering November 29, 2023 on Apple TV+.

In a world where spies are usually slick operators who save the day with complicated gadgets or by seducing the right woman, it’s reassuring to know that ‘Slow Horses’ offers the alternative, a downplayed, grungy but very, very human look at intelligence work. Long may these horses ride (even if it is slowly).

‘Slow Horses’ Season 3 receives 9 out of 10 stars.

Kristin Scott Thomas in 'Slow Horses' season 3 premiering November 29, 2023 on Apple TV+.

Kristin Scott Thomas in ‘Slow Horses’ season 3 premiering November 29, 2023 on Apple TV+.

What’s the story of ‘Slow Horses’ Season 3?

In Season 3 of ‘Slow Horses’, a romantic liaison in Istanbul threatens to expose a buried MI5 secret in London.

When Jackson Lamb (Gary Oldman) and his team of misfits are dragged into the fight, they find themselves caught in a conspiracy that threatens the future not just of Slough House –– but of MI5 itself.

Who else is in ‘Slow Horses’ Season 3?

The cast includes Gary Oldman, Jack Lowden, Kristin Scott Thomas, Saskia Reeves, Rosalind Eleazar, Christopher Chung, Freddie Fox, Aimee-Ffion Edwards, Kadiff Kirwan, Jonathan Pryce and Sophie Okonedo.

Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù and, in a small role, Katherine Waterston is among the new faces this year.

Academy Award winner Gary Oldman returns for the third season of 'Slow Horses,' coming to Apple TV+ on Friday, December 1, 2023.

Academy Award winner Gary Oldman returns for the third season of ‘Slow Horses,’ coming to Apple TV+ on Friday, December 1, 2023.

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Please click on the video player below to watch our interviews with the cast of ‘Slow Horses’ season one.

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