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Slow Horses - Bad Tradecraft & Visiting Hours - Review

Slow Horses 1.03 "Bad Tradecraft" - Review:

Slow Horses’ third episode moves the plot forward as we entre the middle of the series in Bad Tradecraft as we deal with the fallout at the end of episode three and the shooting of one of Slough House’s own, with multiple revelations about who’s spying on who and double agents within double agents. It’s all a lot to take in, but let’s get to the big stuff first: Taverner set up the execution as a ploy to take down the Sons of Albion with one of their own working undercover, but Hobden knows this and wants to try and rat out to the MP Peter – but Hassan was trying to escape in all of this throwing their plan potentially out of the window; almost getting away with it too. Lamb is smart enough to work this out when Moody – on a clean-up job, jumps Louise and Min after they’re returning after a night out leading to a tumble down the stairs that results in his death. It’s revealed that Moody is the same operator that attacked Cartwright and Baker when they were raiding Hobden’s house – and now Hobden is spooked on top of this, thinking that MI5 were raiding his house because he knows about the assassination. We also got the revelation that Baker was spying on Cartwright for Taverner – not tailing Hobden but there because she was following Cartwright.

Lamb has leverage over Taverner and is able to sweep this under the rug for now in exchange for a lack of heat pushed their way for Moody’s death. There’s a grim exchange about canals that prove how much easier it was to dump bodies in them – Lamb feels like the epitome of what makes Slough House Slough House – a rude, obnoxious brat who constantly talks down to his agents but will stick his neck out for them as though they were his own family.

Meanwhile – Hobden is told to leave by Peter who warns him that although Hobden has blackmail material on him; Peter has a way of dealing with that that would limit its impact – a careerist politician with a ruthless, House of Cards style strategy. The mystery is getting much more compelling the more layers revealed to it as it progresses and the deeper and deeper this thing gets down the rabbit hole, the more you feel inclined to watch more. It moves along with a breeze – tightly plotted material that can feel a little hard to follow at times but not if you’re paying attention, and Slow Horses never finds a way to make things boring. It was a shame to see Olivia Cooke’s Baker written out of this episode as she’s been fantastic in this series so far – but it’s still a real collection of star-studded talent on display. Oldman is doing great as Lamb as usual making the most in revelling as one of the most unprofessional spooks ever – determined to play by Moscow Rules rather than London ones – but his results are chaotic when you factor in Curly, someone who’s more unhinged and erratic than Lamb – an axe-wielder who naturally, given Chekov, has to use the axe at some point. He attacks Taverner’s undercover man and decapitates him for Slough House to find as they enter the building – with the Sons of Albion and Hassan gone moments before they arrive. Quite the exciting end to the episode that – Slow Horses has a way of ending on unpredictably tense cliffhangers that have you instantly coming back for more.

Slow Horses 1.04 "Visiting Hours" - Review:

Visiting Hours takes a fascinating turn as it sees the Slow Horses dealing with the fallout of the attack that led to one of their own being dead. It’s full Mission Impossible as MI5 launch a clean-up with Taverner looking to clean up her mess – and tells the dogs to chase after the Slough House team and their band of rejects. What follows is a spree for Cartwright, Louise and Min escaping the dogs – in a high-adrenaline fuelled chase sequence, trying to recruit their team under the dogs noses. Ho is recruited after a fake bait and switch; but has Lamb run for the hills?

It certainly looks that way: Duffy has spotted Lamb buying tickets from Gatwick on CCTV – almost too easy – and it quickly becomes apparent that he’s done the classic spy tactic of booking flights from multiple places such as well, pretty much every major airport in London. It’s a move that feels ripped straight from the spy playbook – we saw it recently deployed in the second season of Alex Rider where Alex was incidentally – also trying to avoid MI5 – but it makes Duffy and the dogs aware that Lamb knows they’re after him. As stated in the last episode – Cartwright and the gang shouldn’t be so quick to rule out Lamb jumping ship just yet – he’s not about to leave his team behind. They may be screwups – but they’re his screwups.

I like that the series is adding touches on the side like Louise and Min’s relationships – this could have easily been the Lamb show given Gary Oldman after all – but Slow Horses finds quirks in all the characters and that’s what makes it great. They’re well developed to be characters going through the third season of a show – and the series even has time to focus on the kidnappers Justified style in the backseat of the car – giving them a sense of personality and character.

After Ho is recruited Standish is next on the list and he’s able to convince her but in turn; Cartwright goes to check on s posing as her step brother. It’s a bold move given that the hospital is so heavily watched. Standish’s first suspect as to why the Slow Horses are on the run is correct – Cartwright; and her concern for Baker’s wellbeing doubles that of Moody. Standish knows that Moody was always going to end badly – but she says that she liked Sid.

Unfortunately; Standish and Lamb are rumbled trying to escape from Standish’s apartment – and it’s a standoff between Curry, Webb, Lamb and Standish. Lamb is instantly the coolest person in the room – or the one capable of delivering the most brutal insults – taking Webb down a peg or two from the get go – whilst the dogs arrive at the hospital Cartwright has walked himself into and Ho bails. Time it seems – is running out for the team. Baker’s still in the hospital – and on the verge of death. Once again; it’s a real shame that the show doesn’t do more with one of its most talented cast members – Cooke – a real rising star – but then; there’s plenty of material to work with the rest of the cast.

Cartwright panics and makes a break for it – it was a dumb move to go to the hospital in the first place; and now he’s in trouble. It’s a frantic escape through the white walled-corridors and Cartwright finds himself in a lift with an injured patient and doctor. The gag about Cartwright asking whether the patient was routine or emergency was appreciated – and Cartwright uses that trick to fool the Spook and knock him unconscious – only to leave the hospital and find out that Ho has abandoned him. The Sons of Albion have realised – but are confused – as to the reason why the organiser of the gang was the one that betrayed them and now with him dead there’s no backup plan. In a brilliantly tight bit of writing the characters come to the conclusion that the best way to take care of the mess is leave Hassan in the woods on his own – somewhere where he can be found. But Curley is on edge, and having none of it – even telling Hassan his colleagues’ names – and is insistent that Hassan dies. The friction is there from the get go that makes this all the more tense and chaotic – and Curley asks if his colleagues have the balls to stop him. The answer to that – is no – they will go along with his plan.

Duffy meanwhile brings in Lamb and Standish – Lamb does his best to unsettle the characters as they head in. Loy meanwhile is rumbled by Taverner and breaks when she says they’ll tell his wife he’s involved in the case. That’s one down. But they might be two up: Standish – who wasn’t searched earlier by Duffy and Webb; is able to pull a gun out on them in the car to add to another stressful situation of a chaotic sequence in a car in this week’s episode. It’s Webb’s turn to break – and Standish and Lamb leave them and run off with the car. If Slough House wasn’t in deep enough trouble as it is – it’s right up to its neck in it now.

So whilst there’s nothing new in terms of the storyline in both episodes – the gang going rogue from a rival spy agency happens in every Mission Impossible movie, Slow Horses is moving on with the sense of a refined charm that makes it watchable and instantly likeable. It moves along like a breeze – and is just a joy to spend time with the characters in this world.

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