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Slow Horses - Drinking Games - Review

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Slow Horses episode 3 opens with something of a curveball that subverted the cliffhanger of the last episode brilliantly, we expected Harper to meet his end at the end at the hands of the Russians, and whilst he may still have done so in a roundabout way; he’s given drinks by them and welcomed into their hotel where he gets along with the security guard brilliantly. Unfortunately, and devastatingly so for some Slow Horses more than others, he doesn’t make it home – he’s run over on the way home from work after being advised to get a taxi. Perfectly innocent, but in the world of spies – there are no coincidences, and Jackson Lamb is on the case.

Killing off a major character in the middle of the third episode of the series is a bold move; and Slow Horses pulls it off brilliantly. Much of the episode uses character to define how these people would react to deaths – both Diana and Webb worry about how it would look bad for their career, Webb has always been what Cartwright could have been had he stayed in MI5, they have a past after all – but him staying grounded is partly why he’s in Upshott and not wondering about the fate of his gig. Cartwright has checked in at a local in and has been given a tour of the small village by the local landlord – Kelly Tropper, who’s only ever left to go to uni. However; her parents have their own reasons to moving to the village – Adrian Rawlins’ Duncan Tropper knows more than he’s aware and letting on. That’s the theme of this season – everyone knows more than they should – and Duncan is the owner of the flying club that Cartwright is sent to infiltrate. He’s given carte-blanche to ignore any questions of ethics when acting as an undercover operative by Jackson Lamb – who argues that if ethics applied to what they did, they’d be in trouble long ago. Duncan poking around suggests there’s a brewing confrontation, and in the world of Slow Horses, the stakes are higher than ever.

In Slough House, Roddy Ho reacts in a way that’s cold even for Lamb – and when it’s cold for Lamb, you know it’s cold. He reminds you of every edgy techbro that you’ve seen and with his back and forth with newcomer Dander – you know you’re team Dander all the way. Harper’s death affects Guy the most, after they were arguing just before over seeing his child – who’s ignored here in this episode largely – but is keen to get on with the job the way that Jackson Lamb probably has had to do in the past, and is doing now. Newcomer Marcus Longridge, played by Kadiff Kirwan, has joined up with Guy as a replacement – and Longridge may have been in Slough House for months now, but in true Ho fashion – he hasn’t even been given a desk yet. Longridge – ever to prove himself, joins up with Guy, whilst Ho and Dander are able to track down the source of the phone from their spy – he’s planted it the pocket of an Estonian folk artist, and hasn’t even left the UK.

There’s talk of a major political speech in the middle of a glass house, and those in glass houses don’t throw stones. MI5 are worried about the extra security, but moving it during the protests would make the speechmaker look weak – even in the middle of a protest. Something is brewing here; and the stakes are building rapidly. Judd already has protection from the dogs, but wants Taverner in to look after him personally.

Back in the Cotswolds, Cartwright is given the warm family welcome – and what follows, is another excellent cliffhanger – Cartwright’s given the Tropper family tour, only to find that their newest guest, Leo, an old friend – is the spy that they’re looking for, Chernitsky. Cartwright has been sent into the hornet’s nest to flush him out – and has awakened a hive. The question remains: how many of the Tropper family members know of Leo’s involvement in the grand scheme of things? That’s what Cartwright has to find out - especially when he learns that Tropper's parents used to be student radicals.

One thing is pretty clear regarding Harper is that his death wasn't an accident and it was staged to look like one - maybe the Russians had him targeted after all? Rebecca, the drunk-driver, has a past linked to Russia - and was handsomley paid off to cover. She tells Lamb - who argues that the Russians are aware that he's visited Rebecca's flat and will be convinced that she talked regardless - but at least he can offer protection - and in exchange, she reveals that she wasn't driving, and Harper wasn't killed by her car.

The show has been building some momentum now and this midpoint in the series is where we get plenty of good reveals - with everything clicking into place nicely. There's a Hot Fuzz conspiracy angle to the small village in the Cotsworlds with Cartwright in over his head and the Troppers giving an edge of letting him know that they're more aware of what he's up to without telling him. It's an interesting angle of back and forth that works with raising the stakes no matter where they are, and Slow Horses slowly moves Cartwright's plot closer towards linking its two - so far seperate - strands together with the pace of a movie split up into multiple parts. Harper's death coming this early was a massive shock, one of the most developed of the Slow Horses team - and it being in such a cold fashion reminds you that this show can go to really dark places when it needs to.

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