Slow Horses season 1, episode 1 recap – the premiere explained

By Adam Lock
Published: April 1, 2022 (Last updated: December 30, 2022)
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Apple TV+ series Slow Horses season 1, episode 1


Gary Oldman shines in this darkly funny and continually suspenseful espionage thriller.

We recap the Apple TV+ series Slow Horses season 1, episode 1, which contains spoilers.

Apple TV+ tackles the British espionage thriller with Slow Horses, a gripping new series starring Oscar-winning actor Gary Oldman as a disgraced MI5 agent in charge of other shamed spooks. This opening episode is action-packed from the get-go, but also surprisingly comedic with that famous, dry British wit. If the premiere is anything to go by this is going to be a stunning show to get stuck into this month.

Slow Horses season 1, episode 1 recap

That heart-racing opener introduces us to our protagonist, River Cartwright, played by Jack Lowden (Fighting with My Family). The youthful agent is in the midst of tracking down a suspect terrorist at a busy airport terminal, yet they jump the wrong man. River messed up on the specific intel, tailing an innocent bystander instead. What follows is a tense, mad dash chase across the airport after the true suspect. River barges civilians out of the way, hijacks a car, and disarms a police officer, all in the hopes of catching the killer. Unfortunately, the terrorist gets away and detonates the bomb at the last second. What an explosive intro.

Due to his costly mistake, River is sent to Slough House, a purgatory of paperwork and endless monotony, where the disrespected agents are sent to fade away into obscurity. Jackson Lamb (Gary Oldman) leads this band of misfits. He lives in absolute squalor himself, takeaway cartons are strewn around him, holes in his socks. He’s overweight, with a sweaty, greasy fringe. Put it this way, the man has seen better days. He swears at his subordinates, spending his days swigging alcohol and shoveling Chinese food down his throat. Oldman masterfully plays this multifaceted individual with humor and depth. There is clearly more to this man than meets the eye.

The ending

Along for the ride is Sid (Olivia Cooke), an adept, sarcastic agent, who outshines River at every turn. The two share an office and some flirtatious banter. River is tasked with rummaging through a suspect’s bins, whilst Sid manages to steal the files off of this fascist journalist. The memory stick contains data that may unlock a much deeper plot. As with the airport fiasco, River again goes against orders and takes the investigation into his own hands.

The premiere is tense and darkly comedic, promising a thrilling espionage caper to come. Like most Apple TV+ fares, this is cleverly written, with some impressive actors on board for the six-part series. It makes a nice change to see British sensibilities represented by a great British cast. Bring on the next installment.

What did you think of Slow Horses season 1, episode 1? Comment below. 

You can watch this series with a subscription to Apple TV+.

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1 thought on “Slow Horses season 1, episode 1 recap – the premiere explained

  • April 3, 2022 at 10:56 am

    If you liked Bill Fairclough’s Beyond Enkription, the first fact based espionage novel in The Burlington Files series, you should like Slow Horses to read or watch and vice versa. Don’t miss either and they are both from not dissimilar innovative breeds of spy fables hitherto unheard of each in their own way except that in The Burlington Files the spies are raw, noir and real not celluloid … and to think I thought Kompromat was the name of a Silovik or FSB Colonel until I finished my MI6 induction program by reading The Burlington Files series. At least now I know why Putin spells Ukraine, Mykraine and how Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelenskyy learnt to spell his own name!

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