Apple TV+ has spent the past few years building a library of TV and film titles that just seems to get more and more impressive. Indeed, while not all of the streamer’s creative efforts have paid off (see: Spirited, Surface), it’s also produced more genuine hits and worthwhile TV shows than many of its competitors — and in a similar or shorter period of time. Not for nothing, the platform has also played a sizable role in getting big-screen epics like Killers of the Flower Moon and Napoleon not only made, but also released in theaters.
All that said, Apple TV+ has never, at any point throughout the past three years, been the home of the best show on television. In its third season, however, Slow Horses is making an increasingly compelling case for itself as not only the best show that’s currently airing new episodes but also the most consistently great thriller available to viewers right now.
Slow Horses is a modest spy thriller based on a series of novels by British mystery writer Mick Herron. It focuses on the agents of Slough House, the subdivision where MI5 sentences all of its rejected agents to spend the rest of their days working for the intelligence service. The low-rent purgatory is run by the vulgar, purposefully dirty Jackson Lamb (played by Gary Oldman at his grossest and most charismatic), who treats his agents so horribly that he legitimately expects them to get so sick of him that they quit.
Despite their misfit status, though, the agents of Slough House (referred to in the show as “Slow Horses”) often find themselves caught up in intricate conspiracies that threaten the security of not only Britain itself, but also the intelligence world that they are so desperate to remain a part of. Each of the show’s six-episode seasons is based on a different novel by Herron, which gives Slow Horses a quasi-anthological structure and feel. One could easily jump into Slow Horses at the start of any of its seasons and be confused about very little.
That’s part of what makes Slow Horses so impressive. It isn’t the most experimental or boundary-pushing of TV shows. On the contrary, there are times when it feels strikingly reminiscent of action-driven TV procedurals like 24 and Justified. Its episodes even usually end on the kind of old-fashioned cliffhangers that used to keep viewers coming back for 22 weeks at a time. Like Peacock’s Poker Face, its similarities to past, long-dead TV classics are largely what make Slow Horses such a refreshing contemporary thriller. The series is an incredible example of how satisfying it can be to watch a TV show execute a handful of familiar tricks at the highest possible level.
That’s particularly true of Slow Horses Season 3, which premiered at the end of November. The season gets off to an immediately propulsive, intriguing start, and its first four episodes have maintained the breakneck pace of its opening so well that watching it unfold has ended up being one of the highlights of this writer’s year. There’s no other show on the air that is as reliably entertaining and well-acted. It’s an ensemble thriller that never shortchanges any of its characters but never pauses too long on any of them to lose its pleasing sense of forward momentum.
Like all great shows, Slow Horses makes the things it does look easy. Three seasons into its run, the show has settled into a steady rhythm and, with every new episode, it just emerges as a stronger contender for the title of Apple TV+’s best original series to date. It deserves far more attention than it’s been getting in recent weeks, and if you haven’t checked it out yet, don’t hesitate to jump in. Once you do, you won’t be disappointed.