Review: Slow Horses Thriller Displays the Dangers of Bureaucracy

The British spy series shows the lengths to which government overseers will go to protect themselves.


In the British spy thriller Slow Horses, it's not the inept intelligence agents you need to worry about most. It's the ones who know what awful things they are doing.

The series follows a group of bumbling British domestic intelligence agents who have been remanded to Slough House—a dingy London row house under the direction of Jackson Lamb, its drunken, mean-spirited overseer (played by Gary Oldman).

The gang stumbles into a high-profile crisis in which a group of white nationalists have kidnapped a Pakistani teenager with personal connections to the Pakistani military. The operation eventually turns out to be a false flag arranged from the top as a ploy to build sympathy with Pakistani leadership. When the plot goes wrong and the teen's life is truly threatened, MI5 leadership tries to cover up its deadly errors, even if it means letting the kidnapped kid die.

It's a deft thriller about bureaucracy as a system for self-promotion and blame avoidance and the lengths to which government overseers will go to protect themselves, even at the expense of public safety.