One thing that makes British Spy Fiction its own (sub?)genre is that, with the exception of James Bond, every single novel, movie or TV series about British Intelligence is about how incompetent, corrupt and evil the whole community can be. In fact, the genre has mastered a very specific trope: The conspiracy to cover up the blowback of another even more corrupt conspiracy that went poorly. It is also one of the few, mainstream genres in British fiction where the upper-class, Eton-Oxbridge toffs are portrayed for the institutional obstacle they are. Films about the CIA would never.
British Spy Fiction leads to an important question: In a community plagued with incompetence and nepotism, is there a chance its rejects are actually the only ones worth a damn? That’s the question Apple TV+’s Slow Horses posed in its first season, which premiered earlier on April 2022. Centered on Slough House, an MI5 office whose sole purpose is to be a rubber room for demoted agents, the group eventually saw themselves cleaning up the main agency’s mess and actually doing some good, though mostly by accident and despite the rushed actions of former field agent River Cartwright (Jack Lowden) or the lack of interests of Jackson Lamb (Gary Oldman), the drunkard head of operations.
The first season of Slow Horses was a gem, something you would expect of great TV on its third season. One of its greatest strengths was in forgoing a convoluted spy plot for dark comedy, fully-formed characters and satire of British institutions. As the season finale drew to a close, we were treated to a surprise sneak peek of season two.
The full-length trailer was just released and we won’t have to wait at all, with new episodes streaming on December 1st, just in time for Christmas. This time around, the Slow Horses follow the tracks of a frozen network of Russian agent provocateurs, recently activated to stir shit up. Knowing the tone of this universe, there is a high likelihood that powerful British people are behind the situation, MI5 is turning a blind eye accidentally on purpose and Slough House will have to clean the mess. By making a smaller and more manageable mess. Don’t get fooled by the dramatic remix of “London Calling” and loaded editing of the trailer, this is a workplace comedy first. John Krasinski could never.