Gary Oldman’s portrayal of Jackson Lamb, the unconventional British spy in Apple TV+’s “Slow Horses,” has captivated audiences with its refreshing departure from the suave spy archetype. Based on Mick Herron’s book series, this darkly humorous espionage thriller introduces viewers to the purgatorial world of Slough House, where MI5 agents serve their penance for past failures. Oldman’s laid-back yet morally-driven performance as Lamb has garnered acclaim, adding another highlight to his illustrious 40-plus-year career. With two seasons already aired and more on the way, “Slow Horses” offers a compelling mix of suspense, humor, and remarkable character dynamics.
The story of “Slow Horses” introduces audiences to Lamb through a memorable scene in his cluttered office. As Lamb awakens from a slumber on his couch, the camera focuses on his disheveled appearance before he startles awake from a thunderous fart. This unapologetically unrefined depiction sets the tone for the series, emphasizing its departure from the suave and sophisticated spy world embodied by James Bond or George Smiley. Lamb’s character is a far cry from the traditional archetype, showcasing his acid-tongued personality, protective nature towards his team of “joes,” and his disdain for bureaucratic nonsense.
Oldman’s Liberating Role:
In a recent interview from his home in Palm Springs, Oldman expressed how liberating it is to portray a character like Lamb, who openly humiliates others and flaunts his hostility. However, beneath Lamb’s gruff exterior lies a strong moral compass, making him a complex and likable character despite his lack of political correctness. Oldman appreciates the opportunity to bring Lamb to life, crediting the well-crafted character on the page and his own imagination and interpretation.
Lamb’s World of Sluggish Equines:
Across two concise six-episode seasons, “Slow Horses” follows Lamb and his team of MI5’s underachievers as they uncover internal corruption and delve into the murder of a former agent connected to a Russian sleeper cell. The series expertly balances white-knuckle suspense and dark humor, highlighting the dynamic between Lamb and Diana Taverner, MI5’s polished second-in-command portrayed by Kristin Scott Thomas. Their scenes together, filled with highbrow insults and intellectual banter, provide some of the series’ most delectable moments. Oldman praises the chemistry between him and Scott Thomas, emphasizing the back-and-forth exchange that elevates their performances.
Adding a Personal Touch:
During the filming of the Season 2 finale, Oldman injected his own improvisation into a scene where Lamb anticipates a confrontation with a Russian spy. He suggested eating a bag of chips while waiting, further emphasizing Lamb’s indulgent and unconventional habits. The show’s ability to explore these unglamorous aspects of spies, such as eating, smoking, and flatulence, sets it apart from traditional espionage stories, offering a more realistic and human portrayal of the characters.
The Enduring Appeal:
With the third season already wrapped and the fourth in production, Oldman expresses his enthusiasm for continuing to portray Lamb as long as Mick Herron’s series and Apple TV+ allow. He recognizes Lamb’s limited character arc throughout the novels but finds redemption and surprises within his enigmatic nature. Lamb’s nonchalant demeanor hides his dedication and care, making him a fascinating character to play.
“Slow Horses” has established itself as a revelatory espionage thriller, propelled by Gary Oldman’s captivating performance as the unconventional spy Jackson Lamb. Departing from the suave and sophisticated spy archetype, the series embraces dark humor, white-knuckle suspense, and unapologetically humanizes its characters. With Oldman’s commitment to continuing the role and the promising source material, viewers can eagerly anticipate further seasons of “Slow Horses” on Apple TV+.