‘Slow Horses’ follows the less than stellar team of British intelligence agents relegated to the secondary branch of the MI5 based in Slough House. Led (from behind) by the unapologetically unpleasant but brilliant Jackson Lamb (Gary Oldman), the team is pushed into action when a young student is kidnapped by an extremist group called the “Sons of Albion.”
Despite the undercurrent of signature dry British humor that makes the Apple TV+ series so entertaining, it also has a sufficiently complex plot that sometimes seems reflective of current events. Hassan’s tormentors got us wondering whether the Sons of Albion, as seen on ‘Slow Horses,’ could be based on a real extremist group. Here’s what we found. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Is Sons of Albion Based on a Real Extremist Group?
In the series’ opening episode, a stand-up comic and college student, Hassan Ahmed, is kidnapped by a group that subsequently releases a video taking responsibility for the kidnapping and threatening to kill their hostage. The group introduces itself as the Sons of Albion, and it soon becomes clear that it consists of racist nationalists who are against immigrants in the United Kingdom.
‘Slow Horses’ is based on the novels of mystery-thriller writer Mick Herron, whose books are largely fictional. However, Herron does draw inspiration from real-world situations and even locations. His 2021 novel ‘Slough House’ obliquely refers to Brexit and even the Skripal poisoning case.
The extremist group called the Sons of Albion, though without such obvious references to any real-life groups or incidents, could be loosely inspired by a few different sources. First things first, the word “Albion” is an archaic word that refers to Great Britain, often used poetically. Thus, the Sons of Albion seems to be an obvious name for a group of nationalists, especially ones who want to go back to olden times when the country’s population was not as diverse.
Now, going a little further on a limb, the Sons of Albion from Herron’s 2010 novel ‘Slow Horses’ could draw from a book released the previous year. Titled ‘Sons of Albion: The Inside Story of the Section 5 Squad Incorporating the Clubhouse and Smethwick Mob 30+ Years of West Brom’s Hooligan Firms,’ the book focuses on the history of football violence surrounding the West Bromwich Albion football club.
One of the club’s supporting firms was known as Section 5, with younger members comprising a sub-group called Albion Youth. Most notably, Section 5 was known for its inclusion of multi-racial members in a time when ethnic homogeneity and racist attitudes generally marked football hooliganism. This would make calling the obviously racist Sons of Albion in ‘Slow Horses’ an ironic reference to the Section 5 firm. This is not officially confirmed and could be mere speculation. However, one of the young members of the show’s extremist group does mention his football skills, but it is in the context of gaming consoles.
Herron seems exceptionally proficient at drawing from a variety of sources, giving his spy-thriller stories a distinctly realistic feel. The extremist group from his books (and the subsequent series based on the books) seems to be a product of the writer’s imagination with possible inspiration from a few other references to Albion. Of course, Herron has also likely drawn from general real-world occurrences of extremism and violence but not specifically. Thus, the Sons of Albion, as seen on ‘Slow Horses,’ is not based on a real extremist group.