‘Slow Horses’ on Apple TV+ follows a team of British intelligence agents who, for a variety of career-ending mistakes, find themselves relegated to the decrepit Slough House branch of the MI5. Headed by the cynical and holistically unpleasant Jackson Lamb (Gary Oldman), the team of agents is assigned the lowliest of tasks until they become embroiled in a potentially fatal kidnapping.
The series blends dry British humor with some truly intriguing spy-thriller plots, and its title feels similarly tongue-in-cheek. Apart from its more obvious connotations, what other meanings are hidden in the title of ‘Slow Horses’? Let’s find out.
What is the Meaning of Slow Horses Title?
‘Slow Horses’ is based on mystery and thriller author Mick Herron’s series of novels, which are part of his broader ‘Slough House’ series of novels. The first book of the series is titled ‘Slow Horses,’ and the Apple TV+ show draws its name from the book. However, only the first six episodes are based on the first book, with the subsequent six drawing from the second book in the series — ‘Dead Lions.’ The entire book series revolves around Jackson Lamb, and the show includes many of the characters and plotlines seen in the book series.
The show’s central plot revolves around the group of disgraced intelligence agents that work at the Slough House branch of the MI5, which is a sort of purgatory for those who have committed career-ending mistakes. For a variety of colorful reasons (some known and some unknown), each of the agents has been relegated to Slough House, seemingly to live out the rest of their careers without getting in the way of their more accomplished counterparts in the MI5 head office.
River Cartwright finds himself sent to the lackluster branch after spectacularly failing a training exercise, causing the potential deaths of hundreds of people. Most of the agents that make up the team seem quite content in their current positions and are not very ambitious. This also makes them less-than-ideal agents, thus justifying the title “slow horses.” The show’s title is essentially what the central group of washed-up agents is referred to as. Of course, in metaphorical use, “slow horse” compares someone’s intelligence or skill to the slowest horse in the race.
There also seems to be an interesting play between the show’s title and its central location. The fact that “Slow Horses” and “Slough House” sound so similar to each other is most likely not a coincidence but by design. This makes the Slow Horses of Slough House all the more comedic and, in a way, oddly connected because the agents are seemingly as lackluster as the location where their branch is.
Thus, the title of ‘Slow Horses’ draws on multiple funny meanings that center around and even refer to the aforementioned group of intelligence agents. Of course, their proudly uncharismatic leader, Jackson Lamb, is also referred to in the title because he too is past his heyday and is now relatively “slow.” Though the flatulent head of Slough House doesn’t show it, he is actually a bit of a legend, and even Diana Taverner, who handles most of the MI5 missions, speaks about him reverently (but only in Lamb’s absence).