Why Was Dickie Bough Killed in Slow Horses, Explained

Portrayed by Phil Davis (Mark Stewart as the younger Dickie Bough), Richard “Dickie” Bough (alternatively spelled Bow) appears only in the first episode of the second season of ‘Slow Horses,’ the Apple TV+ spy thriller series based on the  ‘Slough House’ series of novels by Mick Herron. However, his death under mysterious circumstances impacts the narrative of the entire season. A former MI5 agent, Bough worked closely with Jackson Lamb (Gary Oldman), who begins investigating Bough’s death and discovers its connection to the events that took place at the tail end of the Cold War. If you are wondering why Dickie Bough was killed, we got you covered. SPOILERS AHEAD,

What Happened to Dickie Bough?

In the present time, Dickie is an elderly gentleman. As season 2 begins, he spots someone he last saw when the Berlin Wall fell in East Germany and begins to follow him. About forty years ago, Dickie was captured by this bald man and other KGB agents like him and tortured for information. Despite the four-decade-long intermediate period, Dickie vividly remembers every second of this incident. He decides to follow the man and gets on a bus after him. However, when Dickie does not get off even though the final stop has arrived, the driver comes to check on him and discovers that he is dead.

We learn in the course of the season that Dickie used to be one of Lamb’s “Joes,” or agents tasked to infiltrate enemy ranks or society and send back vital information. As Lamb investigates Bough’s death, he discovers the word “Cicada’ written on the dead man’s phone, making him realize that Dickie was killed. Cicadas are rumored Russian sleeper agents trained to infiltrate British society. Their name derives from the fact like the cicadas, they spent years underground before it was time for them to “hatch.”

Bough no longer had any connection with the agency for decades, but Lamb has this rare sense of loyalty toward everyone he has served with. And it is that loyalty that spurs him on during the investigation. Bough was fired from the agency after he showed up to work drunk, claiming that he had been abducted by Cicada agents, who poured brandy down his throat. He was not taken seriously, and the MI5 concluded that the existence of the Cicadas was a hoax in the 1980s as their leader, the cunning spymaster Alexander Popov, was supposedly revealed to be a bogeyman.

During his investigation, Lamb approaches Nikolai Katinsky (Rade Serbedzija), a seemingly mid-to-low-tier KGB agent who defected to the UK in the 1990s and the only one among the Soviet defectors to speak about Popov and Cicadas. He claims that he heard Popov speaking to a man named Andrei Chernitsky. The description that Katinsky gives makes Lamb realize that Chernitsky is the man who killed Bough after the latter recognized him.

It is ultimately revealed that Katinsky is Popov. At the time of his defection, the Russian security agencies let him go under one condition — at some point in the future, he would have to help them. In the present time, the Russians told him to create a diversion while they go after their real target: the Russian energy oligarch and defector Ilya Nevsky touted to be the next leader of Russia.

In return, Katinsky asked for the names of the people responsible for the deaths of Charles Partner, who was Katinsky’s former informant, the First Desk at MI5, and Catherine’s former boss. The two men mentioned above turn out to be Lamb and River Cartwright. As the season ends, Lamb commemorates Dickie’s service in the MI5 by sticking a note on the walls of St. Leonard’s among the plaques dedicated to agents who died in the line of duty.

Read More: Slow Horses Season 2 Finale Recap and Ending, Explained