Slow Horses season 3 has been released on AppleTV+ with the first two episodes, as the show sets the premise for the new plot for this iteration. The opening episode showed the main crisis this time around, which is the kidnapping of Slough House agent Catherine Standish. As all of the agents at the office had been informed about this new development, River Cartwright had received a photo of Catherine on his phone, along with a message from the kidnappers to meet him at a designated place. Episode 2 begins from this very point, as we are given more information about the kidnappers.
What does River do to save Catherine?
As River reaches the spot mentioned in the blackmail text, he finds someone least expected there, for it is James Webb, who nervously greets him. Webb had played an instrumental role in season 2, as his lapse of security and judgment had led to massive trouble for the MI5 and the safety of the nation as well. Naturally, the man had been relieved of his duties, and he was no longer associated with the service at the time. However, he had now been contacted by the kidnappers, who roped him into the plan as well by threatening Webb. The men had been tailing Webb’s sister, and so they sent him pictures of her and her children, making it clear that they would be killed if he did not comply. Desperate to protect his sister and nieces, the ex-MI5 agent now appears at the spot mentioned to give River the next clue.
Webb accepts his fault from the past, and he also does not protest against River’s hatred for him, but the man is genuinely shaken up by the situation. With no idea about who the kidnappers were or what their plan was, Webb had been appointed to only hand River a piece of paper that mentioned their current demand. This demand was for a confidential file that was about the PM’s vetting, or background information, that is supposed to be kept locked up safely at the Regent Park archive. River tries to figure out his next move for a few seconds, as he knows that he will not be allowed in at the MI5 headquarters. However, the man is almost led to his next steps by the kidnappers themselves as a sniper laser meticulously flies around Webb’s chest, where he is wearing an ornate tie pin.
There is no doubt that this entire situation is like a neatly designed puzzle that the kidnappers have set for River to solve. But they also categorically help him out with teasing hints. The appointment of Webb itself is a big hint that River has to go to Regent Park, as anyone else could have been hired to perform this step. But Webb’s association with the MI5 headquarters is important, and similarly, it seems like the kidnappers want to point out his tie pin for River. The pin has a small ornate stone fixed on it, which can very well resemble a small diamond, and it seems like the one in control of the sniper laser wants to remind River that the MI5 have been desperately searching for a diamond for quite some time now. This was the same diamond from Arkady Pashkin’s stolen stash, which Slough House agent Louisa Guy had picked up and has kept hidden with her ever since.
River quickly takes away the tie pin and reaches the Regent Park office, demanding that he urgently meet some higher official. He has to get past all the bureaucracy that seems to be present only to slow him down at such an emergency time, for the kidnappers have also threatened to kill Catherine if the file is not delivered to them within the afternoon. River finally gets to meet with Nick Duffy, the leader of the Dogs and also head of MI5 internal affairs, who is extremely angry at the Slough House agent’s infiltration into the headquarters. But River bypasses the entire situation by claiming that he has secured the stolen Russian diamond, and he then throws at Duffy the fake gemstone from Webb’s tie pin. Despite Duffy not wanting to believe River, he cannot really dismiss the claim either, for if it truly is the stolen diamond, then retrieving it would be of great help to MI5’s reputation. As the man has to get the stone verified, River secretly charts his way through the building towards the archive room. On the way, he has to deal with one of the brutish officials at the place, Hobbs, with whom River has a history of hostility.
Trouble breaks out when Hobbs asks to see River’s security pass after refusing to believe that the Slough House agent could have any official business in the secure depths of the Regent Park building. He is right, though, and River has to once again punch and run from Hobbs and then finally reach the safe bounds of the archive room. The keeper at the archive, Molly, is notorious for not allowing any Dog personnel into her sacred space, for she considers them unworthy of the knowledge of her abode. River immediately asks to access the PM’s vetting file, as he is running out of time, and he also tells Molly how Catherine would be dying otherwise. But Molly is unmoved, and even when River forcefully goes searching for the file, he is unable to find it in the archives.
Instead, Molly calls up the only man she knows to be able to help—Jackson Lamb. She informs him of the entire situation, and so Lamb takes over and speaks with River. He tells the young man to leave Regent Park immediately, for he was never supposed to go there in the first place. By now, Lamb had figured out who the kidnappers were, and so he made Molly help River escape the MI5 building. However, River is unable to completely get away, even after exiting the building, as he is arrested by Duffy and Hobbs at the end of the episode.
Who are Catherine’s kidnappers?
As River had rushed out of Slough House, he had not informed anybody of the situation, probably hoping that his heroic acts would solve the entire matter. He could not be traced by Roddy either until he switched on his phone inside Regent Park. During this time, the rest of the team had been trying to find any clues or leads as to who the kidnappers were. Louisa had visited the restaurant where Catherine had been seen last, and she had found a car that the kidnappers had used as part of their plan. Incidentally, this car had been rented in the name of a certain Sean Donovan, but Roddy initially refuses to look into the man’s identity, claiming that he must have used a fake name and address. Unbeknownst to them, though, Sean is indeed involved in the kidnapping, and tracking him is of utmost importance.
On the other side, Shirley and Marcus are informed by Lamb that they have been tailed to the Slough House office, and so they start to check out a specific suspicious-looking man. But this chase does not end well, for the agents approach the man directly, running after him instead of tactically following him around. The man ultimately escapes in a van, clearly driven by his associates, and the agents are left with no information at all. But Jackson Lamb goes out on his classical information-gathering sessions and meets with an ex-Dog, Sam Chapman, who was seen in the earlier seasons of Slow Horses as well. Lamb knows that approaching the Dogs directly would get River into trouble, and the authorities would not do enough to rescue Catherine.
Through his conversation with Chapman, Lamb realizes that the men involved in the kidnapping must be workers of some private security firm, for most of them are evidently ex-army personnel. Chapman reveals that only three private security firms would have the power to infiltrate MI5 and mess around with them. But since the first two options are involved in waging war overseas in Africa and the Middle East, the only possible group seems to be one known as the Chieftain. Owned and run by someone named Sly Monteif, the Chieftain group was new to the business and was, therefore, open to any kind of work.
This information checks out, as Louisa also looks into Sean Donovan’s past and finds him to have worked for the Chieftain group. Lamb and Chapman also discuss how only one individual seems to have put out this hit against MI5 officials, and it seems likely that they are talking about Donovan himself. Therefore, as the episode ends, it becomes revealed that Catherine had been kidnapped by the Chieftain private security firm, and the reason for it is to stir up the MI5. The exact history behind this, though, remains unknown for now.
Could Diana Taverner be involved in the plot?
Although it is still quite early in the Slow Horses 3rd season, the MI5 Second Desk, Diana Taverner, already looks a bit suspicious in her actions. The woman had been seen setting up a secret archive by herself in the previous episode, and she is now especially lenient on River. She calls the young man to her office during his tense infiltration, but she has nothing specific to talk about. It is as if Diana wants to waste some of River’s time, putting him under more pressure in his situation. She then spots River running around the Regent Park office without authorization, but she does not do anything about it. One aspect of it is clear right away, as River’s unlawful acts would pose problems for Duffy, who is currently her rival in the office, owing to his proximity with Ingrid Tearney.
However, it also seems like Diana knows about Catherine’s kidnapping, and she is only watching how Slough House reacts from afar. The fact that River does not find the PM vetting file at the Regent Park archive can suggest that Diana had already removed it from there to store it in her secret archive. In that case, she already knows that the file is going to be of great importance, and her intentions will be made clear in the future episodes. Diana had promised Peter Judd, the erstwhile Home Secretary, back in season 2, that she would help him become the next PM if she was supported to become the DG of MI5. We are yet to know who the current PM is, and so all this could also be part of Diana Taverner’s plan behind attempting to oust the current PM and support Peter Judd’s claim to the position.