The second season of Slow Horses sees the members of Slough House investigating a case that questions the existence of cicadas, sleeper agents who were once nothing but a hoax.
Jackson Lamb finds himself investigating the death of Richard Bough, an ex-service agent who died on the bus while following someone he recognized.
All Lamb could find on that bus the next day was his cell phone, which contains a message comprised of a single word: cicada.
Earlier, only Lamb knew what he was getting into, and he tried to keep River out of it. Since River had nothing to do at the Slough House, he spent some time with his grandfather, David Cartwright.
He mentioned the name of Richard Bough in front of him, and that name brought back some memories for David. He sits down with River to retell the story of the cicadas and Richard Bough.
Who were the cicadas?
Cicadas were basically Russian sleeper agents embedded in British society. They were called cicadas on the basis of their habits, which were quite similar to those of the insect. They spent years underground before hatching and coming out.
Back in time, many believed cicadas were real. A thorough investigation revealed that there are no such things as cicadas.
Alexander Popov himself, who was considered to be the spymaster of these cicadas, was a bogeyman. All of these rumors and myths were created to stir panic.
Hints that cicadas might be real
The situation calmed down until Richard Bough went AWOL and came back drunk, claiming that Popov and a thug kidnapped him. They interrogated him and poured brandy down his throat.
The fact that cicadas are just myths made everyone believe that Bough was lying. They thought he was making up an excuse for his drinking habits. Therefore, he was kicked out.
Years later, suddenly, Bough sees a familiar face in front of his store. He chases this person, and that results in his death. Before dying, the only word he leaves behind is ‘cicada’.
Keeping all of this in mind, River starts speculating that Bough wasn’t lying back then. Probably, Alexandar Popov is not real, but cicadas could really exist.
When Jackson Lamb learned this, he approached Nikolai Katinsky, an ex-KGB agent who had mentioned cicadas in his debrief. He revealed to Lamb that he had heard Popov’s plans for cicadas.
On an ordinary workday, not long before the Berlin Wall came down, Nikolai, from inside a cubicle of a washroom, overheard two people talking outside.
One of these two men addressed himself as Popov. He asked for funding and support for the cicadas to be continued.
Jackson questioned Katinsky if he recognized their voices. Katinsky claimed that the voice of the other person with Popov was familiar and could be that of Andrei Chernitsky.
Katinsky described Chernitsky as a big bald bull. The description kind of matches the person Richard was chasing. Now, Bough’s claims and his death, along with Katinsky’s confession, hint that some of these stories about cicadas might be true.
Probably, these cicadas were in hiding all along and are now finally coming out to accomplish their goals. This further suggests that this time around, Slow Horses are up against a faction that is good at hiding and cleverly erasing its tracks.