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‘Slow Horses’ cast hits its stride in season 3

Gary Oldman in "Slow Horses."APPLE TV+

“Slow Horses” is back for season 3 on Apple TV+, and it’s a joy. The story line is fine — it’s less twisty and cerebral than those of the previous two seasons, perhaps, which is fine. The season is based on Mick Herron’s “Real Tigers,” the third book in the Slough House series.

But the characters, and particularly Gary Oldman’s Jackson Lamb, are more entertaining than ever. The gang of losers at the dumpy Slough House have become more colorful, including hacker Roddy (Christopher Chung), the stalwart Catherine (Saskia Reeves), the simultaneously bright and dim River (Jack Lowden), and the grieving Louisa (Rosalind Eleazar), who is acting out after the death of her boyfriend. And this season we get a more in-depth look at the ambitious MI5 director Ingrid Tearney, played by Sophie Okenedo. There are some amusing scenes featuring Okonedo and Kristin Scott Thomas, who plays MI5′s deputy director, Diana, as they negotiate the intense competition between them.

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Honestly, though, if the show were only all about Lamb, I’d still love it. Oldman was excellent from the get-go with this character, but now he wears it like a comfortable old suit, wrinkled in all the right places. On the outside, Lamb is a mess — always drinking, and farting, and dirty, even after he bathes himself in the sink. Watching him eat is disgusting — something Oldman does with a rare kind of comic ease. At moments, I sense that Oldman is having a great time with this character.

On the inside, Lamb is emotionally stunted of course, and a bit nasty, and always ready with an insult — but he’s also meticulous in his calculations and predictions. He’s always a few steps ahead of the other spies, his troop of rejects, at least when it comes to spy work, if not healthful living.

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Matthew Gilbert can be reached at matthew.gilbert@globe.com. Follow him @MatthewGilbert.