Taboo Episode 1.4 “Episode 4”
Written by Steven Knight & Emily Ballou
Directed by Kristoffer Nyholm
Starring Tom Hardy, Oona Chaplin, David Hayman, Michael Kelly, Jonathan Pryce, Jefferson Hall, Franka Potente, David Hayman FX
Air date: January 31st, 2017
Spoilers below for the FX series Taboo:
Tom Hardy’s passion project, Taboo entered its 4th episode Tuesday night. Through its 1st three episodes, Taboo certainly created a unique world, a dark and dirty 1814 London full of interesting characters, sordid pasts, and intriguing and devious motivations. But while the show is rich with potential, there has been something missing. I’ve been reluctant to use the word “boring” in my review because as a history teacher by day, I am totally intrigued by the period and pacing. However I am not blinded to the reality of how slow paced and convoluted the intertwining plots are. After all, trade disputes between 19th century shipping companies is not everyone’s cup of tea. Add to that, that the show is very long, 80+ minutes an episode and has yet to live up to the name, “Taboo”, especially on the network (FX) known for crossing the line to the extremes in shows like American Horror Story and Sons of Anarchy.
James Keziah Delaney escaped an assassination attempt, and ensured another will not happen. He has had papers drawn that give his bequeathed assets, namely Nootka Sound to the Americans if he perished; much to the dismay of the East India Company and Sir Stuart Strange (Jonathan Pryce). He is caught between issues with his half sister, and former lover Zilpha (Oona Chaplin), and his father’s estranged new wife, actress Lorna Bow (Jessie Buckley).
Lorna Bow attacked a royal governor attempting to rape her, and is thus arrested. A deal is put in place by a representative of the Prince to pay her off and set her free, if she signs over Nootka to them; which turns the heads of the East India Company. Jonathan Pryce is just wonderful as the hot tempered, quick to spew vulgarities, heavy of the E.I.C. If you hated him as The High Sparrow on Game of Thrones because he was so calmly evil, you’ll love him here.
Delaney has an in with the E.I.C, a high ranking official who doubles as a cross dresser, and is blackmailed for information. He visits a chemist, Cholmondeley, (Tom Hollander), and interrupts him in flagrante delicto with an offer of gold. James Delaney is collecting people, those of ill repute, or as Lorna calls them, “The League of the Damned.” Cholmondeley’s role is to help Delaney gain gunpowder through mixing of farm excrements and wood on his properties. You see, the Crown has banned him from all purchase orders, so he must make do. Of course, stealing from the East India Company works too. Before that can happen, another assassination attempt, and another brutal, bloody battle.
In the long, but grand climax, Delaney accepts an invitation to a festive gala, where he encounters his sister and the American doctor, (Michael Kelly). This is all an elaborate ruse, as his “League of the Damned” is killing company men and robbing pounds and pounds of gunpowder from the E.I.C coffers. The party meanwhile, as is typical, is filled with plotters and deal makers all trying to rip Nootka Sound from Delaney’s twisted hands. There’s also the shameless debauchery and orgy-like behavior that ends when Thorne, Zilpha’s husband notices him and challenges him to a duel to the death.
Well I say! Right as I was ready to jump ship, Taboo reeled me back in with its best episode thus far, fulfilling its title promises with plenty of sex, bloodshed, mystical incest, and backstabbing. Despite the 80-minute run time, this episode breezed by, and Hardy is just a ferocious on-screen presence. He can convey so much with so few words and actions, it’s quite remarkable, and he is possibly the best pure actor working right now. The rest of the cast and the atmosphere created by the costumes and set designs are just fantastic.
Taboo returns next Tuesday night at 10:00pm ET on FX.