We gave it a B+
Do you love the crazy, weird, mumbling side of Tom Hardy, period pieces set in England, and probable incestous relationships? Oh, then do the Inception star, his father Chips, and I have a show for you.
It may be a new year, but FX’s Taboo is sending viewers back to 1814 Britain for a mysterious, strange, and gripping miniseries. While television has become known for the white male anti-hero (i.e. Breaking Bad, The Sopranos), the new British miniseries created by Steven Knight (Peaky Blinders), Hardy, and his father, introduces a character unlike any other.
The extended series premiere kicks off with this mysterious man, James Keziah Delaney. Starting on a ship just off the coast, the man makes the journey from water to land where on his way into London, he makes a pit stop to bury a small bag. Once in the city, the burials continue, but this time it’s an older man being prepared for his final resting place.
During the funeral service, onlookers, including the man’s daughter, Zilpha Geary (Game of Thrones‘ Oona Chaplin), are paying their respects, until in walks a ghost. “Dear God, there walks a dead man,” is overheard upon Delaney’s appearance. Mrs. Geary is especially spooked, considering Delaney’s weird behavior and the fact that he’s her brother. “They said you were dead,” she confronts him. “I am,” he ominously replies. As she leaves the wake, he grabs her, confessing that he still loves her, and it sure seemed to be much more Jamie and Cersei Lannister sibling love than Ross and Monica Gellar.
Waiting outside for Delaney is his father’s lawyer, Thoyt. The man has good news and bad news. His mad father named him as his sole heir, but there are no riches, only a small strip of coastline on the other side of the world. “If America were a pig facing England, it’s right at the pig’s ass,” he says, proving he would be a terrible real estate agent. “Just rocks and Indians.” Despite proclaiming it useless and dangerous, Thoyt offers to help Delaney sell it, an offer he walks away from.
It’s quickly clear why Thoyt was so eager to help facilitate a deal: He’s working with the East India Trading Company. A large contingent of the company has come together to get an update on Delaney and his claim on the land, Nootka Sound. One of them, Mr. Wilton offers an entertaining and informative report for the men (and viewers!) on Delaney’s background. He was once a company boy, serving in Stuart Strange’s (Game of Thrones‘ Jonathan Pryce) regiment, and had a perfect record, until his troubles began in 1800. A few of his incidents included drunken experiments, fights with bears (he clearly faired better than his buddy Leo), and raving about hidden treasures, before disappearing in Africa, presumed dead aboard a sunken slave ship. If that wild backstory weren’t enough, there are rumors of his whereabouts the last decade, which Strange really wants to know about.
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The Delaney welcome home tour continues as he returns to his actual childhood home. And he’s greeted by something he hasn’t seen in a while — somebody who is happy to see him! It’s his family butler, Brace, who he shares an embrace and a drink. The reunion turns dark as Delaney reveals that he knows more of his father, mother, and the mysterious land than Brace assumed. It turns out Nootka is the name of his mother’s tribe. His father bought both his wife and land from them in exchange for gun powder. The night ends with Delaney having a troubling vision that is definitely not the result of too much brandy. In the morning, he does receive new information from Brace — Thoyt has been attempting to buy Delaney Shipping Company for years, a move that Delaney’s father would always respond to by sending horse s— back. As a new offer arrives and being short of horse s—, Delaney resorts to throwing it in the fire.
Setting off to check out the company’s abandoned offices, Delaney finds another familiar face, someone who as a child touched his heart (and other parts of his body). It turns out prostitute Helga, who happened to take Delaney’s virginity, has also taken over the building for her business. She tries to make a deal, whether it to be financial, sexual, or by threat. “Please do not misunderstand the situation. You send me 12 men, I will return you 12 sets of testicles,” he replies. This speech both makes me never want to cross Tom Hardy and makes Helga suddenly recall the man before her. “If I give you a girl, I will never see her again.” To which he replies, “You heard right.”
NEXT: More reunions…