James Delaney lives! Okay, it’s no surprise that the main character who has been onscreen for at least 90 percent of the first two episodes didn’t die, but still!
In last week’s recap, I wrote that Tom Hardy is so dominant on this show that it could be called The Tom Hardy Show. And while he still remains the force behind the story, “Episode 3” finally took the time to spread the love and take us more inside the minds and actions of the other characters around Delaney, most notably the women.
The series’ third entry took an all so slight detour from the brooding of Delaney to currently the two most central figures in his life: His beloved sister and his mysterious stepmother. Two episodes in and we’ve seen very little of Zilpha Geary, a problem considering that she seems to be the main motivation for our lead character. We’ve seen even less of Lorna Bow, now the biggest obstacle in Delaney’s path to owning Nootka. Putting more of a spotlight on them was an important step for Taboo. Now, we just need a full Helga episode.
“Episode 3” kicks off with another woman in Delaney’s life, well one and a half. Helga’s maybe-daughter Winter is among a group of children to discover the body of the silver tooth man, who had been posing as a female when he attacked Delaney. Winter, appearing to be the group’s ringleader, orders a boy to remove the man’s tooth.
Meanwhile, it is revealed that Delaney is alive… for now. He’s in severe pain, often violently shaking, and being stitched up by Dumbarton. The doctor isn’t just being a good samaritan, he has his patient tied up and is interrogating him about what he wants. Turns out nothing crazy, just wants to send a message to Thomas Jefferson and the president of the United States. “Carlsbad said, ‘You know Delaney might just be crazy enough to take us all on. The King, the company, and the free 15,'” shared Dumbarton. “Well, maybe she was right.” Based on what we’ve seen of Delaney, Carlsbad was definitely right. Delaney doesn’t want money for his father’s land, he will give Nootka to whichever nation gives him a trade monopoly of tea. “All the tea in China,” he says. “You should have said that from the start,” admits Dumbarton. “Would have saved yourself a lot of pain.” The interrogation wasn’t all good for the doctor, he unknowingly gave Delaney one piece of information that he didn’t have: Carlsbad is a woman.
Now stitched up and alive (if not still in extreme pain), Delaney has some business to handle. As usual, upon returning home, he gets a lecture from Brace. “For what do you risk your life?” the servant asks. After a little rest, the duo heads to the docks to meet Atticus. Unsurprisingly, he’s the man to turn to for weaponry. The news of the silver tooth man’s death has spread, prompting Atticus to try and give Delaney advice on what is the best part of a man to eat. C’mon Atticus, that’s like telling Michael Jordan how to dunk. Refusing to leave London for his own safety, Delaney orders Brace to deliver a letter to the King and Atticus to take him into the city. He’s not making a food run, he’s headed to see Thoyt to craft a will. No, he didn’t decide to leave everything to his dear sister, instead in the event of his death, his land and possessions go to the U.S. government. “So now we know the savage boy is cunning,” says Stuart Strange, noting that now they not only can’t kill him, it’s also in their best interest to keep him alive.
Just because the British have incentive for him to live doesn’t mean Delaney isn’t still going into full lockdown mode. The house is being boarded up and he decides to take inventory of the rest of his father’s home. He heads down to the flooded basement, where once again Winter appears out of nowhere. Not an ideal time for the young girl to show up since Delaney is in danger and wearing no pants. In a very considerate move, she offers up the silver tooth, although he insists she keeps it and goes back to Helga’s. The Delaney family home adventures continue with a stop in a woman’s room that seems to not have been touched in years. Sitting in front of the boarded up fireplace, Delaney has more of his troubling visions, seeing the same mysterious female figure. He proceeds to open up the fireplace and notices a symbol on the wall. When Brace enters, he questions him about the mark, sharing that it’s the same symbol that was tattooed on him when he was a prisoner in Africa. “You don’t speak, but you do have answers,” he tells his loyal servant. “And you will give me answers.” The next scene features Delaney visiting his mother’s grave, begging the question, is she the woman from his visions?
The old expression, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” gets put to the test as the King’s go-to man Coop meets with Strange. The company and the government aren’t in a good place right now as they’re presently engaged in a standoff regarding India. Coop reveals that he received a letter from Delaney saying that he will give Nootka to the British if they give him a monopoly on trade of sea otter pelts, an offer that would damage the company. Knowing this, Coop attempts to use this as leverage to settle the India dispute. Strange is enraged, telling Coop that this is all about revenge. “What the hell did you do to him Stuart?” asks Coop, seeming as if he already knows the answer. In a classic Delaney move, Coop immediately heads off for another important meeting. He attends Lorna’s show, making sure that she gets a message from him.
NEXT: Delaney and Zilpha reconnect
Speaking of going to see a performance, Delaney makes an unexpected appearance at a brothel full of men dressed up as women. He spots a familiar face, who rightfully runs away when he’s noticed. Tracking the man down, Delaney quips, “You haven’t changed a bit.” It turns out that the man is Godfrey, an employee at the East India Company who keeps the minutes of the meetings and happens to be a former classmate of Delaney. He wants his “friend” to feed him information on the company. Delaney shows a surprisingly tender side, until he puts money on the nightstand and immediately wants Godfrey to share intel.
Not much time has passed throughout the first two and a half episodes, but the timeline gets sped up a bit during a montage of Delaney and Zilpha trading letters back and forth. As Delaney prepares his ship and business dealings, he writes to his sister telling her that they can leave once the company has fallen. She replies that she wants no part of his future. “But we are the future,” he responds. As she persists that he stop writing her, he continues, “Your husband is also a fool. He cannot see all that you are.” After she says that any future letters will be burned, he declares, “Then, I will visit you in your dreams, my love.” In the final message of the exchange, Zilpha begs, “Please, I’m your sister, let all else lie.”
From one important woman in Delaney’s life to another: He returns home to find Lorna trying to move herself in. Her top lawyer (not the bird) has drawn up a document — with the help of the government — giving her claim to half of the late Delaney’s possessions. “My servant wants to shoot you in the face,” Delaney says. “Your servant is also now half mine,” she deadpans. I’m still smelling some chemistry! She offers to relinquish her claim on Nootka for his part of the house. Beginning to have more visions, he snaps back into reality and barks for Brace to set up his mother’s room for Lorna. She will stay with them until the business is settled, but he warns that having caught the attention of the King has put her in danger.
After interactions with two women who he clearly has some history and/or chemistry with, Delaney gets a surprise visit from someone with whom he has neither — Thorne Geary. His brother-in-law/romantic rival stops by under the pretense of offering ship insurance, but his real intentions quickly become clear. Turning back from leaving, a dark smile comes across his face and he decides to stay for the weirdest family conversation ever. He begins taunting Delaney about his sex life, which he says has improved since his wife’s brother returned. “Since you’ve come back, our f—ing has almost become murderous.” As Delaney sits there silently stirring, Geary continues his perverse talk. “I didn’t come to sell you insurance Mr. Delaney. I came to thank you.”
Well, Delaney soon has something be thankful for himself. Zilpha has summoned him to an empty church. “I used to think we were the same person,” she admits. “We are,” he replies. Insisting they aren’t, Zilpha moves from the booth across from her brother and sits on his lap. They briefly kiss, before she gets up, lifting her skirt as she walks away, a callback to the last episode when Delaney says she used to lift her skirt and walk away like nothing happened. “Now, I never want to see you again,” she states. Always persistent, her brother insists she will.
Returning home, Zilpha is sitting down for a tense dinner with her husband. He went through her clothes and saw blood, indicating that they won’t be having a child anytime soon. “My dearest Zilpha, I but apologize that I’m not related to you.” His berating of his wife is interrupted by their servant returning with oranges that Zilpha had requested. Geary yells that she doesn’t want them. “We all know what she wants.”
What she supposedly wants is currently engaged in a strange Three’s Company reboot. Brace, Lorna, and Delaney are all hanging around their shared house, until she insists that she must leave to go perform. Initially resisting, Delaney allows it, deciding that he will take in some theater. Facing a feisty crowd, Lorna storms off the stage, while at the same time, Delaney notices a woman exiting the crowd. Looking flustered, Lorna begins heading home, only to be offered a ride by the woman, who claims to be a fan. Appearing to be a fan of more than Lorna’s acting, the woman kisses her and reveals that a powerful man has paid to watch them together. When the carriage stops, the man grabs Lorna and she in turn cuts him. With perfect timing, Delaney shows up with a gun, ordering them to leave her be. “That b— is dead,” declares the man. Once in the clear, Delaney insists that she leave for Paris until things are settled. She refuses, instead heading home to her chilled room (nice burn by Brace!). While Delaney speculates on who knew that she was staying with them, he comes to the conclusion that the government and company will be coming for her.
What did you think? Did the focus on Zilpha and Lorna help the show? Will Delaney get over his sister and move on to his stepmother?