Four episodes in, what is Taboo? Yes, it’s Tom Hardy doing weird, brooding Tom Hardy things, but besides that — what is it? So far the show has been part love story, part revenge tale, and (more than) part strange as hell. “Episode 4” includes all of that, while also becoming the 1814 British Ocean’s Eleven remake that we’ve always needed.
At the halfway mark of the first season, the plot begins to move forward as Delaney assembles his League of the Damned. Sticking with the Ocean’s angle, Delaney is Clooney, Lorna is Damon, Brace is Pitt, Atticus is Cheadle, Helga is Mac, Cholmondeley is Caan, Zilpha is Roberts, and Geary is Garcia. Wow, that’s almost too perfect (sorry, Affleck).
Like the Ocean’s franchise, not everything in this episode was perfect (looking at you, Ocean’s Twelve). The last 20 or so minutes featuring the heist and extended party scene was entertaining and fraught with tension, but that couldn’t completely make up for the preceding 40 minutes. Just like chunks of the first three episodes, much of the story and action dragged, not to mention the disturbing act by Delaney toward his sleeping sister. That was troubling to watch.
Taboo‘s fourth chapter begins with Delaney doing typical Delaney things. He’s sitting pantless in front of his fireplace and having visions of floating in water. He’s snapped out of it by government soldiers banging down the front door. Like Delaney predicted, they’ve come for Lorna. Before they can get to her, Delaney takes her aside to tell her that she must hold out. Easier said than done as she’s taken to a dark, disgusting prison and brought to face Coop. The king’s right-hand man isn’t there to play good cop. He begins slowly pulling her dress off as he tells her what she must do to avoid being hung for attempted murder. “A key and a pen are your only weapons,” he tells her, trying to force her into signing over her claim on Nootka to the government. “I’ve been told to await a better offer,” she replies. Coop’s interrogation only promises to get more violent and appalling when company men prove to have perfect timing, arranging for her immediate release.
“We had a f—ing agreement,” yells a pissed off Strange upon learning that Coop’s proposed deal with Lorna would have given Nootka to only the government, leaving the company in the cold. This revelation causes him to proclaim that they will withdraw from negotiations regarding India. Seen but not heard during Strange’s rant is Godfrey, Delaney’s inside man. Not long after the meeting, Godfrey, now donning his nighttime wear, is feeding info to his former classmate. They plan to reject Delaney’s proposed offer, while also blackballing him from trading for what he really needs: gun powder. “They can’t kill you. but they will crucify your name,” Godfrey says tenderly, rubbing Delaney’s hand. “They will crucify all those around you.” Pulling away, Delaney replies, “But I don’t keep anybody around me that doesn’t deserve what they get.” Burn on Godfrey! Not the way to treat your confidential informant.
If it weren’t already hard enough to keep up with the names of the white British characters Taboo already has, we are introduced to Cholmondeley (definitely need to find a nickname for him), who is teaching chemistry to a group of women and Delaney, which is weird considering the chemistry that he always seems to have with women! One of Cholmondeley’s students stays after class for some sex education, a lesson that abruptly ends when Delaney makes his presence known. “I have a use for you,” declares Delaney. Then like new acquaintances do, they have a little chemistry and semen talk, with Chol’s (too short?) services being locked down with a bag of gold.
Upon returning home, Delaney has some explaining to do to Lorna. “You said I was a weakness,” she says. “I wasn’t weak.” He still thinks she should leave, but if she stays, then he may have a use for her in his new crew: The League of the Damned (sick name). “We are the ships, you are the river,” quips Lorna. Delaney’s art of chemistry continues in a strange, unnerving scene. Sitting in front of his fire like he often does, he starts doing a ritual, another thing he often does. But this time, it somehow is having an affect on his sister, who while laying in bed at home becomes overtaken by pleasure. While Delaney throws dirt on his face and appears to be drinking blood, Zilpha is moaning and having her body move around like she’s in The Exorcist. The invasion of Zilpha’s body by her brother comes to an end just in time for another man in her life to take advantage of her. Returning home drunk, Thorne can tell that she’s been thinking of Delaney. “Who’s in there?” he asks, moving his hand up her nightgown. “Where he leads, I will follow.” Against her wishes, he takes off his clothes, climbing on top of her.
NEXT: The heist is on!
Having become fast friends, Delaney and Cholmon (better nickname?) meet up at Delaney’s new factory, which happens to be the farm of the man housing his secret brother. It was a late night for Cholmon, who is still feeling the effects of laughing gas from a party, but he soldiers on, investigating the cow and pigeon excrement on the property. Knowing that he needs to find a way to get gun powder, Delaney hopes that Cholmon can help him make his own. After initially saying the process would take one year, the chemistry expert reveals that refined saltpeter could shorten the process to four weeks. Only problem is that it can only be found in Burma or the warehouse of the East India Company, and they sure aren’t going to do Delaney any favors. Hiring Cholmon, Delaney vows to get him the ingredient. Now alone, Delaney’s departure is delayed by his horse appearing spooked, which leads him to take a look around. The tension is palpable as he slowly moves around, noticing nothing, until he’s blindsided by a monster of a man. Delaney gets thrown around, and the mammoth seems to have scored the knockout punch with a crack to the head. He begins to drag a bleeding and knocked out Delaney, but he isn’t quite down for the count and pulls out a knife and starts stabbing the man. And Delaney won’t let him get away that easy: He puts hooks in him and drags the man, basically crucifying him. Walking away covered in blood, he catches a glimpse of the young boy watching. That’s going to give him nightmares, but that does run in the family.
The Three’s Company reboot continues at the Delaney house. Today, the breakfast topic is two letters Delaney received. The first is an invitation to a ball hosted by the mysterious Countess Musgrove and the second is from the Americans. With no specification on what kind of ball it is, Delaney decides to turn it into a stepmother-son dance and invites Lorna to join him. Before he parties with members of high society, he has some less distinguished people to visit. Stop one is to see Helga, booking her and some of her girls for the night. Next up is Atticus. I wish I could tell you fully what they were discussing, but I could only understand about one of every four words that Atticus said. What is clear is that they’re planning a robbery. After scouting out the company’s docks, Delaney gets a bag from Cholmondeley (didn’t feel like any of the nicknames stuck).
It’s ball time! Not ones to make a quiet arrival, Delaney and Lorna draw many eyes upon their entrance. “Judging by the horror on the faces of the ladies, you’re known,” she teases. “And yes, judging by the shame on the face of some of the men, so are you,” he retorts. Dodging one familiar face in Cholmondeley (back on that laughing gas), Delaney tracks down his sister, who made a quick exit upon seeing him. Believing it was no coincidence that they were both invited, he tells Zilpha that the Americans must know their secret. “You feel me and I could come more often, but I spare you,” he says, referring to his creepy ritual that violated her. “Then spare me,” she replies, noting that she visited a doctor who told her that he visits as animals. Initially, believing he was crazy when he left England, Delaney views the power as a gift. “It’s the devil,” she differs. Dumbarton comes in and ruins the moment, which causes an embarrassed Zilpha to run off. The Americans are the ones who sent that man to kill Delaney. Impressed and maybe nervous, they have decided to up their offer. They are willing to throw Zilpha into the deal, which would give them a life of anonymity together.
While he’s being offered the women he loves, another key element of Delaney’s plan is being executed. Thanks to Helga, her girls, Atticus, and Cholmondeley’s chemistry project, the break-in of the company’s warehouse was successful, making out with loads of saltpeter.
Back at the ball, all the key players are present: Delaney, Lorna, Zilpha, Cholmondeley, and Geary. This provides the first opportunity for Lorna to meet her other step-child (she doesn’t know that) and possible romantic rival. Bathroom girl talk gets taken to a weird and uncomfortable level as the two play coy about their respective relationships with Delaney. “If I were to have intentions regarding James, would I have to be wary of you?” asks Lorna. “No civilized woman would have intentions regarding him,” replies Zilpha, who upon leaving reveals that she is in fact his sister. Meanwhile, if Delaney didn’t have enough women troubles, another one comes into his life: Countess Musgrave, a.k.a. Carlsbad.
Now that everyone has had time to get acquainted and have a productive evening, it’s time for the face-off that has been four episodes in the making. A drunk Geary spots Delaney, approaches him, and screams about his relationship with Zilpha. Delaney punches him and drags his brother-in-law outside before the secret totally comes out. The whole party follows, waiting to see what the crazed man could do. Zilpha begs her brother to stop. The fact that she called him James only infuriates Geary more. “You f—ed her,” he yells at Delaney. “And you lay your hands on me in my society. And now I will have my satisfaction.” He then proceeds to challenge him to a duel to the death, leaving the crowd shocked and Zilpha horrified. “Do you accept?” Geary demands to know. Not usually one to avoid a fight, Delaney is silent as the episode ends.
What did you think? Did the Delaney invasion of his sister go too far? Will Delaney accept Geary’s challenge?