Delaney's inner circle expands as the pressure heats up

By Derek Lawrence
February 07, 2017 at 11:30 PM EST
Credit: FX


S1 E5
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Move over Tom Hardy, you’ve officially got some competition for Taboo MVP!

It shouldn’t be a surprise, but in only two episodes, Tom Hollander has been a jolt of lightning to the show; he delivers the strange, outrageously funny comic presence that the drama has sorely been missing. Whether he’s high on laughing gas, talking semen and chemistry, or sharing his passion for Lorna, Hollander’s Cholmondeley has been a delight. (Sidenote: A commenter suggested that his name is pronounced Chumley, so let’s roll with that as his nickname.)

The arrival of the British actor — who also stole scenes on The Night Manager — has coincided with Taboo taking it up a notch. The final 20 minutes of last week and now this week’s episode have accelerated the story and action, with the 90-minute-long running time no longer seeming to drag. If Hollander and Hardy are both on board, then sign me up for co-creator Steven Knight’s plan for future seasons.

Episode 4 begins with Geary’s challenge of a duel to the death with Delaney. Not a show to rob us of a duel, episode 5 begins shortly after the previous installment. Separately, Geary and Delaney are being rowed to a small remote body of land for their showdown. A crowd of onlookers, including Lorna, await the battle. Thoyt makes his reappearance, serving as a representative for the proceedings. As both men’s pistols are inspected, Geary introduces his second, Mr. Hope, while Delaney declines to have one. Not enjoying her view from afar, Lorna walks up from the water. “I was bored, and I’ve never seen a man shot,” she quips, before being named her step son’s second.

They will duel to first blood, Rambo style, even though Geary prefers it to be to the death. No second shot will be allowed, so once you’ve fired, you better have killed your opponent or consider yourself killed. The men make their approach, Delaney doesn’t raise his gun, which gives Geary a clean shot at his brother-in-law’s heart. One problem: There was no bullet. A terrified and shocked Geary looks as Delaney wipes the dust off his jacket and moves closer to raise his gun. “Satisfied?” asks Delaney. “My apologies — that was an excellent shot. I can only assume that your second is a company man since he failed to load a ball in your pistol.” At this moment, Mr. Hope makes a run for it, but he doesn’t get far before Delaney shoots him. “It would appear that my life is more precious than yours,” gloats Delaney. He walks away as his brother-in-law/romantic rival is left trembling.

Not faring much better is Zilpha, who is at home awaiting word if it will be her husband or brother/lover killed. Upon seeing Geary, a sense of relief comes over her, but it’s quickly replaced with a look of grief. (Really good work by Oona Chaplin here.) She hugs her husband when he walks in, only for him to be disgusted by the ash that she’s covered in from cleaning the fireplace. Instead of telling her what happened, Geary chugs a bottle of alcohol and evades her questions; he says he doesn’t need to tell her since all of London will be talking about it.

“So I shall hear through gossip?” she asks.

“As I hear about you,” he quickly retorts. Damn, he’s a jerk, but that was a great comeback.

NEXT: Delaney runs errands

“So how was the party?” Brace, unaware of the late night/early morning shenanigans, asks Lorna and Delaney.

“It was entertaining,” replies Lorna. You have to enjoy this quirky Three’s Company reboot.

Even though he wasn’t fully keyed in on the saltpeter robbery, Brace seems to always know what’s going on — he reveals that soldiers were running up and down streets while insisting that the guilty parties will hang. At the shore away from Brace, Delaney tells Lorna not to worry about being hanged because only the government can order that and they would likely want to make a deal. “Look, I’m very happy to admit that I don’t want James Delaney to die,” she says. “But can you also admit that you don’t want James Delaney to die?” He doesn’t admit that, but he does remind her to get his father’s chest.

Once he departs, the always sneaky Winter suddenly appears — she tells Lorna she doesn’t want Delaney to die either. “They say he’s the devil, but not to me,” Winter says. Alright, what’s with her obsession with him? Considering Helga and Delaney’s past, could he be Winter’s father? So many possible illegitimate children!

As the soldiers tear apart London and Delaney’s warehouse looking for the saltpeter, Delaney enjoys a nice horse ride through the hills. Another man is not far behind, so Delaney decides to introduce himself. He sneaks up on the man, slashes him across the stomach, and leaves him alive as a warning to others. Undeterred, Delaney continues his journey to his newly created factory to check on Chumley’s progress. But all Chumley can think about is Lorna. “Not only is she among the large number of women that I would sleep with, but she’s among the much smaller group of women I would masturbate over,” he says, clearly not knowing how to talk to a man about his stepmother. Delaney doesn’t give Chumley permission to call upon Lorna, so the scientist instead asks for an assistant.

On the same property, Delaney goes to see the land owner and young boy, who may or may not be his brother or son. Delaney won’t let the boy — he tells him all about the stolen saltpeter and says that any conspirators will be hanged. “So, you are now one of us,” he says to the boy, who is then taken over to be Chumley’s apprentice, a role sure to be interesting.

Next stop for Delaney is to pay a visit to Atticus and his men. Problem is though, that Delaney sniffs a rat. Well, someone is thinking about taking the company’s reward for information. Out of nowhere, Delaney slices one man’s thumb off. “I am inside your heads, gentleman,” he declares. “Always.”

Finally, Delaney makes his way to see Helga and her girls. He’s a little more polite in his conversation with them, but he still makes sure to get his point across… by pulling out his newly acquired appendage. If any company men come asking around, they are to notify him. Such a situation soon arises, with Winter summoning Atticus to handle it. The man is killed and dumped by the water, and Atticus has Winter spread word that it was done by “the devil Delaney.” Before doing so, she leaves a note on the body that reads “Died on Company Business,” complete with the familiar bird symbol.

NEXT: Poor Zilpha can’t catch a break

Delaney takes a short nightmare break: It’s time for another ritual. Here he blows dust, which prompts visions of him painted in white in the water. Thinking he has heard an explosion, he immediately heads to the factory, where everything is fine. Chumley and his new pupil are still hard at work. Having perfected the crazy, scary stare, Delaney uses it on the kid. “What do you see?” the man asks his brother (or son). I see a psycho, but the boy doesn’t answer. “He’s just scared of you,” pipes in Chumley. “Everybody’s scared of you. Thankfully.”

But Lorna’s not scared of him. She’s brought her deceased husband’s trunk. As he goes through it, Delaney throws everything in the fire, a move that doesn’t sit well with Lorna. She thinks he should read his father’s letters to him, but he’s more concerned with finding the treaty that showed how his father bought Nootka, which he does.

Meanwhile, the king and Coop are discussing the option of prosecuting the company for negligence because of the stolen saltpeter. While Coop likes the idea, he has a way to hit Strange directly, and he puts the plan into motion by summoning George Chichester. He’s a black man working for the Sons of Africa. For the past nine years he’s been trying to get the crown to look into the sinking of the Influence, a slave ship that saw the death of 280 people. Chichester believes that senior directors at the East India Company were involved, which explains Coop’s sudden interest.

It’s taken way too long, but the king finally commissions an investigation — and Strange doesn’t handle the news too well. He tells Wilton to offer full cooperation, before adding, “And then, I will tell you which papers to burn.”

Rumors of Delaney’s involvement in the saltpeter theft have spread, so he gets called before Dumbarton. The Americans need gun powder, and Chumley and Delaney have eight days to make it or else. With a tight schedule, the doctor suggests that they utilize the French Experiment. Chumley’s familiarization with the option is exactly why he refuses to do it. He believes it’s too risky, and he dares to ask if Delaney would risk his son‘s life for this. Oh, snap. Delaney doesn’t deny that accusation. Called it! Delaney does promise to get Chumley his men needed for the experiment, though.

Uh oh. Zilpha is sleeping and making noises — I’m worried we’ll get a repeat of her brother invading her with his creepy ritual. But no, he’s not forcing anything — she just happens to be dreaming about him and moaning his name. To no surprise, seeing this doesn’t sit well with Geary. “You said his name,” he says repeatedly. “Get him out.” As he begins to violently shake her, she spits in his face. They trade slaps before Geary pulls his wife down to the floor and hits her multiple times. As he holds her down, he declares, “You need a priest, my dear.”

After meeting the mysterious Carlsbad last week, we get a more proper introduction here. Delaney visits her while she’s eating dinner (with her much older husband!) to let her know she’ll need to get the gun powder. Even though she plays it off, it’s clear that she doesn’t know about Dumbarton’s request. Although, she has given her recommendation that the U.S. government accepts his offer, but he must sign the treaty before leaving London.

After, Brace and Delaney have one of their classic conversations where they say a lot by saying nothing. Lorna then interrupts to complain about how cold her room is. “This is the Delaney household, we have no warmth here,” quips Delaney, busting out a rare joke. He then turns his attention to persuading his stepmother from reciprocating Chumley’s advances, a request that she doesn’t dispute. Delaney just can’t help from keeping all the men and women to himself.

Beaten and bruised, Zilpha emerges from her room. Already on edge, she’s further spooked when Geary reveals that he followed up on his declaration that she needed a priest. He’s brought in a man who specializes in getting rid of demons by performing exorcisms. “Goodness, a slight thing she is, but fearful,” assesses the holy man. They strap her down for the procedure, which for some reason includes the priest rubbing and grabbing her breasts a lot. I’m no expert, but that doesn’t seem like part of the process? Zilpha cries and screams then goes quiet.

Geary unties her and then tells her to meet him in bed. Once he leaves, Zilpha slowly gets a haunted look on her face. “Teach me,” she whispers. The vibe she’s giving off is very similar to the one Delaney does during his rituals. After making her way to their bedroom, Zilpha pulls a sharp instrument from a desk. She runs it through her hand and quietly says, “Guide me.” Oh yeah, she’s definitely possessed now.

What did you think? Has Chumley’s addition added a much needed comedic element? Is Zilpha about to kill Geary?

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