Well, Delaney’s plan isn’t really working out as he planned… or is it?
With only one episode remaining in the season (though hopefully not the series), Taboo‘s penultimate episode left us with many questions, but for once, it also gave us some answers. In a non-shocking development, it seems that Delaney didn’t kill Winter, and in a shocking (at least to me) reveal, Horace Delaney’s death was a mercy kill by Brace.
Instead of picking up immediately after the events of last week, “Episode 7” starts with Winter’s memorial. Helga and Atticus are among those gathered to say their final goodbyes to the young girl while Delaney silently watches from afar.
After Chumley drops off Robert at the Delaney household, Lorna goes to see Delaney, who is still observing the waterside funeral. “You have a heart at least,” she tells him. He insists that he’s only down by the water to look for a ship. Responding to her belief that he didn’t kill Winter, he says, “I very well may have.” Considering they way her body was torn apart, I couldn’t have put it better. Once Delaney finally leaves, Lorna tries to talk to one of Winter’s young friends, who runs off when she approaches him.
Throughout the early run of the series, Atticus and Helga didn’t interact much, but unfortunately, these two dynamic characters are brought together under somber circumstances: rowing Winter’s body out to be dumped in the water. While Helga is concerned that the body won’t sink, Atticus eases her worry by pointing out that he would definitely know the best way to make someone disappear. “The river will only take her body, I will keep her soul,” says Helga, clearly emotionally broken over the loss of her daughter. Looking uneasy, Atticus half-heartedly tries to suggest that it’s possible Delaney didn’t do it. “There’s no certainty that he did not,” she quickly replies. Yeah, she’s definitely pissed.
Last week in EW’s postmortem with co-creator Steven Knight, he said that on Taboo, “the line between life and death is blurred.” He wasn’t lying — Winter is already making a reappearance. Delaney awakens to see her in his house, telling him, “I’m getting scared, James.” Not one to be thrown off by spiritual visitors, Delaney does have an important question. “You’re among them now, aren’t you?” he asks. “The ones who use to sing to me.” For his and our own curiosity, Delaney then begins to ask if he killed her, but Winter disappears before he can.
As one ghost visitor leaves, a real visitor arrives… maybe. When Chichester shows up, Delaney rightfully asks, “And I need to be clear, you’re not a spirit like the others?” Both men have heard a lot about each other, and they immediately have a great rapport. After a little fun, Chichester gets down to business: He knows that Delaney was on the Cornwallis when it sunk. Delaney doesn’t deny that fact, but he also doesn’t give any real answers, maybe partly because he’s drunk. This leads Chichester to recommend he come back another time. “No, no, there’s no use. I’m always like this,” Delaney replies, speaking the truth.
Chichester knows things. He has a great deal of knowledge on Delaney’s past, including his rise from to slave to slaver to stealing diamonds from a fellow slaver. “I have done much worse things than steal diamonds,” Delaney divulges — the opposite of breaking news. Chichester wants Delaney to confess that Strange was behind the Cornwallis, and in exchange, he will be given a royal pardon. “I have an alternative suggestion,” Delaney mysteriously counters.
Pondering his situation, Delaney gets a visit from his brother/son Robert. I’m not sure what parenting books Delaney has read, because it seems like all he ever does is give the kid crazy, scary looks. “I have a use for you,” Delaney tells Robert. He gives him the key to his safe, but not before playing an uncharacteristic game of keep away.
NEXT: A member of the Damned betrays Delaney
Taking a stroll down the street — most likely to run errands, since that’s kind of his thing — Delaney is fired upon. A bullet knocks over his hat. “Murderer,” Helga yells. She fires again, but, either because she doesn’t truly want to kill him or because she’s a bad shot, this one hits the ground. Staring at the grieving mother, Delaney picks up his hat and walks away.
“The lioness will fearlessly protect her cubs, regardless of the consequences, even if that means her certain death,” Delaney later tells Atticus. His associate is quite worried about Helga’s outburst, but Delaney orders that she not be touched. “She is harmed enough already,” he declares, noting that it’s inevitable that she will go to the company with what she knows.
Delaney’s problems with women don’t get any better when he gets a visit from his sister/lover. We last left them having sex, only for their love-making to be interrupted by Delaney’s crazy visions — you know, the usual. With Geary out and creepy voices in, Zilpha is ready to be with Delaney. Problem is, Delaney has had a change of heart. “I believed once that we were the same person,” he shares, hearkening back to a time, like, four episodes ago. She interrupts: “We are.” This is quite the role reversal. “We aren’t,” he retorts. “Not anymore.” If rejecting her weren’t already bad enough, he throws her a pity diamond for her “widowhood.” She begins moaning, but these are much sadder moans than their previous encounter.
As if Delaney weren’t already dealing with enough family issues, he has a moody Brace to confront. Robert and Lorna are manning the kitchen since Brace refuses to leave his room — until his longtime boss comes calling. Sitting in the dark, Delaney wants to talk to a somber Brace about the rats in the house, but really the conversation is about much more. As Delaney alludes to the large amount of arsenic that Brace purchased, tears fall down the servant’s face as he plays with buttons from Horace’s dress coat. “It was a kindness,” Brace says, admitting to poisoning Delaney’s father. “We couldn’t go on, James.” Delaney replies, “But you did.” Brace continues to try and justify his actions: “You came back too late. For both of us.” An emotional Brace is expecting the worst from his unstable master, but instead he gets mercy and is sent to stop Lorna from destroying the kitchen. Not the hilarious Three’s Company we’ve become accustomed to.
Just like both Atticus and Delaney predicted, Helga has gone to the EIC. Talking to Strange and his inner circle, she shares details of Delaney manufacturing gunpowder for the Americans. The news is welcomed by, well, everyone except Godfrey, who is sweating up a storm. “We f—ing have him,” laughs Strange, causing the whole room to erupt. “He will be cut to pieces.” They reason that they have enough to charge Delaney with treason. Happy to have gotten her revenge, Helga is ready to leave, only to face the rude awakening of being taken into custody for her part in the plan.
Godfrey, never one to cover his tracks, darts through the streets to give Delaney word of Helga’s confession. Not finding him at home, he tracks his friend to the woods, where he’s doing the “classic James,” a.k.a. having visions and doing witchcraft. “You are betrayed,” Godfrey declares. “I know,” Delaney says, asking for the address where Helga is being kept. “I have a use for you,” Delaney tells his inside man. Then they ride off on a horse together, which is just teasing Godfrey too much.
Ecstatic over their newfound snitch, Strange and his men head to update Coop, who initially isn’t very excited to see them. “We have some rather good news for British patriots everywhere,” proclaims Strange with an evil smile. Thoyt, proving to be the sole lawyer in London, has been brought in to share what charging Delaney with treason means in regards to Nootka Sound. It turns out that all of his possessions would go to the government, as his family would be “deemed corrupted.” Very pleased with himself, Strange says it was his duty, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t hoping for a reward. Coop agrees to give the company the trade monopoly that Delaney had been seeking. “You got lucky with a whore,” quips Coop. The official green light is given for Delaney’s arrest.
Delaney brings a nervous Godfrey to meet with Chichester. At least they’re getting together on Godfrey’s home territory: a brothel full of men dressed as women. “I am only interested in men’s mind, not clothes,” says Chichester. Godfrey is rightfully on edge, considering he’s about to turn on the EIC and give vital information on the sinking of the Cornwallis. Delaney speaks to the uneasy man in private, assuring him that he will never have to testify because they will have set sail long before then. “You are a fool,” Godfrey replies. “They are going to hang you.” Despite that, Godfrey agrees to tell Chichester what he wants.
NEXT: Delaney comes face to face with his enemy
The victory is short lived, as the soldiers are en route to the Molly house. As Godfrey rushes to pack, Delaney shows no urgency: “It ends here.” He’s actually still more concerned about finding a ship than he is about avoiding capture. Godfrey is ordered to give Helga’s location to Atticus, who will help him disappear. The soldiers finally descend on Delaney, taking him alive but knocking him unconscious.
Walking through town, Lorna spots the young boy she tried speaking to at Winter’s memorial. The boy, no longer avoiding her, says, “I want her to forgive me.” Lorna rushes home looking for Delaney to tell him that it was the company who killed Winter, but all she finds is Brace, crying, scrubbing a pot so hard that his hands are bleeding. “I only wished I’d killed James too,” he cries. “Give him a kind death, protect him from himself.” He informs the lady of the house that Delaney has been sent to the tower, “where no one will be kind enough to feed him arsenic.”
News of Delaney’s new circumstances spreads quickly as Chumley makes a quick exit and Countess Musgrove burns incriminating papers — but Dumbarton isn’t ready to leave, declaring, “When my reds are red, when my whites are white, and my blues are blue, then I will clear out.” Make this man president of the colonies!
Upon his arrival at the tower, Delaney is beaten, stripped naked, and left in the fetal position. His treatment doesn’t get any better when Coop comes seeking information. Threatening him with enough torture to hurt him but not kill him, the king’s right-hand man wants names. Delaney agrees to the deal, but only if he’s given a meeting with Strange. An amused Coop orders the torture to commence. The man in charge of inflicting the harm thinks it should only take an hour or two. but I’m thinking it will take much more, especially since they’re waterboarding him. We all know that Delaney loves a good old-fashioned drowning.
While Delaney is going through hell, Strange is off celebrating with a round of golf. His relaxing day turns bad when Chichester makes an unexpected drop-in. At first he’s cocky, but Strange’s tune changes when Chichester reveals that he has a witness who isn’t Delaney. A spooked Strange soon learns that it’s none other than Godfrey.
In an unsurprising development, Delaney is standing up pretty well to torture, aside from all of the violent shaking and visions. All he’ll say is, “Stuart Strange.” Tired of waiting, the king finally orders a meeting between Strange and Delaney, which the company man begrudgingly attends. When he enters Delaney’s cell, he sees his enemy beaten but at least now clothed. “My god, look at you,” says Strange. “Your plan worked: You in a cell, me on a hook.” Delaney lifts his head and asserts, “I have a use for you.”
What did you think? What are your predictions for next week’s finale? What use does Delaney have for Strange?
For more answers, read our postmortem with co-creator Steven Knight.