Taboo finale recap: 'Episode 8'
So, anything of note happen on Tuesday’s Taboo finale?
Nobody can accuse Tom Hardy, Steven Knight, and crew of not bringing the heat for season 1’s final episode. From the opening moment, this promised to be an hour of death, heartbreak, and twists. Hardy and Knight spoke with EW about the episode and the future they see for the show, but as of now, this is the last Taboo that we’ve been promised, as it has not yet been renewed by FX or BBC. If that pick-up unfortunately never happens, then the show certainly went out with a bang.
The episode begins with a much different kind of bloodshed than the violence to come. Our first victim is the person who is least involved with Delaney’s plan, making the decision to end things on her own accord. As Zilpha walks through town, we hear her reading an ominous letter she has written to her brother. “Travel to a place where I will be free,” she writes. “It is a place where I hope someday we will meet and be happy.” Standing on the side of a bridge, Delaney’s beloved sister and scorned lover lets her body fall, landing in the river, reminiscent of our hero’s visions.
While, unbeknownst to him, Zilpha has just taken her last breath, Delaney is having his mysterious meeting with Strange. It’s of no surprise that the company man is doing most of the talking, acknowledging that back in the day, he was looking for boys with a “shadow of death” around them. That explains how Delaney became a member of his regiment. But still, Strange is amazed that the deranged man has made it long enough to sit in front of him. Finally explaining how he did survive the sunken Cornwallis, Delaney reveals that an African man saved and cured him, while also showing him who he really is. “The things I did in Africa make your transactions look paltry,” he confesses. “I witnessed and participated in darkness that you cannot conceive.” I definitely believe that.
Until now, Strange has played coy, pledging to not admit any wrongdoing. That changes when Delaney slides the powerful man a letter detailing his demands. At first, Strange continues to resist, but he alters his stance as Delaney rehearses the statement that he will give to the royal commission. Now, seeming to have the upper hand, Delaney gives his enemy four hours to find him a ship and handle a few more crucial requests.
At that moment, the clock strikes, sending both Lorna and young Robert on their own important missions. Using the key that his father/brother gave him last week, Robert retrieves a bundle of letters from Delaney and sets off to deliver them. Among those receiving messages: Brace, Atticus, and Chumley, who’s passed out drunk and in hiding with some lady friends. “How the hell does he find me?” Chumley asks Robert. “He sees me in my dreams, is that it?” Knowing that the best cure for a hangover is more alcohol, Chumley quickly rebounds and returns to his lab to do his magic so he can get Delaney something that goes “bang!”
A pissed-off Strange returns to EIC, summoning Wilton and Pettifer to give them their marching orders. Step 1 is to have Pettifer retrieve the still-in-mourning Helga. Atticus and company stop the carriage containing them, but it turns out that Pettifer is in on it. Always one for a sweet message, Atticus tells Helga that Delaney has ordered her unharmed. “There’s still plenty of cocks left for you to suck,” he says, charming ladies everywhere. He then turns the gun on a panicked Pettifer, who claims that their bosses had an agreement. “Indeed there is,” replies Atticus, shooting the company man in the head.
They soon meet up with a carriage holding both Lorna and Winter’s young friend. As Helga gets in, Lorna tells her what the boy saw happen to Winter: Delaney was passed out in the mud, Helga’s daughter lying next to him, until a “ghost” came and killed her. The young boy then followed this ghost to a meeting with company men. With this business hopefully settled, Lorna returns home, where, instead of our usual Three’s Company reboot, there’s a letter waiting.
NEXT: Delaney pulls one over on Coop
Knowing that he’s short on time, Strange gets an update from Wilton. His right-hand man has secured a ship, but he does still have some questions, including why they are picking up supplies at an insane asylum. “Because this whole thing is insane,” an exasperated Strange replies. “Because this day is insane. Because Delaney is insane. Because I am insane.” Already annoyed enough, he’s tired of Wilton, barking, “Just f— off, will you?”
As his plan falls into place, Delaney is still in the tower, waiting to be brought in front of Coop. As he begins chanting in African, blood falls from Delaney’s mouth, which leads to a seizure. A doctor begins to sew up the prisoner, telling the guards that he needs at least another 30 minutes.
Countess Musgrove has been out of the fray of late, but she reenters the picture here — we find her playing cards, drinking, and gossiping with friends. This jolly time is interrupted by Lorna, who attempts to use a code to get the countess to talk in private. At the mention of powder, the U.S. spy follows her visitor out of the room, only to put a knife to Lorna’s throat. While she doesn’t seem to be in a position of power, Lorna says she is here for a letter of safe passage, but she won’t be giving the treaty in return. Instead, she resorts to blackmail: Musgrove has a leak in her organization, and Delaney will plug it in return for her assistance. The countess asks what Lorna means to Delaney. “I’m Mrs. Delaney,” she responds. “His wife?” Musgrove asks. Lorna proudly replies, “No, his mother.”
As Delaney is still being worked on by the doctor, he can hear Robert yelling from outside. This is clearly a sign, as Delaney declares himself ready. He’s dragged in front of Coop, who demands that the prisoner name his co-conspirators. Seeing a group of ravens fly by, Delaney responds by once again speaking in African. “I will squash your balls myself,” threatens an unamused Coop, claiming Delaney promised to give those names. “Did I?” Delaney hilariously responds. “I must’ve lied.” Then, as we see a montage of the Damned making their moves, Delaney tells Coop exactly how things are about to go. “When morning becomes afternoon, then I will became a free man,” he rightfully predicts, since of course the ravens told him. Upon his release, he gives Robert one last letter to relay.
The Damned have assembled at Atticus’ place of business — minus their leader. It’s like when the Ocean’s crew is waiting to see what happens to Clooney. Standing outside, Brace’s face perks up when he sees a ship coming around the corner. The arrival of the vessel means it’s full steam ahead; the gunpowder is being delivered, and Atticus’ crew clears the streets in anticipation for a showdown.
Delaney’s last letter was to Chichester, and the Sons of Africa lawyer is not a happy camper when he reads it contents. Outraged and confused by Delaney making a deal with Strange, Chichester storms into the company’s offices, where a cocky Strange declares, “The difference between Delaney and me is that I always make sure that I have one last ace to play.”
A damaged Delaney limps home after a long few days of torture. While the physical abuse is over, he’s about to be dealt an even more emotional blow: the note from Zilpha. “I’m planning to journey to Heaven,” it reads. “Please keep some part of my soul within your own.” In this moment, an excited Lorna returns home, glad to share the news of her successful encounter with Musgrove. She finds Delaney motionless, shedding a heartbreaking single tear.
Up to this point, Hardy has mostly been asked to give a brooding, physical performance, but here, he does his best work on Taboo to date. “If she were dead, I would know it,” he tells Lorna, not willing to accept his sister’s fate. “I would hear her and I would feel it.” Wondering how he didn’t know and why she doesn’t “sing to him,” Delaney gets quite the pep talk from his stepmother. “It’s a fine day to die at sea,” she quips, causing him to perk up a bit. He eventually rises and heads off to handle unfinished business, but he will return for her.
His last stop before America is a visit to his American friend Dumbarton, who, it turns out, isn’t the patriot he claims to be. Before he gives Delaney the safe passage that he doesn’t know Musgrove has already granted, the doctor needs Nootka Sound to be turned over. But he doesn’t want it for the Americans — he wants it for the EIC. “Does it even matter?” asks Dumbarton. “No one in this city has only one master.” Grabbing the pen to sign the document, Delaney slams the traitor’s head into the table. “I do,” he boasts. The doctor isn’t getting off that easy, though. Delaney hangs the man from the rafters with his head dyed blue, the treaty stapled to him and his guts torn apart.
NEXT: Not everyone makes it to the ship
Wilton has secured the final paperwork for Delaney’s ship, handing the information over to French Bill. “Tell Mr. Delaney he may have won the battle, but justice will be delivered to him by the hand of God,” Wilton says. These will be his last words, as Bill shoots him in the head, courtesy of Strange.
On his way to see the king, a nervous Coop yells “s—” over and over to himself. Not thrilled with Delaney’s power play, the king had a conversation with another powerful figure — God, who told him in a dream, “Everyone must hang.” The king declares, “Just f—ing kill him.” As Coop tries to tell him that Delaney’s death will hand Nootka to the Americans, the king replies, “F— Nootka. F— wills. F— treaties.” The order for Delaney’s death is officially given.
As Delaney’s Eleven brace for the soldiers coming their way, Brace gets some bad news. Delaney tells his longtime servant that he won’t be making the trip to America. “You’ve always been my father’s man in my father’s world,” Delaney confesses. “You were not born for freedom. You wouldn’t know what to do with it.” An emotional Brace begs his master to reconsider, but to no avail. The one benefit is that he’s now king of the Delaney estate, so he will have plenty of rats and old chairs to himself!
The soldiers have arrived and are greeted by a detonation set off by Chumley. That gives Delaney’s group an early advantage before more soldiers charge through, setting off the real fight. The casualties come quickly and often; the first is poor Helga. Delaney actually seems to be the only one in his crew who doesn’t take on some sort of fire: Lorna is hit by a bullet to the shoulder; Atticus takes a blow to the eye; Chumley, getting a taste of his own medicine, is thrown by an explosion. Atticus and Delaney rush to Chumley’s aid, as he’s been deemed necessary, considering he’s a doctor. Despite a few obstacles, they make it to the ship and set sail in the nick of time.
Unaware of what has taken place at the docks, a delighted Strange finds his “final ace,” a delivery from a messenger boy, on his desk. He even boasts of heading out early for the weekend. Strange believes the delivery to be the treaty from Dumbarton, paving the way for the EIC to control Nootka and all the tea in China. “And an end to this business at last,” he says gleefully. As he opens it, a massive explosion wipes out Strange and his office.
We discover that Brace did make it out of the battle at the docks alive. Instead of celebrating, he’s back at the Delaney estate, staring off into the distance. His silence is interrupted when Chichester appears; Delaney had left word with the lawyer that he could find both his and Godfrey’s statements at the house. Upon reading them, a look of relief and accomplishment crosses Chichester’s face. He sums up his feelings in one word: “Justice.”
Now on the open seas, Delaney goes below deck to check on his injured crew. He compassionately places his hand on Lorna’s shoulder as she lies in pain from her gunshot wound. Chumley is in even worse condition: burnt to a crisp and mumbling as “poor sweet” Godfrey tries to console him. Topside, Atticus has taken on the role of first mate, but his new job gets off to a rough start when he makes the mistake of assuming they are headed to America. Nope — before they head to the world of cheesesteaks and New York-style pizza, Delaney needs to see a man named Colonnade in Ponta Delgada. (Save your Google search; it’s in Portugal.) “I thought the gunpowder was for the Americans,” Atticus says, confused. Delaney retorts, “We are Americans.”
What did you think? Did this serve as a fitting end to the story in England? Do you hope that the show returns for a second season? Don’t forget to check out our postmortem with Tom Hardy and Taboo co-creator Steven Knight here.