Do you love the crazy, weird, mumbling side of Tom Hardy, period pieces set in England, and probable incestous relationships? Oh, then do the Inception star, his father Chips, and I have a show for you.
It may be a new year, but FX’s Taboo is sending viewers back to 1814 Britain for a mysterious, strange, and gripping miniseries. While television has become known for the white male anti-hero (i.e. Breaking Bad, The Sopranos), the new British miniseries created by Steven Knight (Peaky Blinders), Hardy, and his father, introduces a character unlike any other.
The extended series premiere kicks off with this mysterious man, James Keziah Delaney. Starting on a ship just off the coast, the man makes the journey from water to land where on his way into London, he makes a pit stop to bury a small bag. Once in the city, the burials continue, but this time it’s an older man being prepared for his final resting place.
During the funeral service, onlookers, including the man’s daughter, Zilpha Geary (Game of Thrones‘ Oona Chaplin), are paying their respects, until in walks a ghost. “Dear God, there walks a dead man,” is overheard upon Delaney’s appearance. Mrs. Geary is especially spooked, considering Delaney’s weird behavior and the fact that he’s her brother. “They said you were dead,” she confronts him. “I am,” he ominously replies. As she leaves the wake, he grabs her, confessing that he still loves her, and it sure seemed to be much more Jamie and Cersei Lannister sibling love than Ross and Monica Gellar.
Waiting outside for Delaney is his father’s lawyer, Thoyt. The man has good news and bad news. His mad father named him as his sole heir, but there are no riches, only a small strip of coastline on the other side of the world. “If America were a pig facing England, it’s right at the pig’s ass,” he says, proving he would be a terrible real estate agent. “Just rocks and Indians.” Despite proclaiming it useless and dangerous, Thoyt offers to help Delaney sell it, an offer he walks away from.
It’s quickly clear why Thoyt was so eager to help facilitate a deal: He’s working with the East India Trading Company. A large contingent of the company has come together to get an update on Delaney and his claim on the land, Nootka Sound. One of them, Mr. Wilton offers an entertaining and informative report for the men (and viewers!) on Delaney’s background. He was once a company boy, serving in Stuart Strange’s (Game of Thrones‘ Jonathan Pryce) regiment, and had a perfect record, until his troubles began in 1800. A few of his incidents included drunken experiments, fights with bears (he clearly faired better than his buddy Leo), and raving about hidden treasures, before disappearing in Africa, presumed dead aboard a sunken slave ship. If that wild backstory weren’t enough, there are rumors of his whereabouts the last decade, which Strange really wants to know about.
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The Delaney welcome home tour continues as he returns to his actual childhood home. And he’s greeted by something he hasn’t seen in a while — somebody who is happy to see him! It’s his family butler, Brace, who he shares an embrace and a drink. The reunion turns dark as Delaney reveals that he knows more of his father, mother, and the mysterious land than Brace assumed. It turns out Nootka is the name of his mother’s tribe. His father bought both his wife and land from them in exchange for gun powder. The night ends with Delaney having a troubling vision that is definitely not the result of too much brandy. In the morning, he does receive new information from Brace — Thoyt has been attempting to buy Delaney Shipping Company for years, a move that Delaney’s father would always respond to by sending horse s— back. As a new offer arrives and being short of horse s—, Delaney resorts to throwing it in the fire.
Setting off to check out the company’s abandoned offices, Delaney finds another familiar face, someone who as a child touched his heart (and other parts of his body). It turns out prostitute Helga, who happened to take Delaney’s virginity, has also taken over the building for her business. She tries to make a deal, whether it to be financial, sexual, or by threat. “Please do not misunderstand the situation. You send me 12 men, I will return you 12 sets of testicles,” he replies. This speech both makes me never want to cross Tom Hardy and makes Helga suddenly recall the man before her. “If I give you a girl, I will never see her again.” To which he replies, “You heard right.”
NEXT: More reunions…
As if he hadn’t had enough reunions, Delaney is soon accosted by an old man who wants money. He’s not just some beggar, it turns out that he’s been raising Delaney’s brother for 10 years. Being a man of his word, Delaney later delivers payment “for past, present, and future.” He does want to catch a glimpse of the boy, but shares that he never wants to see him again. “I’m not a fit man to be around children,” he says as everyone at home nods along in agreement.
While Delaney has been off catching up with prostitutes, butlers, and illegitimate brothers, his sister has been home attempting to write him a note. Her husband, Thorne, who is rightfully worried about what Delaney’s sudden reappearance means to their claim on Nootka, has some rewrite ideas for the letter. He wants her to offer her half-brother 50 pounds to relinquish his rights and leave the country or he will kill him. “I’m tired of the empty threats you keep banding around,” she says, verbally jabbing her husband. As Thorne storms off, Zilpha stares off, presumably thinking of her brother and still giving off those Lannister vibes.
Suspecting foul play, Delaney digs his father up to have a doctor examine him. As the doctor does his work, Delaney begins having more troubling visions. This time, he rants and screams at the stiff bodies. “I have no fear for you and I have no guilt for you,” he says to one body, which seems to rise from the dead. Thankfully, he was imagining that and the doctor has the results. Tests show that his father was given heavy doses of poison over a short time, something that would affect his mind.
It’s now time for Delaney to have one final reunion. He goes to the East India Company to meet with Strange and his cohorts. Not one for small talk, the man who has seemingly been nowhere to be found for a decade reveals that he knows more than he lets on. He knows that Nootka is a point of contention between enemy countries Britain and the United States and that whoever has the land also has Vancouver, which serves as the gateway to China. Offended by his lack of patriotism, the group attempts to make an offer to him, but like Thoyt’s letter earlier, Delaney has no use for it. “I studied your methods at your school, and I do know the evil you do because I was once part of it,” he passionately states, not appreciative of the threats thrown his way. After the brash man storms out, Strange declares, “The son is as unstable as the father.” Even though we never met the father, that sure is saying something.
After a long day of catching up with old acquaintances, Delaney is greeted at home by a second letter from his dear sister, acknowledging that her earlier note was written under the supervision of husband. She shares that she was grateful that he left England for the both of their sakes. “I hope I can trust you to keep the secrets of the past buried,” reads the letter as he burns it. “Buried in a deeper grave.” Oh yeah, definitely a Lannister situation going on and that probably includes the brother from earlier being more like a son.
What did you think? Are you intrigued by the mysteries and Hardy’s performance?