Taboo postmortem: Co-creator Steven Knight explains Delaney's change of heart
Warning: This story contains spoilers about Tuesday’s episode of FX’s Taboo. Read at your own risk.
“I have a use for you.”
Those six words have dominated the first season of Taboo and specifically Tuesday’s penultimate episode. Having finally been outmaneuvered, Tom Hardy’s Delaney has found himself captured, charged with treason, and being tortured. But as we’ve quickly learned, never count out this deranged man as the episode ends with him having secured a meeting with his powerful enemy, Stuart Strange (Jonathan Pryce).
To find out more, EW talked with Taboo co-creator Steven Knight about Delaney spurning his sister, the meaning behind the series’ often used line, and what to expect in next week’s season finale. Read the interview below, and for our full recap, go here.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why did you decide to pick up with Winter’s memorial instead of in the immediate aftermath of episode 6?
STEVEN KNIGHT: I feel it’s always good to skip so you can leave some space for what might have happened in between. It’s a decision of what’s going to look good, what’s going to feel right.
Will we learn the exact details of what happened to Winter?
When you cast Franka Potente for the role of Helga, was it basically with this stretch in mind? Because up until now she has been more of a wise-cracking character.
Absolutely. She’s got quite a pivotal role really. She’s a fantastic actress, so she was never going to be the comedy sort of brothel keeper; she was always going to have more to do than that and she will continue to have more to do.
We talked last week about Delaney’s surprise reaction when his sister showed up on his doorstep. Yet, they obviously still went on to consummate their relationship once again. Here, Zilpha was ready to finally be together. This has been Delaney’s ultimate goal in his return to London, so why the sudden change of heart from him?
You can interpret it differently, but the way I wanted it to be was that he really doesn’t want her to be amongst the Damned. He really doesn’t want her to be one of the people who are around him. His rejection of her is a kindness, almost like, “I decided that I don’t want you here because I want you to have a different life — be beyond what I’m doing.” If there is any kindness in James Delaney, this is one of those acts of redemption.
Was what happened with Winter the final straw for him to make this decision?
It changed him. Of course, I’ve always made him a character that doesn’t give away anything. By his actions, he can be judged and it did change him. He’s aware of the consequences of his actions. I’ve said from the very beginning — wait and see — there is redemption. It’s a slow process, but it’s coming.
At what point did Delaney realize it was, in fact, Brace who killed Horace?
He’s known for a while. If one were to look back over the previous episode and maybe even episode and a half, he knew then. There are things when you go back, he knew what happened. As I always say, expect the unexpected with the outcome of their relationship.
Why has Delaney been so stubborn in believing that things could possibly go wrong for him? Or is it like you told me last week, he just isn’t afraid of dying?
He arrived a dead man. And he is happy to die. It wouldn’t affect him. Again, I refer to the Francis Bacon quote, “Since it’s all so meaningless, we might as well be extraordinary.” So he’s embraced death, he’s happy to die. It would be of some consequence, but not much. In the mean time, he’s going to do something mad and consequential and brave and all of those things. So for him, it’s not a risk because the ultimate cost wouldn’t be a penalty really.
“I have a use for you,” has to be the most spoken line of dialogue on Taboo — Delaney proclaims it multiple times just in this episode. How did you decide it would serve such a pivotal role?
I just wanted to create this character who arrives in this city at this time and he’s very single-minded because he’s not afraid of death and he’s very prepared to identify people who he feels are useful to him. And he’s not guilty about using them because he feels like they’re as flawed as he is. So with Zilpha, the reason he doesn’t want her a part of it is he doesn’t think she is his sort of person. When he recognizes someone he has use for, it’s true. It’s not like, “I like you” or “I want to be your friend” — it is very, very honest. The one thing with Delaney is, he’s always honest.
Without giving anything away, what can you say about why Delaney wants a meeting with Strange? Is this a full circle moment considering their past connections?
Yeah, this is where a lot will be revealed in that meeting. We will learn a lot of things about the whole set-up and what happened before James came back to England.
What short tease would you provide for the upcoming finale?
The birth of a nation.
Since you’ve said this is “the story of misfits and America,” will next week serve as closure to the portion of the story set in England?
Yes. It will certainly be closure to the first act, which is leaving the old world.
The season 1 finale of Taboo airs next Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET on FX.