'It's a natural ending to season 1, but it's also the beginning [of] season 2,' teases Hardy
Warning: This story contains spoilers about Tuesday’s season finale of Taboo. Read at your own risk.
Well, you can’t say that Taboo didn’t go out guns blazing.
The explosive season finale started with a splash, featured plenty of bangs throughout, and ended with a goodbye to England. After expanding its world and introducing a large and eclectic group of characters, Taboo promptly bid many of them adieu via death or by leaving them behind. For different reasons, Zilpha, Helga, Strange, Brace, and Chichester won’t be part of the journey to America. Actually, Delaney often sees dead people, so let’s not count them out yet.
EW talked with Tom Hardy and his co-creator Steven Knight about wiping the slate clean, setting sail for the New World, and their optimism that they will return for a second season. Read the interview below, and for our full recap, go here.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This episode was a full-on bloodbath, in both an interesting and gruesome way. Knowing that the series would be leaving England, did you guys view this as a way to clear the deck?
STEVEN KNIGHT: In my forward thinking view of what this will be, I always thought we’re headed west. It’s a ship of fools, it’s a ship full of the damned, who are leaving the Old World and headed to a New World. They’ve almost self-selected because they are people who don’t fit in — they are rebels, people for whom that society doesn’t work, hence the line at the end, “We are Americans.”
TOM HARDY: I entirely agree. On a purely story note, I really wanted to see it being hard for them to actually make it to that boat and into the New World and the next season of Taboo. It’s very important to have this be a hard journey to get out of a situation. We lost a lot of people, whether they got killed or were left behind, which was important. Normally things are tied up in a very nice way or you know who is going to survive and who isn’t, but I think there was a sense of excitement in the storytelling process.
KNIGHT: It was kind of a bizarre evolution system.
Was it bittersweet to close this prologue chapter and move on from so many crucial characters and this world that you’ve built?
KNIGHT: I think that it’s very unusual to set up a world, which has been so well received and people love and are getting into, and now perversely we’re going to close it down and build another one. I think that’s the whole fun of it. That’s the thing about Taboo is that we break the rules and we’re not going to come back for more of the same. We’ve got the same characters, but we will be in a different world.
HARDY: And also in that tapestry, in that world, it’s great to see a full finish, to see some people die is really sad and to see who is going to make it through. It’s a natural ending to season 1, but it’s also the beginning [of] season 2, which is open to options and variables within the world. And you really never know in Taboo what’s happened, if people have died, or what’s gone on there. So definitely for me, I was just happy watching the episode and seeing the reaction in the U.K. and on Tuesday night in the States as well. I think that will be the last influx of that feeling, so that will be bittersweet. But that means season 1 is over [Laughs]. That’s it, I can breathe out now, it’s done.
You have this action-packed episode, but for the first half, Delaney is basically sidelined as his entire plan comes together. Why did you decide to go that route?
KNIGHT: He’s the first in-action hero [Laughs]. I think it’s a triumph of intellect. Conventionally, you’d be pulling out the sword, which of course he does at the end, but rather than cutting ropes and swinging in and swashbuckling, he is using his mind and forward planning. For all the stuff that has been irrational about the series, he’s the master of rationality. He really is, that’s his strongest suit.
HARDY: It’s an interesting and refreshing take on watching as the season’s grown from the essential character to the world around him developing into its own autonomy, getting to know the people in the world. They’ve started to grow now, more like civilians. You know them, you spend time with them, and now, you’ll get to see them move on. Naturally, it’s becoming a team, who survives on the team is the thing. I think it’s really quite exciting to have James up in the tower and his plan falling into place and starting to work within the group. The team starts to grow by necessity. By this point, their hands have all been forced a bit.
KNIGHT: I think there’s a long tradition of that, more recently Seven Samurai and Magnificent Seven. But you think of the fables of Robin Hood, where you get this band of merry men and they’ve obviously self-selected as well. You’ve got these people with their different abilities and they’re rebelling and depending entirely on each other in a situation of stress. So I think it’s sort of a subconscious folklore that we’re moving towards.
Why are all these people so drawn to him? There’s now plenty of evidence that being in the Delaney business is a dangerous one.
KNIGHT: I would say that it’s that question of whether you believe in destiny or self-determination. I think this is an examination of self-determination, where people are drawn to him not because they don’t have a choice, but because he is the choice that is most like themselves. So he is the one that breaks the rules that they would like to be broken. And I think spies and prostitutes and misfits and all of these people are drawn to him because he almost grasps their difference and makes a virtue of it, which is exactly what he does.
HARDY: Absolutely. He’s assembled quite the diverse collective and it stands outside the basic construct of civilized establishment, in order to evoke change for the better, even though it’s a very painful transition and often it doesn’t look civilized. There’s a strange nobility as well about that crew, the sort of not-so-polished members of society. I think of the biggest things that we had in the original context of the series is that you realize that James is the least savage person in the room, whether around the company or the king. Those who are seen as more savage to those that are on the outside, those who are the voiceless have kind of banded together to use their collective intelligence to become a force to be reckoned with. There’s something totally honest and noble about everybody who gets on that boat.
KNIGHT: In that society, in every society, people use each other, but James says it aloud, “I have a use for you.” It doesn’t mean he’s good, it just means he’s telling the truth and I think that’s a good first step.
HARDY: That’s a huge characteristic. It’s rare [Laughs].
As we’ve discussed, a lot of characters were lost, but the most heartbreaking was at the beginning and didn’t involve a bullet or explosion. Why was this Zilpha’s fate? Was she just never going to fit in with Delaney and the Damned?
KNIGHT: What I like about Taboo just in general, even in writing it, you are not certain what the motives are sometimes because these characters are so odd that you let them speak for themselves and you’re never quite sure where it’s headed. In my opinion, and I do think it is a matter of opinion for anyone, one of the redeeming features of James Delaney is that when he found out Zilpha had murdered her husband, he didn’t like it, because he didn’t want her to be part of this. He’s broken because she did that. He would never express this, but maybe somewhere deep down, he wanted her to escape from him. She was never going to board the ship, she wasn’t right. He didn’t have a use for her.
HARDY: The nature of his relationship with his sister had more to do with obsession than genuine love. The reason why he buried Thorne was because he felt bad that Thorne had died when he didn’t have to die. James had plenty of opportunities to kill Thorne, but he didn’t because Zilpha didn’t want him to — he wanted her to leave him. And when she finally decided to kill Thorne, she had said that James had told her to do that and he never had. Which I think goes on the grounds of whether or not there’s a mystical quality to James and not just a mental or traumatic hypervigilance that she hacked into. He’s not sure what that is, whether it’s a gift or a curse. He genuinely doesn’t remember saying that to her. Zilpha did that of her own volition, which ironically makes her seem insane as he rejected her, in a passionate way. They knew each other’s madness and she kind of stepped across an unwritten line between the two of them. I think he felt they were one and then she actually outed the oneness, so he started to step away from her. I believe after the funeral, he went to say, “That’s it — I want nothing to do with you.” Instead of that, he says, “Take that f—ing dress off,” which just came out of his mouth, like somebody trying not to go back to their primary addiction or obsession. Then, they have sex and he starts to see his mother and his mother is basically saying, “No, just realize this isn’t love — this is obsession. And you’re not going to move forward spiritually, because you’re having sex with your sister to punish your father for killing me. So if you see women like that, you might as well be having sex with me.” That shock completely pulls him out. I think he sees the light after that.
KNIGHT: There are issues throughout the series of rationality, reason, irrationality, spirituality, mysticism, and all those things. And I think that you could see James Delaney as a very mystical character, which he is, but in fact, this event proves to him that he doesn’t have control of that side. He has absolute control of the rational side, but that falls apart when he realizes he can’t control that and what he has said to people and what influence he has had on people subconsciously.
HARDY: He’s really driven by that connection, driven to question if he really does have a gift or if he’s not well. And it almost throws the whole plan out of the window and it takes Lorna to talk him into it, to step up and do what he’s been planning for the last eight episodes.
Steven, you’ve told me about season 2 being the birth of a nation, but you threw a little bit of a curveball here with the next destination being Ponta Delgada. What can you say about where a possible season 2 is headed?
KNIGHT: I think we don’t talk about that [Laughs]. In my mind, explosive stuff is going to happen, which will be great, should it happen. There’s a great destination for it, but I don’t know if we’re in a position to talk about the actual details of it.
HARDY: We’re onto the next stage. The key really is Colonnade. When he says, “We are Americans,” James is very ambiguous with how much information he’s going to give. In his mind, you will know when the time is right.
I know there hasn’t been any renewal announcement from FX or BBC, but do you feel confident that you will be able to tell the next chapter of this story?
HARDY: Oh god, yeah.
KNIGHT: All will be well.