Cameron Lee ‘20 / Emertainment Monthly Contributor
Spoiler Alert: This review contains spoilers for Season 1 of Taboo
Tom Hardy is the master when it comes to grunting on the big screen. From his menacing but not always understandable Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, to his Academy Award nominated turn in The Revenant, where, for the first half of the film all he did was mumble to himself about not having enough fur pelts. Yes, Tom Hardy seems to have become the unofficial spokesperson for an actor that requires the use of subtitles to fully understand what the hell he is actually talking about.
For the reader who had hoped his turn in the criminally-unseen ‘Peaky Blinders’ where he was actually understandable for once would continue in his new show Taboo, I’m sorry, you are going to have the activate the subtitles on your TV once again. But that doesn’t mean this show isn’t entertaining; it has moments of pure Tom Hardy awesomeness, fantastic visuals, and a stellar supporting cast. But it often feels like an audition tape for Tom Hardy’s role in the next Marvel film as his character in Taboo is often one step ahead of everyone with no stakes involved in any way.
The story begins in the year 1814, with our grunting hero James Delaney (Hardy) coming home to London after being feared dead for many years. He has just arrived in time for his father’s funeral; his appearance with his top hat and long black coat looks like a fan’s attempt at a steampunk cosplay, but it fits the character’s personality. His father had only one item in his will: a valuable piece of land on the West Coast of North America called Nootka Sound, which just happens to be a highly contested piece of land between the US and the United Kingdom as they are currently fighting in the War of 1812. Both sides want the land, but James has a master scheme that he slowly implements through the course of this season.
Foiling his master plan is The East India Company led by Sir Stuart Strange (portrayed by the wonderful Jonathan Pryce in a role that makes his Game of Thrones role pale in comparison). The East India Company tries to do everything to get rid of Delaney including, but not limited to, sending an assassin to kill him which ends with Delaney ripping out the assassin’s throat with his teeth (awesome scene), blackmail, and torture. He also plays with the American spies in London especially when he makes contact with Dr. Dumbarton (Michael Kelly), who he makes a deal with for a passage to America in exchange for a whole lot of black powder.
Delaney has many weird visions and dream sequences of his time in a slave ship, and his mother, who we learn was bought as a wife from her tribe and sold to his father. So Tom Hardy is supposed to playing someone of mixed-race heritage, which is odd considering his half-sister Zilpha (Oona Chaplin) is actually mixed raced (hmm).
The show’s production design along with it’s visual aesthetics are all expertly executed; it feels like an accurate depiction of London at that point in time, in all it’s ugliness and disgusting hygiene. However, the plot and pacing is often too slow for it’s own good. Tom Hardy gives it his all and he’s always interesting to watch, but his character doesn’t change through the course of the season; the only thing that matters to him is his ship and his plan to destroy his enemies.
The final episode of the season does deliver a satisfying ending that closes every plot line and sets the stage clean for a potential Season 2. Even if it was predictable, the final, action-packed battle between Delany’s associates and the East India Company was thrilling and- pardon the pun- explosive!
Supporting characters that were very likable were dying left and right and it was legitimately a tense and thrilling sequence. The thrilling finale doesn’t excuse the show from it’s poor pacing and uneven characters, but it was an entertaining way to end the season. The bad guys were defeated and Delany sailed away to an unknown future; a future that hopefully involves a better developed storyline and a likable, constantly changing protagonist.