This week, Taboo definitely lived up to its namesake. Not only did “Episode 3” push the limits of cable television, it also finally gave us a clear, well, clearer direction as to what it is that James Delaney truly wants, and what he is willing to do to get it.
The episode opens with a dazed Delaney getting sewn up by his American acquaintance, Dumbarton (Michael Kelly), after suffering a stab wound from the man sent by the East India Company to kill him. After “poking” around a bit, Delaney gives a direct answer to what his plans are, which is to start a tea and fur trading monopoly.
“You should have said that from the start,” responds Dumbarton. I couldn’t have said it better myself. After weeks of going around in circles, we finally know Delaney’s true intentions. This newfound sense of direction proves to be the driving force of the episode.
After the run-in with the first assassin, Delaney realizes that the EIC are going to stop at nothing until he is dead and Nootka Sound is in the hands of the company. Delaney makes a clever move by writing a will stating that in the event of his death, the land will be given to the United States. The tables have turned and now instead of the EIC hunting down Delaney, it is essential for them that he stays alive. This cunning move by Delaney is one of the first in a series of strategic actions he begins to take to obtain his monopoly.
While he continues to implement his master plan, we encounter Godfrey (Edward Hogg), the EIC bookkeeper by day and cross-dressing prostitute by night. It turns out that Delaney and Godfrey are old friends (more than friends according to Godfrey) from back when they were at the seminary together. In order to keep his secret a secret, Godfrey is blackmailed by Delaney into giving information about what goes on during company meetings. Another strategic and meticulous move by Delaney.
Though it seems that the once savage and deranged Delaney has finally got it together, don’t be fooled, he is still as paranoid and puzzling as ever. The persistent back flashes and hallucinations of the bizarre, feathered woman continue to haunt him. There is also the new and mysterious information regarding the markings on his body from Africa matching the markings made by his mother in her room, which sends him into a crazed episode.
Another driving force of the episode is Lorna Bow (Jessie Buckley). She is the rightful inheritor of half of Nootka Sound, therefore Delaney invites her to stay with him until the ordeal is sorted. Lorna adds a new and refreshing element to to show, primarily due to the fact that she is the first female character with any strength of character. She is feisty and challenging, which makes up for the other leading lady’s lack of gumption and charm. Though Zilpha continues to take the back burner in terms of importance and authority, she does prove to be quite unpredictable when, after persistently denying Delaney, she mounts and kisses him in a church. Hopefully she will continue to surprise and shock us in episodes to come.
“Episode 3” gave us the cohesiveness we have wanted since the premiere, while still keeping us intrigued with mystery and boundary-pushing content that I believe will prove to be a strong backbone for episodes to come. I finally have genuine interest in uncovering the secrets and questions still left unanswered. For the first time, the cliffhangers left at the end of the episode have me excited and anxious to see what comes next.
Taboo airs Tuesdays at 10 PM EST on FX