TV Review: Taboo Episode 4

This week on Taboo, they continued to push the boundaries (almost over the edge) when it came to its gritty and gruesome content. Although being hard to watch at times, Taboo continues to move at a steady pace towards a climax that will soon boil over.

Last week’s episode left us with Delaney’s prediction that the British Crown will be coming for Lorna after she attacked a Duke out of self-defense, and come they did. After nearly stripping her naked and humiliating her, Solomon Coop (Jason Watkins) offers her a full pardon as long as she signs her part of Nootka Sound over to the Crown. Just in the knick of time, the East India Company shows up to stop the proceedings after discovering that the British Crown was no longer working as their ally.

Now that the British Crown and the EIC are going at each other’s throats, Delaney doesn’t have much to worry about. That is until the Americans catch news that Delaney’s death means that they would acquire Nootka Sound, thus prompting them to send a hulking assassin to get rid of him. Just like the last assassination attempt, Delaney murders and mutilates the man in his typical, graphic fashion.

In the midst of Great Britain and the EICs’ feud, Delaney learns that his shipping plans may not be possible since the only place he can purchase gunpowder for trading is from these two foes. But just as we have slowly but surely been noticing, Delaney is clever and strategic. He concludes that if he can’t buy the gunpowder, he might as well try and make it.

“Episode 4” continues to explore Delaney’s scheme of making his own gunpowder, and the robbery he sets up to steal supplies from the EIC. The robbery occurs while he and Lorna attend a lavish ball together and, of course, Zilpha and Thorne happen to be there. Zilpha continues with her confusing mood swings regarding her feelings for Delaney, and Thorne continues his obnoxious and vulgar confrontations (and he calls Delaney the savage). Fueled by alcohol and laughing gas, Thorne bursts into a fit of rage and challenges Delaney to a duel where they must fight to the death. First off, we have seen Delaney literally rip men’s internal organs out of their body, so my money’s on him. Secondly, this challenge seems a bit cheesy and theatrical for a show of this complexity and depth. A duel to the death seems not only childish, but unrealistic for a show that emphasizes a dark and grounded reality.

One of the strongest components of this episode was the acting itself. As the show has progressed, it has allowed a great deal of character development for all performances involved. This has become remarkably evident in “Episode 4”. Whether it be Thorne’s gut-wrenching drunken stupor or Zilpha’s erotic episode, each character portrays a graphic yet truthful performance that continues to help fuel the series. Another character that made quite an impression was the introduction of Cholmondeley (Tom Hollander). He is the chemist Delaney hires to help him make his own gunpowder. His character offers comic relief as well as a pinch satirical charm.

As always though, Tom Hardy is the real scene-stealer and, I believe, the glue holding the entire show together. Sure, Taboo is interesting and has a lot of strong qualities, but without Hardy, the show would lack any sense of exceptional value that hasn’t been seen before. Given the fact that the show was, in fact, partly created by Hardy, the character of James Delaney along with Hardy’s performance is essentially the only thing separating Taboo from any other dark period drama.


Rating: 8/10

Taboo airs Tuesdays at 10 PM EST on FX.


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