If there’s one thing that Taboo taught us this week, it’s that when it comes to gunpowder, it is better to make it at a slow and steady pace than to rush the process and potentially blow everything up. That seems to be precisely the case for this week’s episode of Taboo. Though it seemed to chug along at a cathartic speed, this pace was necessary for the explosion of events that are soon to come.
Last week, we ended with a drunken Thorne Geary challenging Delaney to a duel in which they fight to the death. My initial reaction was that this seemed barbaric and unrealistic for 19th century England, but it turns out that dueling was, in fact, legal at the time. That being said, the duel commences and Delaney, being the unpredictable man that he is, spares Thorne’s life.
This whole duel seemed a bit pointless, and appeared to serve as more of a nail-biting ending to episode four than to serve any real purpose in this week’s episode. One thing this duel did forge is the rise of Geary’s deeply-rooted hatred for Delaney.
The Mysterious Trunk
For weeks now Delaney has been asking Lorna Bow to retrieve his father’s trunk of belongings. When Lorna finally delivers, Delaney begins to search through its contents and finds the documented transaction of his father’s Nootka Sound purchase. Delaney then begins to open up about his father’s other purchases as well, and we learn that Delaney’s mother was part of the sale. When Delaney’s father brought her to England and she refused to adopt the civil British culture, he sent her away to an insane asylum. Delaney’s sentimental admission was not only rare, but shows a deeper connection that he is beginning to feel for Lorna.
Throughout the episode, they share several endearing moments that begin to build on the idea that their relationship might be headed in a different direction than we expected. The icing on the cake is when Cholmondeley asks Delaney if he could, for lack of a better phrase, ask Lorna out, in which Delaney seems to get flustered by the idea and tells him no. With these instances in mind, it makes sense to think that there may be a spark there, but it could also just represent a strong friendship. Keeping in mind Delaney’s feelings for Zilpha as well as the fact that there hasn’t been much romantic or sexual tension between the two, my bet is that these signs simply depict a strong alliance, though it will be interesting to see how their relationship develops in weeks to come.
After Delaney plans and executes the East India Company robbery in order to begin making his gunpowder, both the EIC and the royal army start to search far and wide for the stolen goods. Delaney continues to prove his slyness when he reveals that the saltpeter they stole from the EIC had already been bought by the British Army, so not only does the EIC need to find the stolen goods, they also have the British government to worry about.
Wanting to get back at the EIC, the Prince Regent decides that the best way to do so is to go after Sir Stuart Strange. After doing some digging, they discover a man named George Chichester (Lucian Msamati), who has been writing to Strange over the course of many years about the sinking of The Influence, which caused the death of over 200 slaves. They decide to open up Chichester’s investigation, which raises questions involving whether or not the act was intentional in order to put an end to Strange. Let’s not forget that this is the same ship that Delaney was aboard and managed to escape from those many years ago…
Just as in prior episodes, Zilpha and Thorne’s relationship continues to disgust and depress us, but this week it reaches a new and appalling level. Still pouting about the duel, Thorne walks in on Zilpha calling James’s name in her sleep. Convinced that Delaney’s demons are inside of her, he calls in the help of a priest to perform an exorcism. After the freakish ritual, it appears that something has snapped inside of Zilpha, as she wildly stairs at a hatpin as Thorne sleeps.
For weeks now I have hoped that the prim and proper Zilpha will finally drop her uptight and rigid act and truly develop as a leading and dominating character. This suspenseful end suggests that Zilpha is no longer the submissive housewife, but rather someone capable of much more. As a slew of characters showed their wild side this week, it has begun to seem that Delaney, the man whom everyone calls a savage and a madman, might actually be the sanest of them all.
This week’s episode moved at a steady pace and served as more of a filler episode than anything else. But, just as with many great shows, these episodes prove to be vital stepping stones for things to come. Although Taboo does seem to move slowly at times, slow and steady gives us the best finished product.
Taboo airs Tuesdays at 10 PM EST on FX.