Four episodes into TABOO so far and loving it. TABOO is an eight-part British TV series created by Steven Knight, Tom Hardy and his father, and is based on a story written by Tom Hardy. Hardy is fantastic in the lead role as James Delaney.
The year is 1814, and the war between Britain and America is drawing to a close. James Delaney returns to Britain after 12 years in Africa to attend his father’s funeral and claim his inheritance, which includes a piece of land on the western coast of Canada. Control of this land will affect the Canadian-American border being drawn up between the UK and USA, while also providing a trade route to China. This draws the interest and animosity of America, the British crown and the East India Trading Company. The result is a highly intriguing cat and mouse game between these players with Delaney pulling the strings (sorry for mixed metaphor). The story works as part Dickens, part Western, part fantasy.
Delaney exudes menace as an anti-hero, collecting a cast of villains to help him carry out his plans for his father’s property and regain the love of his half-sister, with whom he’d had an incestuous relationship before leaving England. He transcends the rigid moral and social conventions of the day by simply refusing to recognize their importance, freeing him to do what needs doing. It makes a great contrast with the British aristocracy with whom he sometimes mingles, as they observe the conventions outwardly while breaking them whenever it’s expedient, making them hypocrites. Delaney is a bad man, but at least he’s honest, and those fighting him are far worse.
The show is incredibly dark and gritty, providing a richly rendered London of 1814. Kind of Tim Burtonish, if Burton were pissed off and a punk rocker. The time and place make Delaney’s character larger than life, and the more incredible things he does are much more fun and credible than if the story were set in the modern day.
I hope the rest of the series plays out as well as the first. I’m anxious for more!