Taboo Season 1 Episode 2 Review
BBC and FX‘s Taboo: Season 1, Episode 2 dove deeper into the past relationship of James Keziah Delaney (Tom Hardy) and Zilpha Geary (Oona Chaplin), Delaney’s new business venture, and his overall plan for Nootka Sound. Along the way, new characters entered the narrative, most enriching the storylines that were already in place.
The relationship between James Delaney and Zilpha Geary was made crystal clear in Episode 2 of Taboo. As the overall narrative of the show continues, Zilpha will be pulled between two worlds: the one with her husband and the one with James. From his actions in Episode 2, James is going to make that choice as difficult as possible for Zilpha.
James Delaney paying all of his father’s old debts while simultaneously opening a new business were smart moves. James brought his family name back into good financial and word-of-mouth standing in one stroke. Naming part of the new company “Nootka” was brilliant and a definitive sign of Delaney’s intention for the valuable strip of land. It was also a “Rockefeller Salute” to the East India Trading Company.
Another hat tip to East Indian was when James Delaney’s confronted Robert Thoyt (Nicholas Woodeson) about being that company’s “whore.” Why would Delaney continue to retain Thoyt’s services instead of getting another lawyer? The only credible answer was that every lawyer in London had been compromised by East India’s wealth and lethal thralls. Getting a new lawyer would have just gotten James Delaney a new East India “whore.” At least with Thoyt, James Delaney know the devil he was dealing with every week.
Of all the new characters added to Taboo through Episode 2, it was Atticus (Stephen Graham) who was the most colorful. Atticus was the product of the world he lived in, like Shane Walsh in The Walking Dead. Atticus was an inhabitant of London’s underbelly, helping those with money with whatever murderous, dirty service they required. Atticus was played with the same open menace as James Delaney. Neither man (Atticus and James) could intimidate or scare the other. What was fascinating about Atticus was his literary aspirations. Aspirations that he had been pursuing for years.
The best line of the episode: Atticus – “What was the smallest thing you saw in Africa?” Delaney – “Human kindness.” It was the latter that was a very telling statement about what had forged Delaney and his outlook on life.
Though Atticus was the most colorful new addition to Taboo‘s cast of characters, Winter (Ruby-May Martinwood) was the most disturbing. Winter oozed instability. She screamed ‘off’ and ‘unhinged’ by the dialogue she spoke and its delivery e.g. “Promise to take me to America one day.” Delaney, for some inexplicable reason, took Winter at her word and believed everything she said. Why? A character like Delaney would never blindly trust a stranger. Who knew what type of agent the East India Trading Company would send to manipulate him (e.g. get him to go abroad that ship) or kill him. Delaney knew that and took Winter’s story at face value anyway while an assassin slowly circled in the shadows. Delaney’s trust decision made no sense.
Lorna Bow / Lorna Delaney (Jessie Buckley)’s entrance into Taboo had a low-key dazzle to it. She had the third best entrance in the episode but it in no way eclipsed the creep-factor of Winter’s introduction. From the way Lorna confidently carried herself and the words she spoke, it was obvious that she had had some modicum of education. Lorna was a variable James hadn’t counted on. She will be a thorn in James’ side and his clandestine plan. From her two scenes in Episode 2 of Taboo, Lorna seemed like more than a match for James Delaney, his intellect, and any threats that he might try to levy against her in the future.
Also immune to James Delaney threats would be the Prince Regent (Mark Gatiss). For his first scene in the series, the Prince Regent was presented as a jest, an overindulged nincompoop, someone to be laughed at if he weren’t so powerful. Solomon Coop (Jason Watkins) was a far more serious and dutiful person than the Prince Regent, which told the viewer how Coop possibly obtained his job in the first place. Up to this point in the series, Delaney was shown as the only entity having major grudges against him. It would seem the Prince Regent and Solomon Coop have one against East India. That new narrative point was the only value the Prince Regent / Solomon Coop scene held for the episode and the viewer.
The James Delaney / The Malay confrontation at the end of Episode 2 was quick and ultra violent. I thought James would block The Malay’s strike but The Malay was either quicker or James couldn’t predict where The Malay would thrust his weapon. The stabbing proved that James was not the invincible whirlwind that he had first appeared to be in Shovels and Keys. James was the warrior that he appeared to be though. What James did to end his match with The Malay was vicious. Was James capable of that finishing move before he went to Africa or was that something that he learned during those travels? My guess is that it was the latter.
Who will James approach to put him back together? Whom could he trust with his life? There are only two: Brace (David Hayman) or the doctor that preformed the autopsy on his father. Like the Ayra Stark stabbing moment last season on Game of Thrones (which was much more shocking than James being stabbed), James was in quick need of a safe port at the end of the episode.
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