Taboo (FX, Tuesdays, 10/9C) is steaming towards its first season finale and, if it’s anything like this penultimate episode, it should be a roaring good time.
This week’s episode finds James Keziah Delaney betrayed and charged with high treason – but, as always, there’s much more going on than appears on the surface.
Episode 7 opens with Delaney (Tom Hardy) sitting at a remove, watching Winter’s funeral. He admits that he has no idea if she died at his hand or not.
As a direct result of Winter’s (Ruby-May Martinwood) death, he soon finds himself a guest in the Tower.
Before that, we learn the stunning details of the senior Delaney’s death – an admission made before Delaney and subsequently, before Lorna Bow (Jessie Buckley), his widow.
Meanwhile, George Chichester (Lucien Msamati) continues his investigation of the sinking of the Cornwallis – though Delaney was the sole survivor, he is not the only witness Chichester finds.
Delaney’s betrayal comes after he’s acted on his own plans (usually prefaced with him telling someone, ‘I have a use for you’). One such someone is Godfrey (Edward Hogg), the scribe for the meetings of the board of the East India Company; another is his son, Robert (Louis Ashbourne Serkis). Someone who does not figure in his plans is his sister, Zilpha Geary (Oona Chaplin), who has had some of the more twisted non-Delaney moments in the series to date.
On another level, Lorna seeks to help a street urchin who, it turns out, may have a bigger role to play than initially apparent, and Brace (David Hayman) seems to have come down with an unknown illness.
Written by showrunner Steven Knight and directed by Anders Engström, Episode 7 continues to tell Delaney’s story in its measured, deliberate manner – adding more layers and textures to the story in unexpected but delightfully logical ways.
One of the best sequences finds Delaney facing the Prince Regent’s (Mark Gatiss) blandly menacing private secretary, Solomon Coop (Jason Watkins). He suggests a deal for giving up the names of the American agents he’s dealt with – one that is mind-boggling in its brass, and one that leads to a killer final scene.
Once again, we are reminded that Delaney only has one foot in this world – the other seems to be in a magical place (but definitely not a brightly magical one!). He makes plans statements that should in no way be expected to work out, but do – even when things seem to go as wrong as humanly possible, he seems to have allowed for them (perhaps even counted on them).
For such a deeply disturbing show, Taboo has a fair bit of humor – it always comes out of nowhere, but is completely organic to the storytelling. Most of the scenes centered on Coop and the Prince Regent are funny, but even Delaney’s interrogation in the Tower has its moments.
In a tale as complex as Taboo, that use of wit and humor is crucial. It keeps the show from foundering in a sea of darkness. A scene with Chichester and Sir Stuart Strange (Jonathan Pryce) is a good example. Key word: golf.
For seven episodes, Taboo has built up a world of intriguing, unique characters and a twisting plot that qualifies as ‘demented genius.’ I can’t wait to see how the season finale plays out.
Final Grade: A+