Episode 3 of Taboo‘s dark, twisty tale kicks off with James Delaney (Tom Hardy) struggling to recover from being stabbed by “the man with the silver tooth” in last week’s episode. He is sewn back together by American physician Dr Edgar Dumbarton (played by Michael Kelly, perhaps best known as Doug Stamper in House of Cards), and during this operation two things become clear: Delaney has a disturbingly high pain threshold, and that Dumbarton has materialised as an unlikely ally, as his American roots mean that he’s equally opposed to East India’s plans for Nootka Sound.
With the stakes now crystal clear, Delaney arranges for his will to be drafted so that, in the event of his death, Nootka Sound is to be handed over to the United States government. James’ survival, and subsequent legal arrangement, serves to further enrage East India’s Chairman Sir Stuart Strange, and he hisses at his subordinates that it is now in their best interests to ensure Delaney survives.
Delaney’s immediate danger may have subsided, however he is aware that the US will likely play an equally bloodthirsty game with him in the near future. The paramount matters of trust and loyalty continue to gnaw away at him, and this venomous game of chess he’s courting continues to raise in stake and immediacy.
Amidst this, James begins writing his half-sister Zilpha open-hearted letters that insinuate a deeper connection between the two. This irritates her husband, Thorne Geary, who arranges to meet with James and speaks frankly about how he mistreats her in order to get under Delaney’s skin.
The final piece to this episode is Lorna Bow, the actress who was married to Delaney’s father at the time of his death. She puts forth her claim for a 50% stake in Nootka Sound, however her actions are closely watched by East India. She is abducted after one of her theatre performances, only to be rescued by Delaney.
As I have remarked in my two previous articles, the atmosphere that is cultivated in this show is so expertly crafted. There is a genuinely unsettling, foreboding nature to it all, and Hardy constantly makes you re-evaluate his Delaney: is he mostly brash and arrogant, or is he mostly informed and cunning? The question chips away at the viewer like a metronome, and one feels constantly anxious as to Delaney’s choices in strategy, wordplay and confrontational methods.
The stellar cast continues to own their individual roles, and each of them serve to subtly yet ably develop the tone and era ““ a crucial requirement for such an ambitious piece of television. It is because of these crucial elements that I can feel myself being drawn further and further into this murky realm, and despite the fact it feels as though I’m utterly powerless to stop this, I’m more than happy to continue sliding.
To finish, as hoped for, this episode reveals more of Delaney’s shadowy past, his relationship with his sister, and increases the show’s tempo seamlessly. There is now a solid base to build from, and plenty of questions still unanswered. With 5 episodes left in this first season, I am very confident that Taboo will continue to round itself out and pace itself appropriately and efficiently, hopefully leading to a satisfying and booming crescendo.
THE REEL SCORE: 9/10