‘Taboo’ Season 1, Episode 5 RECAP & REVIEW



Image credit: FX Networks

When we last left James Delaney (Tom Hardy, The Dark Knight Rises), he had caused all kinds of ruckus at a glamorous party and was then promptly challenged to a “duel to the death” by his brother-in-law Thomas Geary (Jefferson Hall, Vikings). The reason for all this drama was that Geary had discovered that his wife Zilpha (Oona Chaplin, Game of Thrones) had relations with James (her half-brother) in the past. There were tears from both Gearys, furtive glances around the room by many a stakeholder to this whole mess, and a steely-eyed, unmoved Delaney staring intensely at the trembling, blubbering mess formerly known as Thomas. In sum, it was just another typical day in the life of Delaney, whose surging and spiky mission to secure the landmark of “Nootka Sound” – a small yet pivotal piece of land bequeathed to him by his late father – has led him down several dark and spiky crevasses thus far.

This episode immediately kicks off with the duel, comforting given the occasionally meandering nature of the previous episode. The rules are addressed, formalities are ticked off and away the lads go. Geary draws his gun – Delaney does not – and the men pace towards one another, Geary quivering and emotional, Delaney blank and apparently unfazed by all the pomp and circumstance. Geary fires his gun at Delaney’s heart, but alas – no bullet! Delaney addresses Geary with “my apologies – that was an excellent shot. I can only assume that your second (witness) is a company man, since he failed to load a ball in your pistol”. Like clockwork, Geary’s second, Mr. Hope, makes a mad dash to escape. Delaney, having none of it, guns Hope down with a single shot to the back of his skull. “It would appear that my life is more precious than yours,” gloats Delaney. He then promptly departs, leaving his brother-in-law/romantic rival (what a combo!) in a shaken heap.



We then cut to Zilpha, who sits at home pale and glassy eyed. She awaits the outcome of the duel, and appears uncertain within herself as to her desired outcome, seemingly waging a duel of her own between mind and heart. Upon sighting Geary, an immediate wave of relief washes over her ashen face. Then, almost as suddenly, such relief turns to anguish as the ramifications of her seeing Geary ram home – some quality acting chops here by Oona Chaplin. She embraces her husband with a gentle, almost convincing hug, however her gesture is scoffed at by Geary, who chides her for being covered in ash from her cleaning of the fireplace – a subtle nod to Delaney’s maniacal, strange rituals with fire, ash and blood. This simmering, embittered to-and-fro sees Geary take out the award for best line of this episode. As he sits and chugs rabidly from a crystal whiskey decanter, he avoids directly answering several of Zilpha’s questions, each of which are unable to fully mask her desperation to know of James’s fate. Geary eventually tells her that he doesn’t need to inform her of the happenings since all of London will be talking about it.

“So I shall hear through gossip?” she asks.

“As I hear about you”, he sneers. Owned.

Image credit: FX Networks

Meanwhile, back over at the place formerly known as Delaney’s residence, housekeeper Brace (David Hayman, Macbeth) tiptoes around outright stating that he knows Delaney arranged for the theft of the saltpetre (a crucial ingredient in crafting gunpowder, which the entire “Nootka Sound” objective relies upon), revealing that soldiers were running up and down the streets shouting that the guilty parties will hang. Delaney, cagey as ever, merely grunts dismissively, but the inference is clear: Brace is no fool, nor does Delaney take him for one.

We next follow Delaney through a rather bloody yet productive day as he takes a relaxing stroll on horseback to visit his new and secret warehouse – stopping only once in order to slice open the stomach of a spy, leaving him in agony yet alive as a warning unto others. With that sorted, he reaches his first destination, where we are once again reconnected with the truly one of a kind, scene-stealing Dr. George Cholmondeley – pronounced “Chumley” – (played by Tom Hollander, The Night Manager). Chumley, in rather lewd and graphic ways, asks Delaney if he can “call upon” Lorna Bow (Jessie Buckley, War and Peace), apparently ignoring the fact that she is James’s stepmother. Delaney dismisses Chumley’s base desires and instead rigs him up with an assistant, a young boy who we learn may well be Delaney’s brother or son! Next stop for James is a brief yet violent visit to his underworld informant, Atticus (Stephen Graham, Snatch). Delaney promptly smells a rat, aware that the company has offered serious coin for any information to aid their cause against him, and slices the thumb off the guilty party. With this bit of business (and human appendage) taken care of, he signs off unto his men with this motivational morsel: “I am inside your heads, gentlemen. Always.”

James finishes his rounds by dropping in to see Helga von Hinten (Franka Potente, The Bourne Supremacy), the local brothel madam. He shows Helga and her girls the severed thumb – actions do speak louder than words, after all – and asks/demands that if any company men are seen snooping around then he is to be informed at once. Tellingly, such a situation soon arises and Winter (played by newcomer Ruby-May Martinwood), one of Helga’s acolytes, summons Atticus to handle it. And handle it he does, dumping the company man’s bloated corpse by the water for all to see, asking Winter to spread word that this was done by “the devil Delaney”. Adding a cherry atop this directive, Winter pins a sign onto the body that reads “Died on Company Business”. Sun Tsu (author of Art of War), eat your heart out!

Next up in this rather jam-packed, important (and excellent) episode, Lorna Bow brings James his father’s suitcase, to which a teary-eyed (human after all, eh?) Delaney casts countless letters addressed to him into the fire. All he wants is the treaty showing how his father purchased Nootka, and he finds it.

Image credit: FX Networks

The Prince Regent (Mark Gatiss, Sherlock) and his right-hand Solomon Coop (Jason Watkins, Line of Duty) decide to commission an investigation into the East India Company. Their issues are twofold: the negligence of the stolen saltpetre, and the ambiguity and East India ties linked to the sinking of the “Influence”, a slave ship that saw the death of 280 people. Sir Stuart Strange (Jonathan Pryce, Game of Thrones) takes the news poorly, recovers, directs his man to respond by offering full cooperation, then finishes with “and then, I will tell you which papers to burn”. Snake.

A brief meeting with American spy Dr. Edgar Dumbarton (Michael Kelly, House of Cards) reveals that the Yanks need gunpowder ASAP, and that Delaney and Chumley are to make it happen at any cost… and within 8 days! Delaney agrees to get Chumley even more men, whilst at the same time not denying that Chumley’s young assistant is indeed his own son. Curioser and curioser.

Finally, Geary summons a priest to exorcise the demons from Zilpha’s body. She is strapped to the floor, and the priest rubs and grabs her breasts an inexplicable amount of times (now, I’m no expert, but that seems of little use). She cries and screams and spits and moans… and then falls silent. Geary (eventually) unties her and orders her to meet him in bed. Once she’s alone, her face contorts slightly and she can be heard to whisper “teach me”. Ooh, she’s looking very “maniac James during his weird blood and dust rituals” at the moment. Once in the bedroom, she picks up a sharp instrument from a desk drawer and quietly utters “guide me” as she runs her hand along the length of the blade-like shape.

Is Geary about to be done in by the one he (sort of, sometimes, in a roundabout way) loves? Will Chumley meet his deadline despite his distractions and animalistic desires for Lorna Bow? Will Delaney ever smile? Stay tuned for the next episode.

THE REEL SCORE: 10/10

Next time…