What a dark, unsettling tale.
I’m not sure I’m completely hooked on Taboo quite just yet, but I appreciate the effort and ambition that’s poured into this BBC One pilot.
The miniseries tells the story of a mysterious man named James Delany who returns to England from a strange stint in Africa after hearing of his father’s death. I won’t spoil anymore (you’ll have to check the bits section below for that), but it’s a bizarre narrative with enough questions to keep you somewhat intrigued. The production values are stellar, with impeccable attention to detail and some really haunting cinematography. However, the script takes a bit too long to get going, and it relies a bit too heavily on our protagonist brooding repetitively.
But really Tom Hardy makes this pilot. His aggressive glare and ruthless demeanor make a powerful combo, and he injects a lot of terror into every single scene. Just his presence makes you feel like anything is possible, and you’re constantly worrying if he might snap and kill everybody in sight. Game of Thrones alum Oona Chaplin barely gets anything to do in the pilot, but I’m optimistic that will change in future episodes. Another Thrones alum is the show’s baddie played by Jonathan Pryce, and he’s reliably smug and sinister. Watching him butt heads with Hardy should prove thrilling for sure!
– The opening frames with James on the boat are both stunning and terrifying.
– The opening credits are some of the best I’ve seen in a long time (and that’s saying something with all the incredible shows currently on the air). The floating bodies, the music – wow!
– I’m curious to learn more of James’ mother whom his dad “bought” from the Nootka tribe (that’s the land that his father left for him). Sounds like some ugly history there.
– The visions that James gets are extremely unsettling. Was he waking up the dead? Do I even want to know more?
– My favorite scene of the hour: James threatening the prostitute who has taken over his dad’s office.
– So James and his sister Zilpha had some sort of affair, and I guess that’s one of the taboos that the show’s title is hinting at. He also has a son who is being raised on a farm. Could he be their child? It would explain why he has no interest in getting to know him.
– Zilpha’s husband is already too mustache-twirling evil. More dimensions please!
– James’ father was poisoned. Hmm…
– Loved James facing off with Stuart Strange and not backing off. Not only does he know the political and geographical intricacies of the land, but he contains himself in the end. I kind of wanted him to go berserk after Strange raised his voice at him though.
– Interestingly enough, the show was created by Tom Hardy, his dad, and Steven Knight.
Bruce: You look the same.
James: I’m not.
Bruce: Nothing you could tell me about that man would surprise me. He was half human at the end and he would squat right here and make deals with ghosts in the flames. And he would speak in a language that was like… it was like ravens fighting.
Prostitute: You want tea?
Prostitute: Do you want to fuck?
Prostitute: If you have any sense…
James: People who do not know me soon come to understand that I do not have any sense. Now, please do not misunderstand the situation. You send me 12 men, I will return you 12 sets of testicles in a bag, and we can watch your little whores devour them together, before I chop off your trotters and boil them.
It’s an ambitious production, but it’s also a bit too slow-moving for my taste. Solidly made though!