FX’s ‘Taboo’s’ Debut Episode Was Creepy, Scary And Tom Hardy Is Just Terrific At Being A Villain
Delaney represents a disruptive, democratic force in this melodrama of ideas. It’s in his blood — he’s the son of a British merchant and an American Indian mother — and it’s in the surly, barbaric manner he displays after sojourns in Africa and America, where he’s assumed to have “gone native” (although Delaney also possesses a superspy-style competence that’s at odds with the rest of the material). It’s also right there in the plot: England and America are fighting the War of 1812, and Delaney has just inherited the title to a piece of land in Canada, coveted by both sides. He appears willing to play them off against each other, loyalty to the crown be damned.
This aspect of the story is loosely based on real history, and the Nootka Sound that Delaney owns is a real place on Vancouver Island. It could be the basis for an absorbing story, and the best parts of “Taboo” in the first three episodes take place in the boardroom of the East India Company. There, Jonathan Pryce, as the company’s chairman, presides in highly entertaining fashion over the gargoylish protectors of multinational privilege who want to get their hands on Nootka Sound, preferably over Delaney’s dead body.
In addition to former “Thrones” actor Pryce a legend in acting, a number of familiar British character actors acquit themselves well, including David Hayman as Delaney’s factotum, and Nicholas Woodeson as a slippery lawyer. But the focus on grim portentousness and rank atmosphere keeps bogging down the story, which needed more attention to achieve the balance it seeks among gothic bodice-ripper, “Heart of Darkness” social tract and corporate thriller.
“Taboo” airs Tuesday nights at 10PM only on FX.