Before the premier of X-Men universe’s Legion compelled me to tune in to FX, or rather watch the FX Now App, I was already hooked on the new series Taboo, starring Tom Hardy, set in 19th century England. Period drama has its own appeal, but dark period drama has that added layer of transgressive potential, and for those who are missing shows like Penny Dreadful, Taboo is a remarkable experience.
The story follows the return of the mysterious James Delaney to the home of his youth after harrowing adventures (and perhaps great sorrows) in Africa and beyond, taking up ownership of his deceased father’s estate, and most pertinently, laying claim to a swath of land on the Pacific Northwest coast of North America that the East India Company and the British Government want in order to settle the new boundary lines to be drawn between the USA and Canada in that region. All manner of violence and subterfuge ensue as Delaney becomes the quarry and the prize for these parties, but he has no intention of being either. Hardy depicts a deeply violent man who honors no social niceties of the period, much to the dismay of said society. But heck, he goes well beyond modern social niceties, too, much less those of the 19th century.
If you’d like a “point” to the show, that may be it, taking a hint from the title “Taboo”: this is about an individual who moves beyond all recognized constraints of his time to accomplish his own hell-driven (but often concealed) goals. He may well go beyond basic human abilities, too, since he seems to possess a degree of supernatural influence on his world. It poses the question: what will happen to a man who goes so far too far?
But you may not need a “point” to this show. It’s watchable as hell, shocking, tense, and increasingly full of foreboding in a show already built on foreboding. It’s lavishly shot and decorated. And things are about to get even more explosive as Delaney pushes for early production of gunpowder to fuel his machinations.
Here’s our teaser for episode 6, airing on Tuesday, February 14th (How nicely grim for Valentine’s Day!):