Or Nah? is a feature where we watch and review the first episode of a new TV show. We’ll let you know if it’s worth checking out. As always, these reviews are the opinion of the reviewer, but we’ll try to adequately explain why you should or shouldn’t give the show a chance and provide shows for comparison.
What’s It About?
James Keziah Delaney (Tom Hardy) returns home to London 1814 after his father dies. Having been presumed dead after spending time in Africa, his resurrection causes great distress to The East India Trading Company, who’d failed to obtain a piece of land (Nootka Sound) from Delaney’s father (land Delaney now owns), and to his half sister, Zilpha Geary (Oona Chaplin), whose husband saw his father-in-law’s death as a way to make money by selling the land to the EITC.
Delaney makes it clear in no uncertain and chilling terms that he has no interest in selling, despite the EITC’s offer of money and their pressure on his patriotism as the land would prove valuable to Britain, currently at war with America.
I dare you to take your eyes off the screen when Tom Hardy is on. He makes such interesting choices with his face, hand gestures, and growls. The scenery, though cold and wet for the most part, is also eye-catching: from the costume and setting details in the EITC’s offices to the bustle and blood of some London’s shadier streets, there’s always something to soak in.
There are rumors about Delaney that the EITC discuss (off the record); rumors “unnatural” in nature. And Taboo also hints at other supernatural events when Delaney claims to have heard his mad father’s calls to him in the flames he set on the shore. Also through the flames, he says he heard his father’s confession that his real birth mother was a slave his father had purchased when he bought Nootka Sound.
Delaney experiences hallucinations where he’s haunted by a dead slave and visions of his time on a slave ship that sunk, leading many to believe him dead.
Despite only being home for a short time, Delaney has already made many enemies. Unable to buy him off, the head of the EITC, Sir Stuart Strange (Jonathan Pryce), ominously gives the go ahead for other tactics. Delaney unceremoniously evicted prostitutes from his father’s old offices, threatening to castrate any men the madame sent to retaliate. And his brother-in-law, Thorne Geary (Jefferson Hall), oddly enough goaded by Zilpha, also sets off to take matters into his own hands.
What’s Not So Good
There are strong hints of a relationship between Delaney and Zilpha that is more Lannister than Brady and I’m not really here for that. The episode ends with him burning a secret letter from his sister, a letter in which she begs him to let the past stay buried. Here’s to hoping they committed a murder together; please don’t let it be anything sexual.
I’m all in. We’re covering the show on our Premium podcast and I can’t wait to talk about this premiere on Friday night. There are plenty of questions posed in the premiere (What’s Delaney’s connection to the man taking minutes for the EITC? Is the young boy he’s paying to care for his son? If so, who’s the mother? What happened on that slave ship? Does Delaney have powers? What did he bury when he first came ashore?) that almost demand I keep going.
Plus, Tom Hardy.
"Shovels and Keys"
Taboo – S1E1 – “Shovels and Keys” | Starring: Tom Hardy, Oona Chaplin, Jonathan Pryce, David Hayman, Nicholas Woodeson, Jefferson Hall | Director: Kristoffer Nyholm