James Delaney is an American! Spoiler alert. Ah shit. You’re meant to put them the other way round.
In the battle for the persuasions of the owner to Nookta Sound, fought between the Americans and the British, it was eventually the Americans who prevailed. I think… I fell asleep. And that’s the one thing that is killing me about Taboo. I fell asleep. Harry, you fell asleep? You fell asleep!? You were asked to a review one measly TV show and you FELL ASLEEP!!!
The question keeps going round and round in my head and still I don’t have an answer. I fell asleep during the second half of the penultimate episode of Taboo having drunk a bottle of red wine. The ultimate acid test for whether a show is interesting or not. Can you still watch it after drinking a bottle of red?
Well I couldn’t. And what’s killing me is I don’t know why. Because I liked the show. I must do. Surely I do! I mean it had all the ingredients of a hallmark British drama that can be sold again and again at HMV in repackaged boxsets for decades to come. It had an outstanding cast. Outstanding performances. Headed by Jonathon Pryce’s Stuart St- no no no! Scratch that. Headed by a man I previously criticised for his interpretation of Sherlock Holmes, one Mr Mark Gatiss. Who was simply superb as the slothful King George IV.
The show looked great. The settings were gorgeous. And right up my street! That moody, musky, hasn’t been cleaned for six months darkness. Much like my bedroom. So why? Why do I have a propensity to slate yet another show!!!?
I’ll try explain to you the plot whilst I figure this out. James Delaney (Tom ‘um hard’ Hardy) has inherited an island called Nookta Sound lying off the west coast of America. Which has become a prime trading post for the Chinese tea industry. The East India Company and the British Crown (two separate entities) want to take Nookta Sound off Delaney for a hansom price, but Delaney refuses! Instead wanting to own the entire tea trade between East and West by himself. Then Delaney’s father’s widow Lorna Bow (Jessica Buckley) shows up and announces she also has rights to the Sound. Then Delaney does something clever with the will. He rewrites it, that’s it! He rewrites the will so that if he dies the island goes to his dog or something. So now the East India and the Crown need to keep Delaney alive instead of trying to murder him because no one knew how to negotiate with dogs in London back in 1814.
There’s also Delaney’s half-sister Zilpha, who Delaney wants to have relations with (relations that are more than…just…being a…half-sister…) And there’s her abusing husband. There’s the brilliantly scornful Tom Hollander as a bombmaker. And Combo from This Is England makes an appearance. Not as Combo. As Atticus (played by Stephen Graham) ((for anyone revising their store of useless knowledge in preparation to go on Pointless)).
Anyway. That’s it. I think. I mean, I fell asleep…
WHATTTTT!? I hear Sir Stuart Strange shout in my ear as he sits behind his grand desk in the East India offices, with his crazy spikey hair and his big goggly-like eyes.
Look, Tom, it was great. And I loved it. But maybe, what I wanted, was a change in…rhythm? It was all going along at this single miserable sort of beat, which I loved by the way (I don’t know if I’ve said that…) But I would also loved to have seen James Delaney crack a fart as he storms around the high society transvestite parties of London. Or trip over, or make a mistake!
That’s it! That’s what I felt was missing! Delaney didn’t make a mistake! He never seemed to be under the cosh as it were. Even when being waterboarded. He just lay there silently and got waterboarded. Then they sat him up and he said in his strange wavy voice, I have a use for you… Alright he lost a ship (fucking idiot, how do you lose a ship!?) But, apart from that, there was never any doubt Mr Delaney was going to achieve his means. This made me not care. I sit and I think Delaney’s got it under control. So I’m going to go and sink a bottle of plonk and come back for the end just to get the gist of things. The drama lost the drama.
But there was so much about Taboo that was brilliant. Like I said, it looked awesome. And it had a great cast. And I actually got to hear some genuine proper swearing (my favourite past time). Like how father’s do in real life when they take their daughters to soccer practice for the village team. It was so refreshing. There was even an exploding head in the final episode. An exploding head! On the BBC! My dreams have finally come true!!
Alas, shut it down I hear the elder majority of Great Britain cry. Shut it down and put on a nice mild well-mannered ITV drama like Midsummer Murders for fuck sake!
But don’t! Embrace the wave of atmospheric incestual gorified tragydrama! One day I’m going to go back and watch the second half of the penultimate episode of Taboo. Maybe I’ll buy one of the repackaged boxsets being sold in a couple of decades time. Then I’ll sit there and having finally seen it say, yeah. This is where it all began. The bright exciting future of the BBC! That followed James Delaney and his crew of firebrands as they sailed into the sun kissed horizon of a brave new world.
Dir: Kristoffer Nyholm
Prd: Tim Bricknell
Featuring: Tom Hardy