WARNING: FULL SPOILERS
That is the best word to describe Taboo’s seventh episode. In quick succession, we get several revelations about James Delaney’s (Tom Hardy) past. While these reveals are not earth shattering (Regular viewers probably guessed them long ago), it allows the episode to careen forward at an entertaining pace. Delaney still manages to be a compelling enigma throughout, as his ultimate fate remains tantalizingly unclear.
Delaney’s League of the Damned is on shaky ground as Helga (Franka Potente) blames their leader for the death of young Winter. Delaney himself is unsure of his own guilt, but strangely continues to search for a replacement ship. We learn more about our slightly crazed hero courtesy of George Chichester’s (Louis Msmati) official inquiry into the sinking: Delaney is the sole survivor of that slave ship, having sealed the slaves into the hold as it sank.
Delaney also finds out that the increasingly unstable Brace (David Hayman) was behind the poisoning of his father. He takes the news in surprising stride, something he does throughout the fall of his carefully laid plans. Despite Lorna (Jessie Buckley) discovering the East India Company’s role in Winter’s death, they succeed in convincing the Crown of Delaney’s treason with the help of a revenge seeking Helga. He is thrown in the Tower of London and tortured, but it seems as though Delaney has one more plan to execute: The Company’s secretary Godfrey (Edward Hogg), a man who knows Stuart Strange’s (Jonathan Pryce), is hidden away by his allies.
Looking For A Ship
Tom Hardy does some amazing work in this episode, some of his best since Taboo’s first episode. He maintains that gruff charm even as he begins to lose confidence and question himself. We got a taste of this new Delaney last episode and it gets even better here.
There is a mix of guilt and self-loathing as he questions whether or not he killed Winter. When Helga takes a few shots at him, his look of resignation is powerful. For a few moments, Hardy makes us believe that Delaney is done and that he may deserve all that is coming to him.
At first, the search for that ship comes off as a figurative send off for Delaney. He has checked out and is ready for a well-deserved death. But as his enemies close in, he promises his allies that the ship is real and will provide a tangible escape. Which is it? Because Delaney is so unpredictable, it could be anything. It keeps you on the edge of your seat.
The torture sequences are hard to watch, but Delaney maintains that trademark confidence throughout. As he repeatedly demands a private meeting with Strange, it almost becomes darkly humorous. And what does the meeting mean? I seriously doubt Delaney will give up his allies (Most have wisely scattered to the winds), but again, the man is unpredictable.
I am a bit disappointed that Zilpha (Oona Chaplin) has been sent away by Delaney. She has become one of the more interesting characters so her limited screen time in such a compelling episode is a let down. He sends her away possibly to spare her from the craziness to come, but who does not need a needle wielding sociopath in this fight?
Finally I have to mention this…did Lorna really find out the Company was behind Winter’s death? We never see the little boy who witnesses her death tell Lorna anything. In a show like this, if it is not shown, something may be up. Is Lorna lying? We will see.
Jessie Buckley has very little to do, but makes the most of it. After Delaney is taken by the British, she sheds a single tear when she hears the news from Brace. It is a quick moment that many may have missed, but it speaks volumes to how much she cares for Delaney now. It is not a declaration of love, just a simple emotion masterfully portrayed on screen.
“I Have a Use For You”
The rest of the cast does some of their best work in this episode. Jonathan Pryce is great as Strange finally gets the advantage in this fight. He comes off like a spoiled child who finally got the toy he has always wanted and he wants to hold it over everyone’s head. The scene where he basically blackmails to Coop (Jason Watkins) about finally getting the best of Delaney is priceless…no pun intended.
Pryce is incredibly slimy in these scenes and he looks like he is having a ball the whole time. He makes you hate that he has the advantage now; you are even a little scared. So it makes it even more satisfying when Chichester tells him that he has not won yet.
Msamati is equally as fun to watch as Chichester. His confident, but understated approach takes everyone, from Delaney to Strange, off-guard and he genuinely shocks them. I love that scene on the golf course where Chichester basically blows a raspberry in Strange’s haughty face.
And then there’s Brace. David Hayman is quite possibly the standout actor in this episode. He has always been solid as the grumpy but loyal butler to the Delaneys, but his breakdown is heartbreaking. To see such a strong man completely fall to pieces is disturbing and Hayman executes it beautifully.
The scene where he confesses to poisoning Delaney’s father is a tense and powerful scene. Brace did it out of love, not wishing to see a man he had idolized completely lose himself in madness. The emotions are all over his face as the secret finally overwhelms him.
Contrast that with Hardy’s more understated performance. It is not necessarily better, just a nice answer to Hayman’s painful portrayal of pain. This is the softest we have ever seen Delaney as he assures Brace that he accepts the deed as a “mercy.” It lasts only a moment, but it is one of the best scenes Taboo has produced.
The End is Near
As a battered Delaney finally gets his private meeting with Strange, he utters what has become a trademark line: “I have a use for you.”
In the end, it looks like Delaney has one last play, one that he may have had up his sleeve the whole time. Can anyone have this many contingencies? Or is he just as content to die as long as he gets vengeance on Strange? This is James Keziah Delaney…anything is possible.
SCORE: 9 OUT OF 10
Taboo airs on FX Tuesdays at 10pm in the United States