Taboo S1E3 – On Thin Ice (And It’s Starting to Crack….)

Well, we’re only three episodes in, and I’m starting to admit out loud that Taboo might not be all that we hoped for. The plot is becoming as convoluted as Tom Hardy’s dialogue, the characters unreliable in their motives, and the weirdness seems more and more to just be for weirdness’s sake. As I said last time after episode 2, I’m sure it’s all leading to an awesome resolve, but getting there is becoming tiresome.

Episode 3 starts with the girl Winter and a young boy discovering the body of the silver-toothed assassin that Delaney killed in self-defense at the end of Episode 2. They loot him and Winter takes his silver tooth. Meanwhile, Delaney gets stitched up by the creepy American informant Dr. Dumbarton, who only administers care to him in hopes of prying information from him regarding the sale of Delaney’s coveted Nootka Sound. Delaney partially complies in exchange for Dumbarton getting a message to Thomas Jefferson. In their exchange, Dumbarton accidentally reveals that Carlsbad (whoever the hell that is) is actually a woman. It is here that confusion begins to rear its head.

Image Courtesy of FX

But then Delaney goes to the lawyer Thoyt, and in a stroke of series-saving genius draws up a will that cleverly leaves all of his worldly possessions to the American government, in effect thwarting the East India Trading Company’s plans to kill him. This was a much needed arms-raised-in-celebration moment that gave any thoughts of bailing on the show all together a stay of execution.

Almost immediately though, we get a full dose of weirdness again as Delaney ventures down into his father’s flooded wine cellar, where frightening flashbacks jump-cut pretentiously, and the girl Winter appears and gives Delaney the silver tooth, and then fittingly makes reference to his pagan bird tattoo on the back of his neck. Delaney later finds this same symbol etched in the soot of the fireplace in the bedroom where his mother was kept in her final days of illness. About this time it’s starting to connect with me that Delaney’s mother had something to do with the supernatural element of Delaney’s time in Africa (I guess). Which I suppose makes some sort of sense to his earlier comment that “Nootka was my mother’s tribe”. Again, a resolve is surely on the way.

Image Courtesy of FX

As discussions between King George’s confidant, Coop, and the East India Trading Company’s Stuart Strange go back and forth regarding Delaney and his motives, we ultimately learn that Delaney wants to monopolize trade with China for tea in exchange for furs, and will make a deal with which ever government will be the most beneficial to him, and if at all possible while doing so cut out the East India Company from any of the profits. Something about the Strange and/or the Trading Company has pissed off Delaney, and goes back further than the assassination attempt on him.

Any credit the earlier scene of Delaney’s chess move with his last will and testament had built up pretty much gets erased when he goes to a brothel and strikes a deal with a male transvestite prostitute, who happens to be an old acquaintance, to provide Delaney with any information he can obtain while providing services “customers”. We are officially on thin ice.

Delaney and Zilpha begin an ongoing exchange of letters, where Delaney tries to persuade her to accompany him in his trading company venture, as well acknowledge the apparently romantic relationship they previously had. She repeatedly refuses, and eventually stops responding to his letters. The widow of Horace, Lorna Bow, shows up again, and declares that she wants the Delaney house to be hers. If Delaney agrees, she will not seek any interest in Nootka Sound or the trading venture. Delaney at first balks at the offer, but after a series of more flashbacks to weirdness in Africa, he abruptly changes his mind and agrees to let her stay, giving her the main bedroom, much to the chagrin of Brace.

Later, Zilpha’s husband Thorne pays a visit to Delaney, and discusses selling him insurance on his ship at a friendly discount. Delaney sees through this false gratuity, and calls him out on it. Thorne admits his true revile for Delaney, and reveals that he is aware of his and Zilpha’s past romantic relationship. We know that these guys will eventually square off in some way. Then, in the creepiest scene of the series so far, Delaney and Zilpha meet in a church sanctuary. After a brief verbal assault, Zilpha mounts Delaney on one of the pews, gives him a couple of passionate humps for old time sake, then bids him permanent farewell and leaves. The ice is cracking and starting to break.

Image Courtesy of FX

At home, Delaney argues with Lorna for her to stay holed up in the bedroom for her own safety, as he insists opposing forces will no doubt be coming for her. She balks at this nonsense, and proceeds to go out to the theater to her acting gig and perform on stage. Meanwhile Zilpha and Thorne argue over not having children and Zilpha’s relationship with Delaney.

Delaney follows Zilpha to the theater, and afterwards rescues her from the Duke of Richmond. She realizes Delaney’s warnings were valid, and knows she is now in danger for getting mixed up in his affairs.

Image Courtesy of FX

So I have to say, I’m definitely hooked into wanting to know what happens next. The plot is intriguing and the characters are starting to flesh out a little better. But as far as the series being “awesome” and “must-see”, it’s on shaky ground. Thin ice, as it were, that’s cracking and starting to break. And the water beneath looks cold and deep.

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