As I trudge through episode 4 of FX’s show Taboo, it feels more and more now like we’re just killing time. It’s apparent that the scenes are meant to be intense, the plot interesting and thought provoking, the character mysterious and unpredictable, and an intended overall sense that a visceral and satisfying reckoning is in the mail. And all of these elements are actually accomplished to an extent, but man, it’s really starting to be a chore to hold focus and interest enough to write these posts with any due diligence.
And if you remember, I was really jazzed about this show before it began, and gave it the benefit of the doubt the first few episodes. Mainly because I’m such a huge Tom Hardy fan, but also for the historical aspect of the series which is really intriguing to me. And for the record, I’m still genuinely curious to see where it all leads. But that reckoning can’t get here soon enough, and I expect we have several more episodes to go before it’s delivered. Nonetheless, I’m committed to get there with you, so we’ll keep trudging along together (I hope) until the bitter end. And bitter I’m sure it will be.
Episode 4 opens with the police coming for Lorna Bow for her alleged attempted murder on the Duke of Richmond. Delaney quickly warns her that they will try to make a deal with her to sell out Delaney in return for sparing her from the hangman’s noose. They arrest her, and Delaney proves to be right as Coop offers her the deal at her interrogation. She refuses, and Delaney manages to get her released by sending an anonymous note to the British crown, stating that they will get Nootka Sound to themselves, without any concession for the East India Trading Co. I’m totally lost, but it pissed off Jonathan Pryce something fierce, so it must be a clever ploy.
Delaney pays a visit to the male transvestite prostitute he has working undercover for him, and learns that the British crown plans to block him out of the gunpowder market, and will not offer him a monopoly on the tea trade. He recruits an eccentric chemist, Cholmondeley, in hopes of using him to create gunpowder on his own. He learns that saltpeter is needed, and that the East India Company has a large stock of it in their warehouse.
I suppose in a desperate need for an action scene, a large menacing bald guy tries to kill Delaney while he is walking home. The assassin first wacks him in the head with a blackjack, making a huge wound that immediately bleeds profusely. Delaney feigns unconsciousness, and the assassin starts to drag him away. Delaney lunges on him unawares and stabs him all over. He then disembowels him with iron hooks and leaves him to be found by those that sent him (who we eventually find was the American conspirator Carlsbad).
Delaney goes to see Helga, the brothel madam. He incorporates a gaggle of her prostitutes to aid in the robbery of the East India warehouse. To have an alibi, Delaney plans to attend a banquet put on by the Americans on the same night of the robbery, and takes Lorna with him as his escort. The heist, led by Atticus, is to take place at midnight while the banquet is in full late-night swing. Surprisingly, Delaney runs into Zilpha at the banquet, and they have one of their token awkward exchanges of words and innuendos. Just as it’s about to get steamy, Dumbarton interrupts them. Zilpha leaves in hastened embarrassment, and Dumbarton offers Delaney a deal to have Zilpha’s husband Thorne killed.
Meanwhile, Delaney’s men rob the warehouse with the assistance of Helga’s prostitutes used as decoys, and they get away with a decent batch of saltpeter. Back at the banquet, Zilpha and Lorna meet and have a brief yet predictably awkward exchange. When rejoined with Delaney, he again makes a vehement insistence for his father’s trunk of belongings she is in possession of. She continues to be coy about the issue, much to Delaney’s annoyance.
In one of the more contrived scenes of the whole series, Delaney is coaxed by the Countess Musgrove to accompany her into a magician’s cabinet as the banquet crowd watches with amusement. They enter and the magician closes them in the cabinet and begins the performance of making them disappear. Inside, the Countess and Delaney have an intense exchange, and reveal that they are aware of each other’s ulterior motives, and that the Countess is in fact the American espionage agent Carlsbad, that has been behind the plot to kill Delaney.
I’ll be honest, I kinda tuned out by the culmination of this scene, during which the magician made them “disappear”, and revealed to the spectators an empty cabinet, only to make them re-appear again at the conclusion of their heated exchange within. Even with all things considered, this got a little too cheesy (and confusing) for my tolerances.
Although, in typical fashion, the episode concludes on a cliffhanger that makes me begrudgingly want to see what happens next time. The eccentric Cholmondeley has been distributing laughing gas during the course of the banquet to the unruly revelers, and Zilpha’s dour husband Thorne gets a hearty dose. And, as drugs will do to the blindsided first-timer, the lifted veil on reality is a bit too much for the hapless Thorne. In a whirlwind of confusion, his temperament short-circuits, and he challenges Delaney to a duel to the death….. End credits.
Damn. Now I can’t wait to see episode 5.