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Taboo S01E03 and E04 review: The plot thickens

Prithviraj Dev |

Series: Taboo

Director: Kristoffer Nyholm

Cast: Tom Hardy, David Hayman, Jonathan Pryce, Oona Chaplin, Michael Kelly, Stephen Graham and Jessie Buckley

After two very solid episodes, Taboo’s excellent run continues in its third and fourth instalment as we follow James Delaney’s attempts to start a shipping empire despite the best efforts of the East India Company (EIC) and the British Crown.

James somehow manages to stay a couple of steps ahead of the company and the Crown, which is no mean feat. Yet, the way he manages to do it, it seems real and believable.

That is largely down to a well-written script and the powerhouse that is Tom Hardy, who continues to deliver in a demanding lead role.

What started as largely a one-man show is slowly, but surely merging into a larger picture, as characters continue to be fleshed out at just about the right pace.

James’ competitor for his father's inheritance is the recently widowed Lorna Delaney (Jessie Buckley). Yet, he manages to sway her over to his side pretty soon, convincing the artiste that their goals will be met should the two align for immediate future. In his own words, his stepmother is a weakness. And, while the Crown tries to coerce her, agonising moments pass before James manages to save the day yet again.

Taboo seemingly has everything, with intrigue laced with copious amounts of drama and with some pretty decent action scenes. While the intent is clear to make it an all-round miniseries that will be etched in memory, at times the lack of ‘specialisation’ prevent it from reaching unprecedented heights.

James’ manoeuvring is brilliant no doubt, as he quickly makes the company a friend (scant days they botched an assassination) and the Crown an enemy of sorts with the Americans coming out of the shadows to play their hand to raise the stakes for Nootka Sound.

Instead of taking his mighty adversaries head on, he is playing them against one another and picking one’s pocket while they are distracted. For a purported savage, his grey matter is why he is still alive.

The final act of the fourth episode is stunning, with James attempting to mingle with London’s opulent high society while his ragtag crew attempts an audacious theft. With his presence at such a glitzy ball publicly confirming his whereabouts and managing to make contact with Carslbad at the same time, it is clear he likes killing two birds with a stone.

It is clear now that he is playing the long game, but with the vultures looming large on the horizon, how long before he crumbles?

An old-fashioned duel is coming up in the next episode. Most viewers will be happy to see fought to the death as it means an annoying relative will meet his demise at the hands of James, unless there is another twist in the tale.

Plenty of questions rmain unanswered as Taboo finishes the first half, with director Kristoffer Nyholm paving the way for Anders Engstrom to take over in the final four episodes.