Taboo Season 1, Episode 1 review: What the hell did we just watch?

Credit: Taboo/FX
Credit: Taboo/FX /

Tom Hardy’s passion project Taboo premiered tonight, and it was everything we wanted it to be and more.

Confusing, dark and twisted — all words accurately used to describe Tom Hardy’s latest project, Taboo. The FX limited series premiered on Tuesday night in America, three days after it’s world premiere in the U.K. on BBC.

Hardy plays John Delany, a man supposedly back from the metaphorical dead after he apparently lost his mind with African tribes thought to have killed him. The mystery lies in the seeds being planted that Delany being back from the dead might be more literal than we first think.

In the hour-and-a-half premiere, we learn that John’s recently deceased father — with whom he fathered John with an indigenous woman in Canada — left him a plot of land that the East India Trading Company desperately wants. But there’s a darkness to John that seems to imply a past muddled with slave trading, murder and deceit.

Taboo is what you’d get if Jason Bourne and James Bond merged into the same character and where tossed into Peaky Blinders. Delaney is brutish, cunning and ultra-dark — a combination that is at times fascinating and frustrating.

Black Magic

There’s an emphasis on both words there — black and magic. The series is set in late victorian England but revolves around the fantastical theme of magic and the gritty violence of slavery. We don’t specifically know where things are going, but it appears that Hardy’s character is dealing with some demons of his past adventures in Africa.

British history is steeped in stories set in Africa and in the Indies, but often times the brutality of the reality is glossed over. Not in Taboo, though, which is using the ugliness of British Imperialism as a backdrop for a story about introspective darkness.


It’s Not Perfect, But Damnit Is It Intriguing

Taboo is an excellent exercise in character driven drama that while clunky and convoluted can also be intriguing enough to pull you in. The plot of the show tries to be drier than it has to be; everything revolves around a plot of land of Vancouver Island that Delaney is using to pit the Brits and Americans against each other even more in the War of 1812 for his own benefit.

It’s an odd plot device given the fact that everything we learned about Delaney insists he cares little about money. That’s where the intrigue lies, though, and it’s what will have many coming back next week to further unravel this mystery.

While not perfect or as near-air tight as The Night Of, this miniseries has enough to warrant at least a few more viewings before judgement is passed on this spooky, kooky little experiment.