Taboo Season 1 Episode 1 Review: The Ghost

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If you want to see Tom Hardy in full on pre Victorian beast mode, then boy, is this the show for you!

There are a few words than can be used to describe Taboo Season 1 Episode 1: weird, strange, intense, and inscrutable, among others. 

James Delaney Makes a Grand Entrance - Taboo Season 1 Episode 1

Here, Tom Hardy does what he does best: he scowls, he grunts, he glares, he looms, he intimidates. God love him, he has the badass act down COLD. 

The start of the show reminded me of Revelations: "And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death. And hell followed with him."

Hardy's James Delaney arrives to 1814 London like a one man apocalypse, and heaven help anyone who gets in his way.

Forgive me Father, for I have indeed sinned.

James

This is the epitome of a "slow burn" show, so I don't know if it's for everyone, but I think those who stick around will be richly rewarded.

I really prefer the look of British period shows, and this one (a BBC co-production) is impeccable.

The grime, grit, and filth portrayed is visually stunning, and you can almost smell the boiling vat of offal cooking in the urine, mud-soaked back alleys. Yum!

One thing Africa did not cure is that I still love you.

James [to sister Zilpha]

Delaney's STRONGLY implied incestuous relationship with half sis Zilpha is one possible reference to the show's title (since it looks like they have a 10 year old bastard son and all), but there are many other possible reasons.

Zilpha Sees a Ghost - Taboo Season 1 Episode 1

Delaney definitely did some bad things in Africa, and it looks like he has some sort of supernatural powers or senses as a result of his time with the tribes there. 

Some of that could have also come from his mother, a Nootka Indian bought by his son of a bitch Dad.

Brace: Men of affairs, they called themselves, don't you know what they wanted, these gulls?
James: I know already.
Brace: I doubt that.
James: A base of land called Nootka Sound - Nootka was my mother's tribe.
Brace: You're mother came from Naples.
James: He bought some land, and he bought a wife, and he bought them both for gunpowder.

Delaney is the classic outsider, a man who cares not about anything or anyone.

His plot against East India Tea over the Nootka land is still a little murky at this point, but it's sure to heat up soon.

Thoyt: The land in your father's will is not only useless, but dangerous to anyone who owns it.
James: They're my rocks now.

His mission to find out who poisoned his father seems to be on the front burner right now, though.

Doctor: You want him reburied?
James: Yes, and sewn back up into one piece.
Doctor: I would recommend they dig a bit deeper this time.
James: If this body is used for any other purpose I will find you, and I will kill you. You tell every member of your profession. I know things about the dead, and I will know.

The cast is top notch here, and I especially like Jonathan Pryce as Sir Stuart Strange, Delaney's nemesis.

He has the calm, almost banal countenance of the classic evil rich man. And did I notice a little fear in Strange's eye when he met Delaney? Hmmm.

Franka Potente is also excellent as Helga the madam, and I really hope we see more of her going forward. 

Helga: Do you want tea?
James: No.
Helga: Do you want to fuck?
James: No, I want my family offices back.

The thing about this show that really intrigues me is Delaney himself.

He is an amalgamation of every antihero trope you can think of, so I find it hard to see how anyone will be able to stand up to him over the course of the series. 

He seems to be two steps ahead of everyone, and knows many things he shouldn't realistically know since he's been in the African jungle for 10 years.

Is something otherworldly going on here? My guess is yes.

Delaney IS the show, and let's not kid ourselves: the reason people will tune in is for Tom Hardy. He has proven over time to be a fantastic actor.

Does he have great range? That's debatable, but this role is right in his wheelhouse.

It plays to his strengths, and so far he's knocking it out of the park. What I'd like to see is if they will mine deeper, and show us his weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

I'm sure we will see what happened during his time in Africa, and how that has hardened him. This has been a passion project for Hardy, so I bet the story is there.

This show is visually very impressive, and as long as they don't wait too long to reveal the important plot points (yes, I'm talking about YOU, Timeless) it should be a very satisfying ride. 

The supernatural aspect is interesting, too.

The incantations at the funeral, the talking to dead people, hearing his father's voice from thousands of miles away; it's all creepy stuff I want to know more about.

One thing to look out for: when Zilpha told Delaney she thought he was dead, he said, "I am."

Sooooo, does this mean that Delaney really is a specter? A demon? Wouldn't THAT be a hoot? 

I really liked the premiere. It was creepy, intense, and had just enough humor to ease some of the tension. Tell me what you think in the comments section. 

Episode 1 Review

Editor Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
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Rating: 4.9 / 5.0 (41 Votes)

Ron Gilmer is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and read his personal blog at Idiotbox Watcher.

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Taboo Season 1 Episode 1 Quotes

Forgive me Father, for I have indeed sinned.

James

Thoyt: The land in your father's will is not only useless, but dangerous to anyone who owns it.
James: They're my rocks now.