Taboo Season 1 Episode 3 Review: Spy vs. Spy

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We've all heard the old phrase "For all the tea in China." Well, now we know what all the hubbub is about!

We get a hint of Delaney's endgame in Taboo Season 1 Episode 3, and it is an extreme bit of revenge on good ol' East India. 

James Delaney Takes Aim - Taboo Season 1 Episode 3

While it seems like a letdown that Delaney is just after a monopoly of the tea route to China (it couldn't be just about money, right?), it is really a super sized f*ck you to Strange and East India for whatever they did to him back in the day.

Dumbarton: So what do you want?
Delaney: Tea.
Dumbarton: Tea?
Delaney: You tell Carlsbad that I want tea.
Dumbarton: You know, Carlsbad said that Delaney might just be crazy enough to take us all on: The King, the Company, and the free 15. Maybe she was right.
Delaney: Well, you tell Carlsbad, from me, that I will cede sovereignty of Nootka Sound to whichever nation offers me the monopoly of the trade of furs for tea, from Fort George to Canton. A monopoly. That's what I want. All the tea in China.

There was a lot of ground covered here, mostly the underpinnings of what Delaney wants and why, so that's a good thing.

The strategy of Delaney using a will to thwart the actions of East India was brilliant! 

Now we know the savage boy is cunning, too. And when peace comes, and this border is drawn, it will not be by soldiers, but by more fucking lawyers. And not only can we not resolve this disaster by killing Delaney, it is now in our urgent interest to keep the bastard alive.

Strange

Sir Stuart Strange Plans His Next Move - Taboo Season 1 Episode 3

I really love Jonathan Pryce as Strange. He must love wallowing in this kind of villain, dropping F bombs left and right like a sailor. Hilarious.

Solomon Coop Briefs The Prince Regent - Taboo Season 1 Episode 2

A pleasant surprise is how we learn more about Solomon Coop. Last week he just looked like another lackey to the Prince Regent, but now we see that he's a really nasty piece of work.

Prince Regent: Who is this man?
Coop: An adventurer, of very poor repute. Stories of madness, savagery, theft, and worse.
Prince Regent: Then, Mr. Coop, he is a man that you will be able to do business with.

He reminds me of a 19th century Ray Donovan, or Mr. Wolf from "Pulp Fiction." A fixer of problems, and a good one at that.

During Taboo Season 1 Episode 2 I wondered who would save Delaney from his nasty gut wound, and I thought it might be Dumbarton, the doctor/American spy. Turns out I was right!

The British want you dead. We want you alive, so that's something, huh? You take pain like a stone. That's something you picked up in Africa, maybe.

Dumbarton

Delaney was still pretty spry after almost getting killed, since he ripped out his assassin's heart with his teeth – yikes! The cannibal rumors seems to have much more validity, you think?

Seems like the Americans really want Delaney on their side. Now it's just a matter of making the deal. I imagine he wants the Americans to have Nootka, but we'll see how that shakes out.

Zilpha Sees a Ghost - Taboo Season 1 Episode 1

Meanwhile, the whole Zilpha/Delaney deal just keeps getting more and more creepy.

The letters between them are sexually charged, and more than a little weird.

And I wasn't the least bit surprised when she straddled him and planted a big juicy kiss on his lips – IN CHURCH! And then she tells him to bugger off. Subtext, much?

Just when you think it can't get any more disturbing, we get the pissing match between Delaney and the dickish hubby Thorne.

Thorne [to Delaney]: It excites me: the thought of it. When I realize the woman beneath me is capable of what she did. Now I know the secret in her head, and it makes me so hard, and so angry. And she likes it. Since you came back, our fucking has become almost murderous. It exhausts us. I have this wicked, wicked thing beneath me, and it's my life long duty to punish her. It exhausts us both, beautiful exhaustion. And in the morning I read the Gazette, and she eats her toast, like a sweet little bird. I didn't come to sell you insurance Mr. Delaney. I came to thank you.

Alrighty then! This scene was delicious. These dudes hate each other with the white hot heat of 1,000 suns, and it shows. 

Then after, when Thorne viciously berates Zilpha about her heavy and prolonged menstrual cycles, well, that was hard to watch.

Thorne knows he's probably the third wheel in this situation, and I have a feeling Delaney will resolve this in quick fashion. And the bloody one won't be Zilpha, if you get my drift.

The other sleazy vignette of Delaney recruiting old school mate Godfrey to become a spy for him at East India was actually pretty funny. I guess S&M clubs have been around forever – who knew?

Delaney in a seminary as a child? Didn't see that coming, either. And did he have a little intimate encounter with Godfrey? Hmmm. The more we learn, the more questions we have.

Explain this. I have the very same mark on me, when I was taken prisoner in Africa. What is it? You tell me. You don't speak, but you do have answers. You do. And you will give me answers.

Delaney [to Brace]

It's not a surprise to me that the visions of the witch like person Delaney was having were his mother. The fact that the bird symbol burned or branded into his back has a direct connection to his mum is.

I have thought from the beginning that the mystical mojo and the tats might have been from his Nootka heritage and not Africa, and this nugget seems to swing my theory in that direction.

But, then again, this show is so obtuse and mysterious, I wouldn't be surprised if it's a red herring.

Lorna Bow Is Ready For Battle - Taboo Season 1 Episode 3

Lorna moving in with Delaney was rather unexpected, but I love it because that means we can get lots of snarky lines from Brace about the unwanted house guest. 

He is turning out to be a gold mine of comedic relief, and given the lurid scenes often depicted here, it is well appreciated. 

Hardy is still slaying it as Delaney, doing his spy thing only a day after being practically gutted.

Hey, just put a brandy soaked bandage on it and I'm good to go!

I swear he has, hands down, the best grunts ever. Seriously, no one can convey so much in grunt.

He is still the main reason to tune in, but the supporting cast here is stellar. Everyone knows their role, and they play it perfectly.

The cinematography is brilliant, especially the opening scene where the crab encrusted assassin washes up on shore.

I'm still excited. They are giving just enough clues to keep you interested, but also wisely holding back enough to keep you guessing.

It's rare that a show can strike the right balance. 

Tell me what you think. Do you like how the show is progressing so far? Fire away in the comments section.

And remember, you can watch Taboo online to pick up what you may have missed right here on TV Fanatic!

Episode 3 Review

Editor Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
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Rating: 4.8 / 5.0 (32 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 3 Quotes

Dumbarton: So what do you want?
Delaney: Tea.
Dumbarton: Tea?
Delaney: You tell Carlsbad that I want tea.
Dumbarton: You know, Carlsbad said that Delaney might just be crazy enough to take us all on: The King, the Company, and the free 15. Maybe she was right.
Delaney: Well, you tell Carlsbad, from me, that I will cede sovereignty of Nootka Sound to whichever nation offers me the monopoly of the trade of furs for tea, from Fort George to Canton. A monopoly. That's what I want. All the tea in China.

The British want you dead. We want you alive, so that's something, huh? You take pain like a stone. That's something you picked up in Africa, maybe.

Dumbarton