Let’s get this out of the way to start with: The episode begins most dramatically with the suicide of Zilpha. It’s nice that they shot the scene so beautifully, a swan song for a character abused by many. Not just her husband and brother, but also by a writer who felt she’d served her purpose as damsel. A very convenient ending for James Delaney, and for the plot; no more troublesome emotional character distraction from the game at hand.
What’s more important, to James Delaney, is the use of Sir Stuart Strange’s crimes against him. For his goal was not merely revenge for the acts of treason and crime against humanity. As Strange asks, is this the limit of his ambition? A ship? A trading company? A commercial monopoly? What cynical times we live in.
At least Lorna Delaney is finally let off the leash to act. Under orders of course, but at least she has an active role at last. All to help bring about the release of James, the procurement of a ship, and the humiliation of the East India Company, and the removal of one last traitor.
All that remains is one last explosive confrontation with the Prince Regent and his soldiers, an act of defiance and treason that realistically would undo any agreements forged and erase any benefits from treaties and paperwork. But this is not the kind of thing that happens to Tom Hardy’s grunting genius. There’s just time for Helga and Lorna to get shot, removing the last of the semi-active female cast from the equation and all is done. The Delaney Trading Company sets sail, hoists an American flag and all is done.
The story goes that Tom Hardy came up with the character of James Delaney with his father; a combination of Bill Sikes from Oliver Twist, Marlow from Heart of Darkness, with generous lashings of Sherlock Holmes, Oedipus and Heathcliff. They took this concept to Stephen Knight who, it is said, said he'd write it for them if Hardy would star in Locke. So, as a fan of that movie, and Hardy's performance in it, I should be grateful for the existence of Taboo. However, if this origin story is correct, it does place the blame for the failings of this show squarely on the shoulders of the writer. Too similar are the failings of the second season of Peaky Blinders to be ignored.
It's not to say that Taboo was without merit, it certainly had it's moments. It had great performances, good (if dark) cinematography, and a promise of mysteries. But what lingers is a disappointment, that on the whole these mysteries evaporated, leaving merely a bad taste in the mouth, a plot of commercial endeavour, and a lot of dead and underused women. There is talk of two more seasons of the show; let's hope that it gets as much of a recovery as season three of Peaky Blinders had. Let's hope that, given another season, promise is fulfilled, not tainted.