Age Rating: Graphic violence, sexual violence, offensive language & sex scenes
Tom Hardy as James Keziah Delaney
Leo Bill as Benjamin Wilton
Jessie Buckley as Lorna Delaney
Oona Chaplin as Zilpha Geary
Stephen Graham as Atticus
Jefferson Hall as Thorne Geary
David Hayman as Brace
Edward Hogg as Michael Godfrey
Franka Potente as Helga von Hinten
Michael Kelly as Edgar Dumbarton
Tom Hollander as Dr George Cholmondeley
Marina Hands as Countess Musgrove
Jonathan Pryce as Sir Stuart Strange
Jason Watkins as Solomon Coop
Nicholas Woodeson as Robert Thoyt
Creator: Steven Knight, Tom Hardy and Chips Hardy
James Keziah Delaney (Tom Hardy) returns to 1814 London after 10 years in Africa to discover that he has been left a mysterious legacy by his father. Driven to wage war on those who have wronged him, Delaney finds himself in a fact-off against the East India Company, whilst playing a dangerous game between two warring nations, Britain and America.
I knew about Taboo for some years, I just knew it as some period tv show with Tom Hardy in the lead role, that’s it though. Having watched a number of Hardy’s movies recently however, I thought that it would be the best time to Taboo’s first and currently only season. I eventually got around to it and I’m glad I did. Taboo may have its fair share of issues, but I really liked what I saw from this season.
One of the biggest comparisons that has been made with this show was to Peaky Blinders, a show that Steven Knight also wrote and created. Both are period crime dramas that star Tom Hardy, but make no mistake, they are very different shows. While Peaky Blinders had its slower moments, it was much more entertaining, flashy and fast placed. Taboo is much more of a slow burn, and that’s probably the main thing that will turn some people off the show. If you intend on watching through all of Taboo going in, I highly recommend watching multiple episodes in each sitting. If you say only watch one episode a day, it more than likely feel like a drag to get through it all. I watched about 2-3 episodes a day and that worked for me. I won’t deny that it was quite slow to begin with, but the further you get into it, the more invested you become and the better it becomes. The second half in particular is better, with the last two episodes standing out the most. While the pacing doesn’t necessarily pick up, the plotlines become more interesting, it’s just that to begin with you’re not as into it just yet. There are 8 episodes in the first season of Taboo, each being an hour long, and I thought that was about the right length for this season. This show also is a little weird, mainly is that there is an element of magic when it comes to Tom Hardy’s character that’s quite present throughout the show, and he even has some visions at times. It doesn’t bother me particularly, but I thought it was worth pointing out, especially with such a gritty show like this that it’s a little stranger than it initially looks.
Tom Hardy is front and centre for the vast majority, and Taboo is very much his show, in fact he’s the main reason most people even checked this show out. Hardy is reliant as an actor, and his work in this show is no exception. As protagonist James Delaney, Hardy has immense screen presence. Sure Delaney is yet another broody TV anti hero, cunning, ruthless and with a lot of issues, but he works exceptionally well for this show, mainly because of Tom Hardy’s work, especially with the fact that he actually is one of the creators of the show alongside his father and Steven Knight. While Hardy is fantastic as usual, the supporting cast deserve to be noted as well, even if some get more chances to shine than others. Among the highlights were Jessie Buckley, David Hayman, Michael Kelly, Tom Hollander and Jonathan Pryce. Additionally, you have Stephen Graham and Mark Gattis who also work in their roles. The only character I thought was a little mishandled was that of James’s half-sister/lover played by Oona Chaplin, whose story arc was a little half baked and felt like a weak link compared to the rest of the storylines.
Taboo is directed very well, with the first half by Kristoffer Nyholm and the second half by Anders Engstrom. The period of the 1810s is very well portrayed, from the costumes, the production design, all of it works, also excellently showcased through the cinematography by Mark Patten. Much of the show looks very muddy, grimy and dirty, and that perfectly is in line with the tone of the show. The show doesn’t feature that many scenes of violence (at least compared to the likes of Peaky Blinders), but the violence that occurs can be very brutal and gruesome, so it’s not really a show for the faint of heart. One other technical aspect of the show that is well worth noting is the great score by Max Richter, his themes really added a lot to the show and made already good scenes significantly better. It’s not surprising given that Richter is a really good composer, but this probably ranks among my favourite works of his.
Taboo isn’t a show for everyone, it is slow, it is gruesome, it gets weird, it takes a while to really come into its own, and not everyone can really get into it. However, if you like dark movies/shows, or even if you just like Tom Hardy, I reckon that it’s worth checking out, at least watch the first 4 episodes. I have no idea whether Taboo is getting another season (with Steven Knight intending this to be a 3 season long series), apparently it is happening but for whatever reason it’s taking a very long time for it to release. As someone who liked the first season, I really want to see it happen. From the point that season 1 ended, it feels like the story of the show has only just started and I want to see where Knight is intending to take this story.