Taboo: Episode One Thoughts

Tom Hardy first came to my attention from his performance in Inception, where he nearly stole the show from Leonardo DiCaprio with far fewer lines and less screen time. Inception was followed by Warrior, Lawless, The Dark Knight Rises, The Drop, Legend and The Revenant. I didn’t like Hardy’s performance in The Revenant as much as the critics did, mainly due to the accent he used in that film, but it hasn’t tainted my perception of Hardy as a whole.

Although I don’t watch television shows on television that much (mostly online through kodi or Netflix) I often get some exposure through my uncle’s religious television watching. Back in December, I caught the tv spots for Taboo and decided that I would watch it as soon as I saw Tom Hardy. Ridley Scott co- producing is only icing on the cake. The tv spots didn’t give away much of the plot, instead only offering cryptic lines and haunting imagery.

Some online chatter speculated that Tom Hardy’s venture into television was a step down in his acting career. These people have obviously missed out on the fact that respected and talented actors such as Kevin Spacey, Matthew McConaughey and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson have all starred in television. Aside from starring in Taboo, Hardy is also co-producing, which will give him valuable experience in a different department of film-making.

Taboo follows James Delaney (Tom Hardy), who returns to England after his father’s death. Presumed dead, James is the sole heir listed in his father’s will. Chief among these possessions is a highly coveted island that the East India Trading Company and the American government want for their own profit. Unwilling to acquiesce, Delaney begins his mission to establish his own shipping empire.

I know the show has been described as a slow build, but I did not find the first episode to be as slow as the first episode of  True Detective. My patience was well rewarded with the first season of that show and the first episode of Taboo left me eager for more. The show does a great job with establishing a captivating atmosphere, with dark cinematography and visuals that are sometimes reminiscent of Hannibal.

Delaney initially comes across as a man of few words, but Hardy still manages to exude a powerful presence on screen. He is enigmatic and intimidating. He has was in Africa for years before he returned to England and rumours follow him. Our introduction to the character is especially intriguing because the show has not revealed much about Delaney’s past at this point. The tv spots gave us glimpses of a supernatural element in the show, which could be hallucinations for all we know. The first episode already gave us a scene where Delaney is confronted by his involvement in slavery, personified by a hulking black figure that he has to verbally subdue. Or maybe some of these rumours circulating about witchcraft are true. Especially since Delaney gives us hints that he “knows about the dead”.

Delaney is also confronted by the past, in the form of his half-sister (Oona Chaplin). It is implied that their relationship may extend beyond typical family boundaries, and online articles appear to confirm what I expected. It seems that this show, co-written by Hardy’s dad, is not afraid of approaching its namesake.

Although Delaney is the most captivating character at this point, he is also supported ably by the rest of the cast. Most notable among them is Jonathan Pryce as Sir Stuart Strange, Chairman of the East India Company.  Pryce is no longer The High Sparrow, motivated by a desire for moral purity. Strange seeks power and wealth, and views Delaney as another pawn that needs to be eliminated to obtain more of it.

I could delve further into what this first episode offers, but I feel like if you want to know more, you should just watch the show.

 

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