Beautifully captivating and vehemently dark, series one of Tom Hardy’s BBC drama Taboo sadly came to an end last night in an stunning series finale. Intriguing from start to finish, it’s safe to say that Taboo has been one of the best television series of 2017 so far. Ram-packed with gripping action, flawless acting and a categorically spellbinding storyline, we could not have asked for more!

Set in 1814 James Keziah Delaney (Tom Hardy), having spent ten years in Africa, makes an unexpected return to London on the death of his father. Delaney, previously thought to be dead, inherits a small, yet pivotal piece of land, Nootka Sound, off the west coast of North America. Described by Delaney as ‘a poisoned chalice’, the territory is fiercely fought over by the United States and Great Britain during the War of 1812, whilst the East India Company (EIC) has set its sights on the land as a vital trading post. Having travelled extensively, Delaney is an irrevocably changed man and one who must navigate his way through a series of entangled and complex affairs. Surrounded by enemies and traitors, James must overcome conspiracy and attempts on his life, as his family’s dark past unfolds around him.

Tom Hardy gives a first-class performance as the unashamedly audacious and deeply troubled James Delaney

With a stellar main cast Taboo does not disappoint. Tom Hardy gives a first-class performance as the unashamedly audacious and deeply troubled James Delaney. An intensely complex and dangerously dark character, Hardy is utterly convincing as a man struggling with his tormented past: “I witnessed and participated in darkness that you cannot conceive”. Alongside Hardy, Jonathan Pryce gives a magnificent performance in his portrayal of Sir Stuart Strange, the Director of the EIC. Rapacious, predatory, smug and often furious, Pryce delivers on all counts. The supporting cast is equally as exceptional, with convincing performances from Oona Chaplin, Jason Watkins, Michael Kelly and of course the sensational Tom Hollander.

The stimulating dialogue is another forte of the series. There are points of utter dismissal from Delaney when any threat is thrown his way: “You send twelve men and I will send you twelve testicles in a bag”, living up to his cutthroat reputation. (Whether these men only have one testicle each or whether Delaney is merely showing kindness by leaving them with one testicle intact is unknown). Sir Stuart Strange also provides moments of sheer melodrama and rage, mostly at the utter incompetence of his employees, often bellowing insults at them: “Jesus Christ, am I the only one in this company with a brain?”, providing many amusing scenes for the viewer, relishing in the squirming of the completely immoral EIC.

Taboo is distinct because it challenges the viewer. You wouldn’t normally be rooting for a cannibalistic, crazed and violent character but Delaney’s quick-witted and intelligent domination of the British bureaucracy makes for intriguing and exciting viewing. A classic case of wanting the underdog to overcome all the obstacles that his ‘superiors’ throw at him and the sheer delight when he does. Through numerous attempts to kill him by the EIC, the jealous husband of his half-sister, Thorne Geary (Jefferson Hall) and even the Crown, Delaney manages to survive, in part because of his sheer brutality, but in the main because he continually outsmarts his enemies with the help of several loyal allies. The exceptional execution of these complex interweaving plot lines is of course down to the programme’s outstanding screenplay.

the entire cast was nigh-on flawless, contributing to a captivating crescendo of dramatic scenes

The series finale was the stimulating climax we were all hoping for, giving us an epic finish to one of the best BBC One dramas we’ve seen in a while. The acting by the entire cast was nigh-on flawless, contributing to a captivating crescendo of dramatic scenes right up until the final scene of Delaney, having out-smarted all his enemies, sailing away to the New World.

Taboo is a tale of incest, murder, slavery and conquest that, with a rich array of characters and intertwining plot lines, made for compelling Saturday-night viewing. It will certainly leave a large hole in the TV schedule. Fortunately for us, writer Steven Knight (also the writer of award-winning BBC drama Peaky Blinders) has announced that a further two series of Taboo are currently in the pipeline. With series one being intriguing from start to finish, we await series two with sky-high expectations!


4.5/5

Image: FX Networks

Georgina, Lifestyle Editor at The Panoptic, has recently graduated with a BA in History from the University of Warwick. With her love for reading, Georgina hopes to pursue a career in publishing, whilst encouraging the expansion of the Lifestyle section. For her, lifestyle articles provide high quality content on a diverse array of topics, from light-hearted travel pieces to more thought-provoking discussion on mental health issues, there is something for everyone!

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