TV Review: Tom Hardy’s ‘Taboo’ on FX

Taboo renewed Tom Hardy FX
Courtesy of FX

Ponderous and heavy-handed, this new period drama wastes its talented actors on chiaroscuro and angst

At first, the problem with “Taboo” is just that it is slow. Lead Tom Hardy is on the scene immediately — scrambling over some mud to bury something in a ditch — but he never quite does anything that grabs attention. His character, James Delaney, has returned to London for his father’s funeral, but his time away — in unspecific, undifferentiated “Africa” — has taken some kind of toll on him. Hardy spends most of the first episode of “Taboo” brooding and lurking about in dark corners (every corner in 1814 London is shadowy), casting portentous glances and uttering every word as if it is the beginning of an incantation. As Hardy has demonstrated in several other projects, he is eminently watchable — a presence that can manipulate the audience through just looks and grunts, as he did in “Mad Max: Fury Road.” But “Taboo” seems to have no idea what to do with his presence, short of giving him a scar and wrapping him in black broadcloth.

While “Taboo” appears to be building to something, it makes the most of the show’s stellar production values, which create a textured cross-section of London’s less-savory elements that is fascinating, if not exactly pleasant. For example, James has a tense run-in with a lawyer in a pub outhouse — itself just a few steps away from a butcher stewing offal in a back alley cauldron. The scene is a foul corrective to the period nostalgia of “Downton Abbey” and other similar fare, which is to be expected from showrunner Steven Knight, the mind behind World War I-era gangster drama “Peaky Blinders” (also starring Hardy, in a smaller role). But “Taboo” feels like it is trying a little too hard to establish grit, while failing to establish anything else; while the viewer is still wondering what’s up with James Delaney’s bountiful angst, he and the lawyer say the word “piss” several times in their quaint accents and then threaten each other with murder, presumably to drive home the impression that it is all very hard over there in old-timey Londontown.

Then — in the pub, incongruously hosting the post-funeral wake for James’ father — James comes face-to-face with his half-sister Zilpha, played with wonderful histrionic nerves by Oona Chaplin. James leans over to her, as she is trying to leave with her husband: “One thing that Africa did not cure is that I still love you,” he declares, with what is supposed to be rough-edged passion. (Might it even be taboo passion?) The audience has just been adjusting to the idea that the two most handsome people in the show are not romantically linked but siblings; turns out, the show wants to offer us both. “Taboo’s” primary story driver is just “Flowers in the Attic: Old-Timey London,” or “Game of Thrones: But Victorian-ish.” The line, which Hardy tries to imbue with hoarse and fiery urgency, lands with all the sexual chemistry of a surgical strike. James seems enraptured merely out of onerous duty, and Chaplin’s Zilpha is less consumed by passion than calculating it.

It is a frankly laughable moment — ponderously serious, lit in overcompensating shades of gray and black, and veined with a bit of self-flagellating malice that is more overwrought than introspective. This is “Taboo” in a nutshell; trying way, way too hard to sell the audience on the performance of seriousness, while failing to offer anything of substance. At times it seems the show is shying away from substance in favor of delivering more superficial appeal. And to be sure, if “Taboo” were fun, perhaps that would be understandable. But “Taboo” is not fun — it’s grim, dour and self-important. It’s odd — the show should have spades of atmosphere and talent to offer. But for all its mustache-twirling, it never reaches a cohesive, sharp point of significance. Instead it seems a little like “Penny Dreadful” and “Game of Thrones” were hacked apart, and in an unholy dissection, eviscerated for parts. “Taboo” is a reanimated corpse of prestige drama tropes — manufactured darkness, heavy-handed grit, and sexual titillation, assembled with little to no unifying vision.

And despite the actor’s talent and appeal, much of “Taboo’s” problems are encapsulated in Hardy’s James himself. Perhaps that is not totally surprising — along with Knight, “Taboo” was developed by Hardy and Hardy’s father. But the attempts to make James sympathetic or admirable flatten him into caricature. And, most uncomfortably, the efforts specifically fall apart when it comes to race. It’s natural enough that Londoners in 1814 might dismiss Africa as an undifferentiated continent — or favor the observations of a free white man who witnessed slavery over a person who actually was enslaved. But it is no longer 1814. A still-developing plot point in the first three seasons is James’ realization that his father did not marry his mother so much as buy her; she was a slave bundled into a property deal. With its meditations on identity and belonging, it’s one of the most interesting developments in “Taboo.” But this story beat also means that Hardy, a white man, is supposed to be playing a character who is mixed-race.

Furthermore, James’ decade in Africa is given a kind of hand-waving occult power. James speaks a tribal language, seems familiar with a set of symbols from some kind of ritual or worship, and according to the rumors of others, engaged in some kind of cannibalism. But without the grounding specifics, these are lazily sketched signifiers about “dark magic,” which either capitalize on James’ mixed-race heritage or his time with “savage” tribes. “Taboo” is at its most interesting when it observes how random and relative our assumptions of moral purity is; a whole show alone could exist on the changing connotations and denotations of “savage,” as it is used to describe behavior, ritual, individuals, and locations. But given that “Taboo” excels at creating the texture and nuance of London at this time, the vagueness around “Africa” is even more pronounced.

On a purely story level, too, James is just too good at being the rakish lead. He doesn’t do a single thing wrong, strategically, in the first few episodes — paying out debts with money that appears out of nowhere, showing up to speak publicly just as the occasion demands it, and intervening with violence at precisely the moment the other shoe is about to drop. Coupled with his tortured passion, apparent abolitionist beliefs, angst regarding his father, and threatening swagger, he’s just too slick all around — a character that seems too perfect, modern, and badass to be a real man in 1814. He is also infinitely attractive, of course, a kind of pre-Victorian James Bond. In one scene, he is brutishly rude to a local prostitute (Helga, played by Franka Potente), who responds by outlining, in no uncertain terms, that she would like him inside her.

Indeed, yes, there are prostitutes. In “Taboo’s” defense, London has a long and storied history of prostitution. But so does prestige television. There is something a bit too convenient about Helga’s desire for James, just as there is something a bit too flat in the numerous cracks made about how a soliciting English gentleman might prefer boys instead. It’s a pulpy kind of progressivism, an interest in diverse experiences that only encompasses how titillating each viewpoint can be.

Which is a shame, because elements of “Taboo” do succeed. As with “Peaky Blinders,” Knight excels at creating the grit underneath our genteel assumptions of this era — 1814 is just a couple of years after the majority of Jane Austen’s novels were written, after all. It is a far cry from her parlor teas to this labyrinth of corrupt dockworkers and raucous auction-houses, those locations where her heroines could not go, but only hear about later from the men they would eventually marry.

But for all of the taboos that “Taboo” so proudly portrays, it cannot locate a reason for all of this cursing and killing, either tonally or logically. James and Zilpha’s father is described by everyone as a failure and embarrassment. But despite the older Delaney’s failings, James is committed to his father’s company and property, going so far as to refuse to sell a piece of land in British Columbia that is strategically key in the ongoing war of 1812. Jonathan Pryce plays the East India Company official whose job it is to make James sell the land for the good of the Crown; James, a rebel without a cause, refuses to capitulate to king and country. It is very difficult to understand why, except that perhaps James prefers brooding in dark corners to rolling around in cash. But this decision to not sell is what the entire story hinges on; everyone, from Zilpha’s extremely creepy husband to the Prince Regent, is trying to get James to sell, and they’ll all happily see him dead.

“Taboo” has far too much going on for its relatively thin material; it insinuates more than it says, and the first episodes only make sense if you are willing to believe that there is something intriguing about the “darkness” that James and sometimes Zilpha have at their core. It is so outsize and over-the-top with elements of its storytelling that it might work better to think of “Taboo” as camp; but if so, it is very expensive, self-serious, and unfunny camp indeed.

TV Review: Tom Hardy’s ‘Taboo’ on FX

Drama, 8 episodes (3 reviewed): FX, Tues. Jan. 10, 10 p.m. 60 min.

Crew

Executive producers, Tom Hardy, Steven Knight, Ridley Scott, Kate Crowe, Dean Baker

Cast

Tom Hardy, Jonathan Pryce, Jessie Buckley, Oona Chaplin, Jefferson Hall, David Hayman, Franka Potente, Stephen Graham, Michael Kelly, Jason Watkins, Mark Gatiss, Tom Hollander, Nicholas Woodeson, Ed Hogg

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  1. Angela says:

    I was expecting something better. It became a boring British soap opera. Editing was sloppy with odd transitions. A layer of plain music over hardy walking the streets in his super cool hipster hair cut. Maybe it will get better.

  2. Calico says:

    This show is wonderful – the acting, the photography and the sheer stage presence of Tom Hardy are compelling. Cannot understand your review. Sonia gives opinions but has never had a real job. Our girl is a far left social justice warrior – racial justice, climate justice, food justice, gender justice, sex justice, climate justice – you get the picture. Her reviews reflect her bias.

  3. Micah Herrera says:

    Your review sucks, and was way premature.

  4. James says:

    This reviewer is pretentious. The show is awesome. Loved every minute of it.

  5. David says:

    A great Season One. I would say 5 out of 5.

  6. Tim Keough says:

    Laughable review, so off the mark in my opinion…open your eyes and appreciate the quality of Taboo

  7. Tim Keough says:

    terrible review in my opinion…overly harsh and completely off the mark giving no credit at all to for the quality here

  8. Beryl Penketh says:

    I joe public have to say that Tom hardy deserves much more credit for what I think is one of the best dramas I’ve seen in a long time. Congratulations Tom from an avid viewer.

  9. John Jones says:

    I’m not sure what series you are watching. None of your criticism makes sense. This is a thoughtful work. Yes, thoughtful, that expects the viewer to pay attention to the subtle story arcs. It’s a shame you don’t like it. I think it’s a beautiful work.

  10. Kimbery says:

    I wish your writing and understanding of the show was as good or even a little bit close. Are you sure your’re watching the right show? Perhaps the Bachelorette would be more your style.

  11. Jamie says:

    Who ever this reviewer is is clearly a massive that. It’s a brilliantly scripted piece of TV. And put forward amazingly by Tom Hardy. One of the most addictive new series. Down to the filming tones it’s just always so dark and dank. How you would imagine a winter in the 1800’s. Brilliant programme. What a douche of a review. Idiotic prat whoever wrote this.

  12. Amanda says:

    “Tom Hardy ruins FX’s ‘Taboo’ with incomprehendable mumblIng”? Hardy? Hardly my friends. Tom’s portrayal of the James D character is absolutley fantastic! James is such an original character and Hardy’s execution of his character demands respect! You forget it’s an actor and not an actual person. Your eyes are glued to his every move and you can empathize with him. Mumbling? Perhaps these are not English reviews….British accents are always hard for those who don’t know it. Same as any accent for those not accustomed to it. I hope these reviews don’t deter Mr. Hardy from continuing to portray his character in the way he feels right, the way he has been doIng all along. I love this show. It’s dark and depraved, mystical and wondrous, chaotic and emotional, yet sound. It’s cleverly written and I am hooked on every word, every scene. The way it’s filmed and the sets, the cinematography. …..amazing. Mumbling. ..give me a break guys. This is Toms best work yet! If there is any actor in this show to be questioned on their performance, I hate to say it, but it would be Oona Chaplin. As much as I respect her family, I really didn’t like her work in this series. She’s contantly wide eyed in shock which seems to be the only response she has to anything that happens to her. Her repetitive mannerisms in this manner are annoying and although, like I said, I have much respect for her and her family (she is the great grandaughter of the infamous Charlie Chaplin) I cannot agree with her being the choice for this character. :(

  13. Amanda says:

    “Tom Hardy ruins FX’s ‘Taboo’ with incomprehendable mumblIng”? Hardy? Hardly my friends. Tom’s portrayal of the James D character is absolutley fantastic! James is such an original character and Hardy’s execution of his character demands respect! You forget it’s an actor and not an actual person. Your eyes are glued to his every move and you can empathize with him. Mumbling? Perhaps these are not English reviews….British accents are always hard for those who don’t know it. Same as any accent for those not accustomed to it. I hope these reviews don’t deter Mr. Hardy from continuing to portray his character in the way he feels right, the way he has been doIng all along. I love this show. It’s dark and depraved, mystical and wondrous, chaotic and emotional, yet sound. It’s cleverly written and I am hooked on every word, every scene. The way it’s filmed and the sets, the cinematography. …..amazing. Mumbling. ..give me a break guys. This is Toms best work yet!

  14. Dupa says:

    It will make a second season, it keeps my interest

  15. Gonzo says:

    Well, as always, critics, normally frustrated at not achieving anything at being good at what they criticize have opinions that differ with the public

    Super drama, just go to IMDB and see what people has to say, remember experts normally are wrong …

    How many movies, albums, products were lynched by critics just to become amazing successes ?

    Same here, she probably didn’t like Breaking Bad as well.

  16. halima says:

    ASE !! I like the show, I will be watching!
    He absolutely gave…’ASE’…praises….’ to… ODU -IFA….!! prayers within Traditional African religion, currently practiced by over 10 million black communities within the motherland, Brazil, Caribbean, Central America and North American hoodoo tradition, anywhere people of AFRICAN DESCENT live!!

    I will watching the depiction…Espec…the subtext of TRANS ATLANTIC SLAVE TRADE /AFRICAN HOLOCAUST=MAAFA!!!
    I am interested in depiction of traditional African spiritual practices the… ODU-IFA / ILE -IFE…. Given AFRICAN RELIGIONS are CURRENTLY, LIVING- ACTIVE practices within the Black community.
    I live in Philly, you just have to come to any of the ‘KWANZZA’ / or ‘ODUNDE’ or Slavery remembrance Celebrations, or any BLACK HISTORY MONTH events…
    To observe that the Black community recognizes the relevance within continued practices of traditional African religious…..All events will open with…the LIBATION CEREMONY!!
    Ancestor recognition for Africans has been the historical means of resistance to cultural genocide ….terrors of slavery. Captivity/bondage within chattel slavery…
    African Holocaust and Trans-Atlantic slavery=’, MAAFA’ will become more explicit in later episodes. you can see it so far as well!

  17. Could not agree more. I’m watching and recapping the show myself. It’s enormously fun to recap, but as a viewer I can imagine pursing my lips often. I enjoy its pulpy self-conscious grittiness, like a (way) more genteel Frank Miller Does The Regency. But so far women, ‘Africans’, Native Americans and Asians seem to be around just as exotic fringe detail. Repeatedly mentioned, but around only to burnish our brooding hero’s mystique.

    That said, the second episode seems to have leaned into its absurdity. Its ridiculous gnomic lines are uttered with lip-smacking relish. Now if only they can fix the really weird rhythms of the swearing on the show…. Watch ‘The Thick of It’, guys. THAT is how you do lyrical swearing.

  18. ME says:

    This review hits the nail right on the head. Rather than a clear and engaging story, Taboo seems to favour unwashed white men grunting at each other while the women flounce around, utterly bewitched by Tom Hardy’s dirty blue shirt. I thought with all the mentions of Africa there would actually be a few non white characters rather than one and a few black servants knocking around in the background. I suppose the really Taboo thing is actually having a diverse range of characters on a BBC period drama.

    • Theodora says:

      Women in Taboo (except Delaney’s sister Zilpha) are definitively NOT acting ”utterly bewtiched by Hardy’s shirt”. I wonder how you could see things which are not there in the first place. Maybe you just pasted some comments from some supposedly ”woke’ reviewers without seeing the show by yourself.

      As for your misgivings about ”grunting white men”, let’s just cancel and forbid all the adaptations and mentions of 19th century literature altogether. Because not too surprisingly, it is full of ”grunting white men” (and no, this wasn’t because all the writers at the time where sexists and racists). And despite what you think, what passes for current ”feminist” and ”diversity” discourses in historical dramas on TV is far from being interesting and even relevant (e.g GoT, the recent Dracula series etc…).

      BTW, episode 5 saw the introduction of a black character who is likely to play an interesting role in the story ( he seems to be modeled after Olaudah Equiano). It seems to me that the show creator have much more knowledge of the race, salve trade and political issues of the time than you and the reviewer above.

      Your comments are completely out of touch.

      • Theodora says:

        @Peanut Gallery

        It would be nice if you could try to read what I write instead putting words into my mouth.

        a) So a 21st century show is supposed to present a completely unrealistic social and cultural landscape with regards to the period being described just because it has to adhere to our current values?

        b) Oh my. I did never say that ”representation is an invalid viewpoint when discussing fiction”. And you know it.
        My comment was about the fact that current discourses about gender and representation in TV fictions are for the most part, not particularly relevant and interesting. Mainly because it revolves around forcibly pushing a type of reality, agency and way of being which were not existent during the time period described. Paradoxically, it waters down the very issue of gender and representation by completely misrepresenting the cultural and social landscape in which they was enacted. The obstacles which disadvantaged people faced and the strategies which they use to overcome these obstacles are stereotyped or trivialized.
        And BTW, the reviewer has apparently no knowledge about the cultural and social landscape of the early 19th century besides some stereotypes (hence her idiotic Jane Austen comments and her musings that Delaney is ”too modern” because of his ”daddy issues”).

        (c) I din’t know that talking about an issue/event at the very end of a post and introducing this issue by a ”BTW”, is supposed to be a ”devastating comeback”. But you certainly know best. ;-))))

        That said, I pointed towards a fact. The original poster claimed that there was no black protagonist in Taboo and I pointed him towards the contrary. And ”BTW”, Chichester has indeed a crucial role to play and is devised to be a conceptual foil to Hardy’s Delaney.

        So is pointing facts supposed to be a ”devastating comeback”? Interesting. ;-)))

      • Okay, let’s make a list:
        a ) The issue of representation being discussed here is in a twenty-first century show. I’m not looking at Austen or Dickens and scoffing at them for writing about white people.
        b ) Out of interest, why is representation an invalid viewpoint when discussing fiction?
        c ) ‘They introduce this one black guy five-eighths of the way into the season and I think he’s gonna have shit to do’ is hardly the devastating comeback you seem to think it is.

        By the way, I’m actually quite enjoying the show. Still think every single one of the criticisms of the original reviewer is valid.

  19. loco73 says:

    Perhaps in reviewing this show, it might help to view it in its entirety, instead of only the first few episodes. It only has eight episodes. And I couldn’t disagree more with this review, which I may add is on the superficial and lacking substance side…Dammit “Taboo” is one good miniseries!!! I just love how unabashedly adult it is! The show is soo richly textured, so raw, bloody and sensual! The look, feel and taste of it is truly unique! The cast is excellent, the writing is excellent, the direction is excellent and everything else. And a big cheer for Tom Hardy!

  20. LA Hamm says:

    This show is fantastic. I even watch the encore presentations in case I missed something. Tom Hardy is fantastic and his supporting cast shines. I am totally pulled in. I also really love the opening music. Definite winner. I am picky. picky. picky.

  21. Aimee Rae says:

    Wow! What a horribly shallow review of a great show! Sonia! You’re reviews are garbage.

  22. Kathie Seppi says:

    Me thinks Sonia should “Try to be drinking more from the green bottle and less from the pink”‘
    Cast is wonderful dialogue is wonderful settings wonderful and Tom Hardy ..lovely! Diggin it!

  23. craigbeaton says:

    This is the second occasion in the last week I have found myself at odds with a review in Variety. Not because I disagree with the review, which I most definitely do, but because the content of the review seems more about ideas and agenda politics rather than a genuine analysis of what was was aired. Last time around it was a review of Trespass Against Us This time, Taboo, seems to get similar treatment. Others have already noted that error regarding Jane Austin, and addressed the notion of whether or not Hardy should be allowed to play a fictional character of mixed race (still trying to work out that one).

    For me, it is the very deliberate (if poorly considered language) used to make irrelevant and cheap points that mark out another tired review in Variety: “every corner in 1814 London is shadowy” – this was not what I viewed; “Londoners in 1814 might dismiss Africa as an undifferentiated continent — or favor the observations of a free white man who witnessed slavery over a person who actually was enslaved. But it is no longer 1814” – well actually in the context of the show it is 1814; and, “he and the lawyer say the word “piss” several times in their quaint accents” – I am still trying to figure out why “piss” is a problem and as for “quaint accents”, well, they sounded like fairly ordinary regional accents to me. What I really want to know is this though: are we 3 episodes or 3 seasons into the plot? That really did confuse.

  24. Joe Franke says:

    The reviewer should go back to watching Dr. Who. Some of the most intriguing elements of the series so far have to do with the geopolitics of the time, and the role of the East India Company in slavery and the exploitation of indigenous peoples all over the world, and the triangulation of the Company, the Crown, and the newly created United States. To ignore the geopolitical context of the show is to miss half of its alppeal and is incredibly simple minded.

  25. Steve says:

    This reviewer obviously has the attention span of a 10 year old.

  26. Deborah BARHAM SMITH says:

    What an extremely poor review for what is evolving as an excellent gritty drama – much as Downton was brilliant, it is refreshing to have a complete contrast, dark though it may be. So at the end of the day, your review is only your opinion – we all have to make up our own minds what we enjoy.

  27. Bianka Sanchez says:

    I love this show honestly I was reading this article but half way through I stopped, why? Because it doesn’t make sense at all maybe you should be watching the food network or something else because your opinion as a movie critic its so off

  28. Nootka Sound-offer says:

    Worst review I have read here. Ever. The show is very intriguing and half the listed complaints are incorrectly observed by this reviewer. Indulgent, wordy and totally missed the magic and the premise by a mile.

  29. Kim Gugliotta says:

    I am enjoying this program very much! Wonderful acting, Tom Hardy is one of my favorite actors! Well written and the program goes to great lengths to be precise with background, costumes and accents. I will keep on watching and enjoying this program. Thank you.

  30. This review is a joke. It was exhausting to read and the opinions stated are clearly not opinions. This reviewer went to great lengths to state that this is something not worth watching and that the show has flaws. That is fair and all, not everyone likes the same thing (shows, actors, direction etc.) and every show has flaws in a lot of its elements, but the continuous use of superfluous vocabulary and the “fluff” in this piece, resulted in a review that is tiring to read, extremely unfair to the show (whatever show that was), superfluous in its style and doesn’t add any real VALUE to the reader or this online space. (That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Adding value to something with our opinions and pieces of content.)

    I spent 5-10 minutes reading this and I honestly felt like I wasted my time. I have to say, I was expecting a review and “opinions” on whether this show is good or not, on what to expect from the show, just a review really but I did not find that here. Very few parts in this is actually reviewing the show and letting us know what the plot, the acting and the direction are like. Very dissapointing. And the vision that the reviewer is saying that is lacking in this show, maybe it’s too early to see the whys and the reasons in the first episodes.

    On a positive note, I’m a few minutes in and I’m already “pulled in” like another commenter said. Looks promising and well-crafted.

  31. Sue Palmer says:

    Obvious this person is not watching the same program as millions of other people. It is brilliant and Tom is amazing. Not really sure why this so called expert reviewer is actually employed. What a waste of space she is!

  32. wow! your article is longer than the first episode. i thought maybe, you’ve watched the whole series already.

  33. BrianH says:

    Maybe when sonia wrote her review she was fatigued from binge-watching greys anatomy or something .. Idk but I do know Tom hardy was brilliant along with the rest of the cast and production. I can’t wait to see more. Can’t recall a series premiere that sucked me into its world so quickly.. Epic start!

  34. Steven Garsson says:

    I dug it. If you didn’t….more for me

  35. Dennis Kavanagh says:

    Was hoping for a great story but could not finish it. Was finally able to understand Hardy vocabulary, and it started ok , some telepathy is understandable for the period but when the blood and guts horror came forth I see it as worthless filler stuff that adds nothing for me in a story a waste.

  36. Glenn A says:

    “A still-developing plot point in the first three seasons is …”

    No wonder it seems slow.

  37. Jay Dickson says:

    Actually, since it is set in 1814, this series is set contemporaneously with Jane Austen’s novels, not “a couple of years after the majority of them were written.” Sense and Sensibility was published in 1811; Pride and Prejudice in 1813; Mansfield Park in 1814; Emma in 1815; and Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were published posthumously in 1818.

  38. EvaDestructioN says:

    You misunderstand Helga’s intentions. She does not “desire” James, nor was she aroused by his brutish treatment. She is a hardened madame/lady of the evening who – one naturally assumes – lost any interest in physical passion long ago. He is reclaiming his property, which she has been profiting from. When she makes that offer to him, she is trying to regain the upper hand in the negotiations. It’s simply a bargaining chip, nothing more.

  39. gb says:

    Jada Pinkett Smith I mean. 😀

  40. Romita Blackfeather says:

    Your critic makes me wonder if you even watched the first episode without going on with point of view already established? How much did you pay attention? While yes, it was mentioned often he spent time on the continent of Africa, the details that his mother was a Native of North America are important.

    The money did not appear out of nowhere. The butler stated he has put money aside. Details.

    And why bring Jane Austen up and compare it to this drama? The assumption that the world which Taboo is set isn’t quite plausible shows a lack of knowledge/recognition/understanding of how parts of the world has always existed.

    • Cynthia Bleier says:

      I’m glad I’m not the only one that picked up on the Native American reference. From the beginning I was under the impression that the mother was given to his father in trade. Lorna, the Senior’s 3rd wife, played an Indian Princess in a play called “The Painted Savage”. I think this tied in to the father’s senility towards his end. As for all the gold… He had a bag of large diamonds.
      I admit I’m still lost in the plot but each episode offers a little more clarity.

  41. Peter Cohen says:

    The East India Company had to do with India, Burma (part of India) and Malaya. South Africa was the only nation in Africa that was relevant to the EIC due to passage around the Cape of Good Hope. Sonia’s review is accurate, though she leaves out the geography. This is supposed to be about the Jewel in the Crown, George Orwell, Joseph Conrad, Lord Mountbatten, tin miners, Singapore and the Raffles Hotel, the fight over Batavia (Jakarta), prostitutes in Malaya, not in London and noble savages in Java, Malaya, Burma and India, not in the “Heart of Darkness”. This is indeed camp alright, because it is devoid of context, history or even correct geography. Any one of Conrad’s novels will tell you far more than eight episodes of comic-book colonialism.

    • Theodora says:

      If one considers facts, it is yours and Mrs Sarayia’s comments which are devoid of any context. And your line of argument (if there was one) does not even make sense.

      The involvement of the EIC with the slave trade in Africa (in the East but also the West Coast) are very well documented with an abundant literature on the subject (e.g Gardner Cassels, Harris, Platt etc). Your insistence that the EIC was involved with South Africa slave trade only shows that you do not know anything about the subject you are talking about.

      I suppose that tossing Mountbatten, ”prostitutes in Malaya” and Jakarta without any logic was just an attempt to divert from both your ignorance and lack of curiosity.

  42. Reginald Bone says:

    Sonia’s reviews are all about her and not about the show (see review of The Grand Tour). Ignore.

  43. Neil says:

    Just watched the first episode, which was tremendous. Igonore the review. This will scoop awards all over. Just wait & see.

  44. Sky says:

    “A still-developing plot point in the first three seasons…” How was this missed in editing? It should read episodes not seasons. Also, the writer mistakenly implies the mother was an African slave when in fact she was from a North American Indian tribe.

  45. I loved this! Not slow at all. Perfect in every way. Tom Hardy is mysterious and magnetic. The scenery was spectacular. Must watch.

  46. carterfrancis says:

    WOW! Was this a review or a recap? Sorry, Sonia, but based on your top 20 for 2016, pardon me if I don’t take your word on Taboo.

  47. jojo says:

    I just watched the 1st episode. It was not boring or tedious. What critics cant stand is they expect a movie or series to lay out the full story in the first 10 minutes or they are bored.
    What if Game of Thrones did that? Who would bother watching?
    This story seems pretty familiar, inheritance dispute, mean evil father, mean sadistic big step brother etc.
    The only unknown here is the implied voodoo/magic which in time may or may not reveal itself to be.
    Worth watching more episodes.

  48. This review is just tedious to the extreme and I didn’t say that because she semi-trashed the series: other reviewers seemed to agree with her and I’m not a huge fan of Tom Hardy anyway.

  49. Mike says:

    Wow the Tom Hardy fanboys and fangirls took over the comment section to defend their fave. Hardy (a white guy) wrote a bi-racial character for himself and in addition the character was able to do magic from Africa. This is racially offensive and stereo-typing. There’s no excuse for that.
    And the petty comments that get so upset that the reviewer just didn’t enjoy the show much are laughable. It doesn’t make the show better just because Hardy fans claim that the show will be great although they haven’t even seen the first episode.

    • Sky says:

      The first episode has already aired on BBC. We don’t know the full racial/ethnic makeup of the mother other than she is from a tribe located in present day Canada so you can’t assume Hardy’s character is bi-racial. She herself could have been bi racial. And as noted by another commentator, Hardy’s character spent a decade in Africa. Surely he was able to learn local religious practices. How is that offensive? What Westerners consider a religious practice such as turning water into wine could be viewed as magic too. It’s all a matter of perspective. Let the full 8 episodes play out so we get the complete story before we pull out the pitchforks and label something as racially offensive or stereotypical.

    • Theodora says:

      Mike, since you are in such high spirits, would you mind answering the following questions?:

      -Why is it unacceptable for a white actor to play a character who is supposed to be partly white?

      -Unlike what people of your ilk think, Delaney is not half black-half white. His mother is from a Nootka tribe which belongs to the North American Indian ethnic group. Which means that Delaney is part Irish-part American Indian. In this context, would you be as offended if an entirely American Indian actor would play Delaney, just because he is not white? And if not, would this mean that you are profoundly hypocritical?

      -Given the fact that African Kingdoms at the time (in this case The Ashanti Kingdom: Delaney speaks Twi and has Ashanti-like tatoos) have both religious and magic practices, do you think that a foreigner would not be able to absorb them over a 10 year period? If not, what do you make of the nonfunctional cases such as Francisco de Sousa, a mixed race slave owner and a vodun practitioner?

      -Why is a ”white” person devoted to a West African religion such an ”racially offensive” thing?

      -Why do you have such fixation with ”Hardy fanboys and fangirls”?

      -Do you think that there is ”no excuse” for checking facts and judging without any knowledge on the issue whatsoever?

  50. Bobbi says:

    Hey Sonia, Whaaaaat? Your review of Taboo was exhausting! There wasn’t a lick of redeemingly valuable information in your article. This I do know: Tom Hardy is an amazing actor, I’ve been looking forward to this series for months, it’s on avant-garde FX…AND, I already have every episode recorded – so there ya go!

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