What Is The Tom Hardy Series About, And What Is The Taboo Ending?
Taboo is a Gothic conspiracy thriller about the evil committed by servants of British Empire, and the story of an enigmatic man with otherworldly abilities. It’s an antidote to the bloodless bonnets-and-quadrille vision of Regency England popularised by Jane Austen adaptations, and swaps that sterile environment for a London filled with grime, debauchery and violence. More than anything though, it’s an eight-episode excuse for Tom Hardy to grunt about in a stovepipe hat.
Will There Be a Season 2?
Written by Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight, based on an idea by Tom Hardy and his novelist father, Taboo aired in 2017 on BBC One and FX. Despite appearances, it is planned to be a continuing series. Knight confirmed that he’d written six of eight scripts for a second season back in summer 2019, but scheduling issues for its in-demand star stalled progress, an issue later compounded by Covid-19.
In summer 2021, Hardy gave an interview to Esquire questioning whether the already-written linear continuation of the story is “the right way to go.” Might the drama be better off leaping through time and taking place during the 1960s war in Vietnam? “It’s still Taboo, it’s still period, but it’s the Sixties. There’s something fun about that,” Hardy told Esquire, explaining that he’s currently hanging fire on the second season until the perfect idea comes along. Fans await more news with (now slightly lowered) anticipation.
What’s It About?
Taboo’s first season centred around Hardy’s character James Keziah Delaney, a mysterious man with one foot in the spirit world and the other in the murky puddle of international arms dealing and espionage. James is a Byronic composite of 19th century literary characters – as dangerous as Magwitch, as exotic as Heathcliff, as clever as Sherlock Holmes… and as isolated, scarred, and set on revenge as Frankenstein’s creature.
He’s a literal product of colonialism, as the son of an Indigenous Nootka tribeswoman stolen along with her people’s land by James’ British father Horace, agent of The Honourable East India Company (always a red flag, when an organisation feels the need to signal good intent in the name. In this instance, much like McDonalds branding itself ‘The Kind to Cows Company’). James’ mother was understandably driven mad by life in England, and tried to drown James as a baby before being committed to Bedlam asylum, where she died.
James grew up to enrol at the EIC, and went to sea where he was lost in a shipwreck. After a decade of being missing-presumed-dead, he returned to 1814 London for his father’s funeral. He’d come back with three goals: 1) to solve his father’s murder, 2) to expose Sir Stuart Strange (Jonathan Pryce) of the EIC for the illegal transportation and deaths of hundreds of enslaved Africans, and 3) to rekindle his affair with his half-sister Zilpha (Oona Chaplin).
How Season One Ends
By the finale, James had managed all three and more, and was on a ship sailing for Portugal with a rag-tag crew of ‘Pilgrims’ and 70 barrels of gunpowder. He’d learned that his father had been poisoned, but in an act of mercy by loyal manservant Brace (David Hayman) who’d wanted to save the sinning man’s Christian soul. James had also not only exposed Stuart Strange’s crimes courtesy of lawyer Mr Chichester (Lucian Msamati), but also exploded Strange with a letter bomb. As for Zilpha, she’d killed herself by jumping into the Thames after murdering her abusive husband who tortured her after she had magic dream-sex with James (who’d learned all kinds of spirit-realm tricks during his ten years in Africa), so half a tick for that one.
Before the finale, we’d met American spies, French socialites, hapless mudlarks, a junkie chemist, a sharp-toothed assassin, and the best thing in the whole series – stage actor Lorna Bow (Jessie Buckley). Lorna was Horace Delaney’s secret third wife and therefore James’ step-mother, with whom James had an undeniable frisson, continuing the show’s incest theme. If you reached the end of the series with lingering questions, we attempt answers below…