Review: Taboo (Series 1, Episode 8)

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The Taboo series finale is a decadent end to what has been an intense and thrilling series.

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Taboo has admittedly been a slow builder, with the first episode promising much but somewhat lacking in the delivery. However, the series finale delivered an explosive end to what has been a frenetic series.

The episode begins with many questions yet to be answered – not least, would Tom Hardy’s James Delaney escape the clutches of the East India Company and the Crown, leaving him free to make his fortunes in America? Delaney, who has long been the driving force of Taboo as its complex and aggressive antihero, does manage to escape a death sentence, though his ‘unusual capacity for pain’ results in some graphic torture scenes. He outwits his complex web of enemies, coming out as the victor to whom go the spoils. Tom Hardy is at his finest in this final episode; whilst he oozes eighteenth century thug, you cannot feel for the character at the loss of his sister-cum-lover (the most peculiar plot line of the series).

The rather underwhelming suicide plot of Oona Chaplin’s Zilpha Geary becomes lost in the intense final half of the episode, and one cannot help but feel that more time in the series should have been dedicated to this, and its consequences for Delaney. Despite this being neglected, the final scenes of the episode show the writers, directors and cast at their best. The lavish battle scene proves a captivating watch, an explosion of the tension that has been building for the entire series, and wracking the speed of Taboo up a final notch. It’s easy to see how the production of the show resulted in a reported substantial overspend.

Jonathon Pryce in his role as sinister head of the East India Company, ‘Sir Stuart Strange’, dominates scenes right up to his rather deserved comeuppance. Whilst Pryce has been somewhat relegated throughout the series to either raging against Delaney or smugly proclaiming his intelligence, his performance is outstanding in the final episode, so much so that the viewer feels little sympathy when he meets his fiery end.

Tom Hollander has been the comedic star of Taboo throughout the series, in his role as debauched chemist and gunpowder making aficionado Dr George Cholmondeley. Though he has a smaller role in the final episode, Hollander’s comedic talent shines through. And his injury at the hands of a barrel of his own gunpowder, whilst ironic, is both a shocking and distressing end to one of the few truly likeable (if flawed) characters in Taboo. The viewer can only hope that Hollander’s character survives his injuries if a second series of the show is commissioned. This would be an interesting twist for the character, making him even more grotesque than before.

The Taboo series finale is a decadent end to what has been an intense and thrilling series. Whilst all of the plot lines are extravagantly tied up, others were begun opening up the possibility for a second series. All of the cast are given a chance to shine, none more so than our brooding anti-hero. With an explosive yet lavish final episode, the show silenced its critics, demanded more, and leaves you feeling there’s more Taboo to tell yet.

The first series of Taboo is available to watch via the BBC iPlayer.

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