“Taboo” Episode 1 leaves viewers spellbound, hungry for more, and gloriously disturbed (REVIEW)

Jan 17, 2017

Tom Hardy has created his masterpiece, his Mona Lisa, his Sistine Chapel in Taboo: a powerful period drama interweaving death and despair, revival and revenge, conspiracy and the occult into this beautifully unnerving tapestry that transcends modern cinema and personifies art. Set in 1814, James Keziah Delaney(Hardy) returns to London after ten years in Africa, a journey from which he was long thought dead, to find his father deceased and that he is the heir to a legacy as mysterious and dangerous as Delaney himself.

Hardy brings Delaney to life, a brooding, intense, cerebral enigma, shrouded in rumor and permeating with a calm viciousness and unpredictability that would have Jack the Ripper cowering beneath his bed. Hardy’ s performance is mesmerizing and chilling, covering you in goosebumps the way a beautiful opera would, while haunting your subconscious the way only your darkest fears can. This is Tom Hardy’ s best work since Bronson, arguably his best work ever.

Created by Hardy and his father Edward ‘Chips’ Hardy, executive produced by Ridley Scott and rounded out by Steven Knight’s writing, this dream team is as if the love child of Edgar Allen Poe and Kurt Vonnegut wrote their interpretation of a Charles Dickens piece.

The sensory experience is something in a league of its own. You can smell the dirt and clay of the earth, you can feel the moisture of the fog at the dock, and you can taste the thick humidity of 1814 London. You simply don’t get this level of immersion in cinema anymore to the point where you are truly transported into this world. Coupled with the superb writing, beautiful cinematography and acting so powerful that no adjective will do it proper justice, the only downside of Taboo, which is a reach in its own right, is that you have to wait a week to see more.

Everything in Hardy’ s portrayal of Delaney is as unapologetically telling as it is engulfed in mystery. From his calm delivery of downright maniacal dialogue interjected with explosive animalistic rage, the quiet intensity of someone who knows very intimately their capacity for causing mayhem and death, to the peculiar cadence of his blinking, everything about Delaney makes him stand out like a piece of coal on a snow covered field. Whether a dead man walking amongst the living, a monster empowered by the occult practices of the ends of the earth, or simply a brilliant manipulator capitalizing on the eerie rumors surrounding his past to provide a vehicle for his revenge, Delaney is the most captivating character on television today.

Hardy plays him like a master musician breathing life and soul into his art, with his award worthy performance along side the rest of the incredible cast, written with an otherworldly craft, and filmed in such a way to make this gorgeous amalgamation of the gothic and the baroque leave the viewer breathless at its hypnotic brilliance.

As enthralling as the premiere was, Taboo is just getting started. Between the mysterious relationship with his half sister, the feud with the East India Company, and expanding on the ten year journey of Delaney that preceded the episode, there is absolutely no shortage of excitement and undoubtedly continued entanglement of conspiracy and mystique. The bar has been raised and that bar is now owned by one of the best actors of this generation, Tom Hardy. Taboo airs on Saturdays on BBC One in the UK and Tuesdays on FX in theĀ