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Taboo Preview: Episode 2 

Photo Credit: FX

[Warning: General spoilers ahead]

Y’all already know that casting is a key indicator for me about whether I’m interested in committing to a new show. FX’s Taboo was immediately intriguing because Tom Hardy attached to it not only as the lead, but also a creator and producer (alongside his dad, Chips Hardy). Second to that, it had the potential to warm the section of my Gothic-loving heart that was snuffed out by Penny Dreadful this past summer. Beyond that, I didn’t know much about it, and didn’t go looking for it, which I’m so glad about, because I like it very much, even if I’m not sure exactly sure yet what *it* is.

Photo Credit: FX

Hardy plays James Keziah Delaney, a long-lost son who returns, much-changed, to 1814 London when he learns of his father’s death via unconventional means of communication. His arrival rattles not only his half-sister, Zilpha (Oona Chaplin), to whom he was exceptionally close, but also the God-like East India Trading Company, which thought it had finalized the acquisition of a parcel of his father’s land that’s surprisingly key to Britain’s war with America.

Years earlier, James disappeared into Africa, from which rumors and stories surfaced about his behavior and fate, when he was presumed dead during the sinking of a ship. What we learn in bits and pieces is that he was rescued and reborn, tapping into something extraordinarily primal that alternately motivates and protects him.

Photo Credit: Robert Viglasky/FX

Once home, he finds an ally in Brace (David Hayman), the family manservant who raised him and now fears that his bravado will have him following his father into the grave. The rest of the cast includes Jonathan Pryce as the head of the East India, who moves on to more brutish methods when he realizes James can’t be bought off, and Franka Potente as Helga, a madam (in a turn similar to her Copper role) who strikes a bargain with James. War & Peace‘s Jessie Buckley is Lorna Bow, whose arrival in London causes almost as much disruption as James’s.

Taboo definitely leans more toward meandering, deliberate British pacing as James’s story unfolds before us. He’s haunted and driven, but also methodical in laying out all the necessary pieces of the puzzle. We’re not sure exactly what his final plan is, or which master he serves, but I’m definitely piqued enough to stay with it for eight episodes.

Hardy has built a career out of playing imposing characters who say little but do much, and he brings that in spades to James, who cuts an imposing figure when he arrives in London and inserts himself back into society. He’s very specific when he does finally speak, tapping wholly into a “zero f-cks” demeanor that I have no doubt was a joy to play.

Steven Knight, who worked with Hardy on Locke and Peaky Blinders, is head writer and shares producer and creator credit here. Two directors split the entire season: Kristoffer Nyholm (the original The Killing) and Anders Engström (Thicker Than Water).

Photo Credit: FX

In the second episode, airing this week, James finds a few more allies around London, gets a better picture of the East India Company’s vast and powerful hold, and makes some bold moves of his own.

If you’re missing Penny Dreadful or just game for a 19th century drama with tinges of spycraft and the supernatural thrown in, check it out.

Taboo airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on FX. If you missed the first episode, it’s available now on FX’s website. Here’s a sneak peek of the next episode.

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