Taboo episode 2 review: Tom Hardy’s James Delaney faces a bloody reckoning

An action-packed visit to the dark alleyways of 19th-century London finds our hero in a spot of bother

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I think we have learned by now that Tom Hardy’s James Delaney in Taboo is not a man to shirk from a challenge. [Episode two spoilers to follow]

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Arriving back in London, swishing his coat and tramping across the capital, he has stood up to the might of the East India Company without flinching.

The East India is, in this drama at least, a shadowy and all powerful conglomerate with even more clout than the government and crown put together. And tonight they did their best to get Delaney’s blood.

Walking through a dark London alleyway, he was set upon and attacked – but not before he sliced open the throat of his assailant in a graphic scene complete with vividly squidgy sound effects.

Once again Hardy delivered a compelling performance, mixing menace with a keen-eyed intelligence and the occasional flash of humanity – no less than when he purchased a ship and ripped up the manacles that had tied the hands of its former cargo of slaves.

Tonight’s final moment delivered a bloody climax to this dark and troubling drama that cannot help but suck you in.

We also saw more of Jonathan Pryce’s Sir Stuart Strange, a compelling villain who exudes menace not with his fists but with his steely glare and occasional blasts of obscenities.

It also featured some rather interesting new characters.

There was Lorna Bow (Jessie Buckley), the estranged wife of Delaney senior (or so she said) who claimed to have married the old man and therefore have a right to his estate.

Stephen Graham’s Atticus also surfaced for the first time. A hard-as-nails blood-spattered Londoner (and butcher?) he is one of the few people that Delaney seems to like – and he took up a new role as his eyes and ears around London. Atticus already provided our hero with the intelligence that his brother-in-law wanted him dead.

And, most magnificently and absurdly of all, there was Mark Gatiss in a fat suit (below), preening and pustulent as the Prince Regent.

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His arrival typified the drama’s beguiling mix of the brutal and the bathetic, the wicked and the occasionally wacky that populate this dirty city.

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We’re only two episodes in to an eight-part series, so my money would be on Delaney making it past this injury. A stab in the guts is probably barely a scratch for our anti-hero.