6 burning questions we have after Taboo episode six

Has James finally made a mistake? Who committed the final murder? And what is the truth about his mother?

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The action-packed sixth episode of BBC period drama Taboo saw James Delaney’s (Tom Hardy) plan in tatters, several characters killed and new paradigms created – and as usual, the whole thing left us in a rather quizzical mood.

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So with that in mind, here are just a few of the queries troubling our fevered brows after this week’s edition.


1. Did James’s mother really try to kill him?

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After weeks of James building up a saintly vision of his Native American mother, his high opinions were brought crashing down by manservant Brace (David Hayman), who informed his brooding master that the late Mrs Delaney had actually tried to drown James when he was a baby.

If true, this explains why James has been having visions of his mother standing in water for the last few episodes, and given that this week features a spectral vision of her attempting to drown her son (one even witnessed by a third party in James’s supposed son Robert, played by Louis Serkis) we’re going to assume that there is at least some veracity to Brace’s claims.

With that said, we’re betting there’s still more to this story. How do James’s mother’s actions relate to the tattoo on his back? How is he seeing her again? And what happened to her while she was imprisoned in a mental hospital?

Two more weeks to find out…


2. Have we discovered the secret of James’s past?

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We also discovered a bit more background on the other part of James’s backstory this week, with George Chichester (Lucian Msamati) revealing details about the sinking of The Influence.

In reality an East India Company ship called The Cornwallis, the Influence had its name and documents changed in order to illicitly transport slaves, only for the plan to go wrong and the ship to be sunk in order to cover the company’s tracks.

In the process, all the slaves onboard were drowned, which ties into visions James had earlier in the series. Considering that Sir Stuart Strange (Jonathan Pryce) is hinted to be both the commander of The Influence and James’s former boss, it’s looking more and more likely that it’s this incident that caused James to go rogue in the first place.

As of yet, we’ve not seen James interact with this storyline directly – but we’re sure we can expert some fireworks when he does in the next couple of weeks.


3. Was The Influence a real ship?

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Despite Taboo’s usual adherence to obscure historical detail it would seem that neither a ship called The Influence nor The Cornwallis were sunk in 1804. For once, this is probably an invention, but considering the insane depth of detail they usually go for we’ll give them this one.


4. Did James tell Zilpha to kill Thorne?

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Yes, Taboo’s very own Game of Thornes has finally ended. Zilpha’s (Oona Chaplin) horrible husband (Jefferson Hall) finally shuffled off this mortal coil with the help of a strange-looking screw produced by his long-suffering lady.

We’re not quite sure why Zilpha chose to off her hubby with such a specific tool, but a clue comes from her assurance to James that she “killed him, just like you said.”

Now, if you’re wondering when exactly James is supposed to have told Zilpha to do this, you’re not alone – unless the command was part of his ill-defined magical contact with her, we’re not sure that James ever said anything of the sort to Zilpha.

With that considered, her belief that James instructed her to kill Thorne could be taken instead as evidence of her disordered mind, after a few weeks of some traumatic abuse at the hand of her husband. Stranger things have happened, in this episode alone.


5. Was all this failure actually part of James’s plan?

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This week’s Taboo was the first to see James really on the back foot, with his factory seized, ship destroyed and allies left dead in the mud.

Frankly, it was sort of reassuring to see him a little less in control – it’s easier to root for an underdog than someone who always has the game in their favour – but then Stephen Graham’s Atticus had to go ahead and spoil it by wondering if the failure and chaos was actually a part of James’s master plan as well.

We’re really hoping this isn’t the case. At this point, James’s powers of prediction are looking near savant-like, his schemes rivalling Heath Ledger’s Joker for sheer chaos-anticipating complexity, so it’s nice to see him slip up a bit. Despite the rumours, we’re pretty sure he’s still only human – at least from time to time, anyway.


6. Did James kill Winter?

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The biggest question of the episode surrounds James’s mysterious young fan Winter (played by Ruby-May Martinwood), who turns up dead the morning after James has had a considerable bender. The implication is that he himself has killed her – earlier on, while in congress with his sister he has a vision and nearly strangles her to death – but while this would be a suitably dark move for Taboo, we can’t help but wonder whether there’s more to the story.

Could Winter’s death be somehow related to whoever betrayed James instead? Could it be a move by the Crown or the East India Company to warn, blackmail or arrest him and keep him under control? Or was it the work of another character whom James will have to bring to justice in the coming weeks?

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We can’t wait to find out – and we only have two weeks to discover the truth. Time flies, eh?