Seven burning questions we have after Taboo episode five

Have we finally learned the truth about Tom Hardy’s James Delaney?

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Death! Intrigue! Derring-do! Schemes! Mumbling!

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It can only be the fifth episode of Tom Hardy period drama Taboo, which tonight saw his James Delaney seek the perfect recipe for gunpowder, boss his way through a duel and generally continue to vex the Crown, the East India Company and certain fingerless tavern-dwellers.

However, as usual, the whole thing left us with a few questions on our collective RadioTimes.com mind. Go on, twist our arm – we might just share them with you.


1. Does James have malaria?

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Starting us off on a bit of a tangent, a pretty credible alternate theory for James Delaney’s bizarre actions has been suggested to us – the character might be suffering from a strain of malaria picked up in Africa, with the shivers, fevered hallucinations and odd actions of James all just symptoms of his illness.

The idea can’t count for everything, of course – James does seem to be able to, er, do magic – but it’s comforting to think that there’s a rational explanation somewhere.


2. Is there intrigue among the Americans?

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Dr Dumbarton (Michael Kelly, pictured) blackmailed James into supplying him with gunpowder to pass on to Irish rebels, only for fellow spy Carlsbad (aka the Countess Musgrave, aka actor Marina Hands) to reveal she had no knowledge of such a plan.

So is Dumbarton planning something of his own? Is his story a hoax designed to let him stage a major blow against the British that James might want no part in? Or do he and Carlsbad just have no time to catch up these days? Hmm…


3. Is the boy really James’s son?

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Chemist Cholmondeley (Tom Hollander) seems convinced that his new assistant Robert (Louis Serkis) is James’s secret son (probably with sister Zilpha), but the fact that it hasn’t been confirmed makes us think there might be a greater mystery here. After all, they need some story saved for series two, right?


4. Er, WHAT was Mark Gatiss eating?

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A giant ostrich egg. Not his best look.


5. Has James’s secret past been revealed?

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Later in the episode we meet new character George Chichester (Lucian Msamati), who discusses Jason Watkins’ royal private secretary Coop the scandalous sinking of a ship called The Influence, which he believes was an East India Company vessel in disguise so it could carry slaves.

His suggestion was that the Company sunk the ship itself to cover up its illegal actions, and more and more this is lining up with what we know of James Delaney’s mysterious past. In flashbacks we’ve seen him on a weather-torn ship while slaves call out for help below, and if he was involved in the ship during his days working for the company it might explain his animosity towards them.

Still, as of yet it could all still be a coincidence – but hopefully some light will be shed in the final three episodes. We’re in the home stretch, guys!


6. Were the sons of Africa real?

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Yes – the group that Chichester (above) represents was a real British organisation founded in the late 18th century that campaigned to end slavery, made up of educated free slaves in London’s black community.

They achieved this goal under the Slave Trade Act of 1807, though as Taboo depicts some British interests (and colonies) kept on with it, meaning the group had to continue their work for some years afterwards.

The ship disaster, however, appears to be a fictional one.


7. Is Thorne Geary a goner?

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After almost perishing in a duel thanks to the work of the East India Company (who need his opponent James alive) and subjecting his now-vengeful wife to a grim assault in the name of exorcism, we’d say it’s odds-on that Thorne (Jefferson Hall) is a goner.

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Whether it’s a Company man, a Crown agent or his wife with that weird screw thing, though, is anyone’s guess. Looks like we’ll just have to tune in for next week’s series of merry murders to find out.