Taboo finale review: Tom Hardy’s period drama ends in a blaze of gunshot, death and a New World

Find out who survived (and who was slightly less lucky) in the gripping climax to the BBC drama


**Do not read if you have not seen Taboo episode 8**


In the end Taboo ended with a heap of dead or dying bodies – with the promise of life in the New World for some of the lucky ones.

An action-packed instalment did not waste a second and was gripping from start to finish. It opened with Tom Hardy’s James Delaney inveigling his way out of the Tower of London and setting in motion a thrilling scheme that outfoxed the Crown, the East India Company and even slippery US spy (or was he?) Dumbarton.

By the close he managed to finally assemble a ramshackle crew of misfits bound for a new life away from Britain’s shores. For those that survived, that is.

The list of people sailing under his American flag looked pretty depleted by the end, though, after Mark Gatiss’ grotesque Prince Regent finally had enough of our hero and ordered the Red Coats to just kill him, even if doing so meant losing Nootka Sound under the terms of Delaney’s will.

But Delaney’s men, having secured a boat from the East India (thanks to Delaney’s blackmailing of Sir Stuart Strange – more of that later) were in waiting at Wapping docks. Tom Hollander’s Cholmondeley had set a store of explosives but the soldiers were large in number and a bloody fight ensued.

The list of the dead included brothel keeper Helga (Franka Potente) who was cut down in the battle and some of Delaney’s henchmen including the magnificently-coiffured and tattooed Martinez (Danny Ligairi).

Tom Hollander’s rakish chemist Cholmondeley (pictured) was on the America-bound boat, but he looked in a bad way, his face and body a charred mess from the explosion. If there is another series, I hope he survives.


And that is not counting all the other people who were bumped off along the way.

Michael Kelly’s American renegade Dumbarton was killed by Delaney after his treachery was discovered; Dumbarton wasn’t quite the freedom fighter we had been led to believe and had his price too: he was an East India man it turned out, a double agent. But his end was fitting.

Delaney hoisted his dead body above his dye vats, painting his person red, white and blue which was an apposite touch: they are the colours of the Union Jack as well as the Stars and Stripes, of course.

Jonathan Pryce’s Sir Stuart Strange, one of the drama’s biggest villains, happily sacrificed his two henchmen – chubby Petifer (Richard Dixon) and angular Wilton (Leo Bill) –  to Delaney’s mob in order to protect his slaving secrets.

“Perhaps they left early for the weekend,” was Strange’s dry response when their absence was noted. (Although I thought the weekend was invented by Ian McKellen’s ancestor in 1843 a good 30 or so years after the action of Taboo takes place, but there you are, we shan’t quibble).

But Sir Stuart wasn’t laughing for long. He too was dispatched at the end, opening a parcel from Delaney which he mistakenly thought were the deeds to trade routes. It was, in fact, a massive bomb manufactured by Cholmondeley which seemed to blow his office to smithereens. Campaigner George Chichester also got “justice” for the slave dead.

Joining the demise list was Oona Chaplin’s Zilpha who started the drama jumping into the Thames in a bid, as she put it, to free herself from the trappings of this life. Given her capacity to communicate with Delaney in death I would bet on her returning in some form.

And while poor Brace was left sad and alone in London, everything is set up nicely for the next set of Taboo adventures if writer Steven Knight’s plan to have three series of the drama gets the green light.

Tonight represented an end, but also a potential beginning. I for one would be keen to finds out how he gets on in America – or wherever it is he is going. Delaney told his shipmates that he was heading for the Azores which may be just a stop-off before he heads for the New World. Who knows with him.

His final words – “we are Americans” – suggested he may be bound for Nootka Sound in the end. But wherever he goes one has to feel a bit sorry for whoever he encounters. They won’t know what hit them.

Read more: 11 burning questions we have after Taboo episode eight

Read more: What could happen in Taboo series two?


Last updated on 13 September 2017