We’re halfway through Tom Hardy, Ridley Scott and Steven Knight’s twisty period thriller Taboo, and a few things are becoming clear.
One is that Hardy’s James Delaney is quite a tough customer (his battles tonight made this the most violent episode yet), another is that he has some pretty nasty plans for his enemies – and the third is that, well, a lot of what’s going on is still pretty mysterious and/or confusing.
Here are a few of the questions we were left with after tonight’s instalment, along with an answer or two for your own niggling doubts.
1. Wait, so who was trying to get Lorna arrested?
This was a little confusing last week, but it turns out the people who set up James’ newfound mother-in-law Lorna to attack the Duke of Richmond were from The Crown, attempting to out-maneuvre the East India Company and get possession of the precious Nootka Sound land.
Luckily for Lorna, James managed to pull a few strings and get her out of chokey in no time – but perhaps not so luckily, she’s now part of James’ “league of the damned”, in other words an ally he fully expects to sacrifice for his master plan. Speaking of which…
2. What on EARTH is James’ plan?
Apparently getting Lorna arrested was part of James’ big scheme, the details of which are still murky to us. He want revenge on the East India Company, we get that, but does that mean his public show of starting a trading company is just a sham? Or is that part of it?
After all, when told he needed gunpowder to trade with the natives at Nootka, he immediately set about finding a way to acquire gunpowder. Why would he do that unless he actually wanted to trade? Unless of course he wants the gunpowder for something else and this is just a cover. Hmm…
James also warns Lorna that his plan will bring down all those close to him as well, so whatever he has up his sleeves it sounds pretty momentous. Sadly, at the moment we just can’t see what it is.
3. Who played the scientist?
Speaking of the gunpowder, the man James hired to help him make it (Cholmondeley) will be a familiar face to many viewers – veteran character actor Tom Hollander, known for his roles in Rev, The Thick of It and The Night Manager (as well as for NOT playing Spider-Man).
Hollander also memorably played Lord Cutler Beckett in the Pirates of the Caribbean films, leading a reversal in roles with actor Jonathan Pryce for this series. You see, in Pirates Hollander’s Beckett was the head of the East India company, and Pryce’s Governer Swann became a victim of his villainy – whereas now it’s Pryce who plays the East India Company boss (Sir Stuart Strange) and Hollander the plucky underdog.
Pryce (far left) and Hollander (right) in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
What goes around, comes around.
Eagle-eyed viewers may also have spotted a little cameo from another familiar face in the series, with poet and musician Scroobius Pip (below) portraying Atticus’ henchman French Bill (even though his own name sounds far more Georgian in our book).
4. Would that recipe for gunpowder work?
As far as we can tell, the method Cholmondeley devised to create gunpowder using urine and saltpetre among other things is both genuine and period-accurate, so go ahead knowing these explosions have some research behind them.
5. Did James use magic to remotely have sex with his sister?
This series is weird.
6. Who is Carlsbad?
After fending off an American assassin, James finally discovered the answer to a mystery we were pondering last week – the identity of US spy Carlsbad, previously revealed to be a woman.
As it turns out, Carlsbad is the Countess Musgrove (played by Marina Hands), the woman who invited James to her ball, and who may be James’ ticket to the audience with the free states of America that he so desires.
Why does he want that? Well, it’s probably part of the plan we don’t know about (see above).
7. Will James and Thorne really have a duel?
The episode ended on a real cliffhanger as James was challenged to a duel by his brother-in-law Thorne Geary (Jefferson Hall), the episode ending before Hardy’s bruiser could give his answer.
So will he do it? Frankly, we’d be hard-pressed to think of a reason why he wouldn’t – he hates Thorne for his treatment of his sister Zilpha (Oona Chaplin) as well as possibly murdering their father, and James isn’t exactly a shrinking violet when it comes to violence.
But then again, it could be that such a duel would get in the way of his Plan. You know, the Plan that will definitely completely 100% make sense when the series ends about a month from now.