Although Tom Hardy’s vanity project Taboo was released in 2017, the show has been resuscitated after its recent arrival on Netflix. A Gothic tale of revenge, gore, spies, slaves, gunpowder, supernatural and incest, the series has piqued the interest of viewers and contains elements that Gothic writers’ dreams are made of.
Extremely dramatic, well-paced and gruesome, Hardy’s show is a commentary on 19th century London, the contemporary legal history and commercial handlings, an exploration of the East India Company which later became the flagbearer of the British Crown, the burgeoning aristocracy, the misery of the working class and infallible corruption.
Directed by Kristoffer Nyholm and Anders Engstrom, the eight-episode series was created by Steven Knight from Peaky Blinders. Tom Hardy and his father Chips Hardy, adapted the short story into the series we now love. Knight manages to weave in a gloomy and brooding atmosphere as is typical of him into this intriguing and shocking tale. Hardy also stars in the lead as the mysterious and impenetrable James Delaney, alongside other brilliant actors, namely Jessie Buckley, Jonathan Pryce, Stephen Graham, Tom Hollander, Oona Chaplin, Michael Kelly etc.
Delaney is believed to be dead after he sets sail for the New World but returns to attend his father’s funeral in England, shocking those around him. He is a disturbing Byronic anti-hero who hallucinates, practices some kind of voodooism, loves to go on a blood-soaked carnage and harbours incestuous feelings towards his sister. He inherits a piece of land that he refuses to sell, much to the disdain of the morally corrupt people around him. As the nook of land is of strategic interest to commercial powerholders, including the Empire and the East India Company, Delaney counters the brawn with his brain.
Delaney’s mystic appeal comes from the unknown that lies drenched in magic, surrealism, cannibalism, blood and hallucinatory episodes. Tom Hardy is brilliant as Delaney, dark, angry and hungry for revenge. His sinister nature might give Heathcliffe a run for his money! Delaney seems to be a character that seems to be the lovechild of Tim Burton and David Lynch and fits the overall ambience of the series.
Downton Abbey and Bridgerton fans might enjoy the elaborate costumes and set designs, but that’s about it. Taboo is no sugarcoated tale. It is extremely intense and vicious and features gritty props that add to the grimness of Delaney. Max Richter’s gloomy and melancholic score heightens the ominous feeling of the series. Gothic enthusiasts who love dabbling in the grotesque will find a particularly soft spot for the series which is brilliantly portrayed via brooding cinematography and unique characters.