Taboo: Series One - TV Review

'There are only so many gravelly line deliveries and guttural rumblings you can tolerate before you just want to offer Delaney a lozenge and tell him to speak up a bit'.

Your overall enjoyment of Taboo is likely to come down to a combination of two things: how far you're happy to engross yourself in the series' grim and grimy version of Regency era London without worrying too much about what's actually going on; and how far you're able to tolerate yet another growly and incoherent performance by Tom Hardy.

For me, unfortunately, the answer to both of these questions was: not very far at all. As James Keziah Delany, Hardy is arguably less growly and incoherent as he was in both Lawless and The Revenant, but his performance here is still distinctly positioned towards that end of the spectrum and it's starting to get a bit tiresome. There are only so many gravelly line deliveries and guttural rumblings you can tolerate before you just want to offer Delaney a lozenge and tell him to speak up a bit.

Whilst Hardy's performance may not be for everyone, at least it's consistent. The version of 19th Century London he inhabits is far less so, veering from unsettling horror to broad parody, sometimes within the same episode. Mark Gatiss' prosthetics-heavy caricature of the Prince Regent typifies the flaws of the latter, feeling like a rejected character from The League Of Gentlemen who's wandered into the series uninvited. The script too lacks consistency, clearly aiming for gritty period drama but too often sounding like it was written by a thirteen-year-old boy who's just discovered a whole set of swearwords he can't wait to use. This is Pulp Dickens, taking in everything that's good and bad about such an idea, but with the elements that don't work ultimately outweighing those that do.

The plot is all over the place, taking eight episodes to tell a story that could easily have been covered in four and still have had room for a couple of the relatively more successful deviations. Instead we have a garbled mish-mash of politics, murder, gunpowder and witchcraft which, by the final episode, have largely all been eschewed for brainless action sequences anyway. The secondary storylines offer little consolation: a subplot involving James' half-sister Zilpha Geary (Oona Chaplin) and her increasingly unpleasant husband Thorne (Jefferson Hall) is initially one of the most intriguing threads Taboo has to offer, only to transform into one of the most frustrating once it reaches its limp and unsatisfying conclusion.




By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a contributing editor at Film Intel. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. When he's not writing about films here, Ben is usually writing about films - mostly Shakespeare adaptations - for his MA by Research. He's also on and Twitter.

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