My fellow AwardsDaily TV critic Joey Moser took one look at FX’s new supernatural drama Taboo and said, “I feel like I’m not going to like Taboo because I’m going to want everyone to shave.” There’s certainly something to that. The pilot, directed by Kristoffer Nyholm (The Enfield Haunting) and written by Steven Knight (Eastern Promises), certainly wallows in period grime and decay. It’s the kind of series where unkempt men in dark cloaks and tall hats stomp about with threatening import. Star Tom Hardy seems to be working on his FitBit steps during the pilot. Violently stomping around appears all he intends to do.
But his James Delaney is a man on a mission. Once presumed dead, Delaney returns from Africa to attend the funeral and subsequent estate matters of his father. He inherits a plot of American land which is critical in the war between American and Great Britain. Sir Stuart Strange (Johnathan Pryce, Game of Thrones) represents the East India Company. He intends to purchase the land and perhaps had a hand in Delaney’s father’s death. On a side note, Delaney seems to have some supernatural dealings of his own and perhaps returned from or cheated death.
Taboo looks fantastic and expensive. It adopts the look and feel of all Very Important Series in the pervasive Golden Age of Television. Having only seen the pilot, however, I can’t swear to you that there’s anything of substance within the series. I do like the combination of historic drama with the threat of the supernatural, and I was also intrigued when Delaney professed love to his half-sister Zilpha (Oona Chaplin) while attending their father’s funeral. Color me corrupted by Game of Thrones I suppose. But Taboo feels like it could go either way based on just the pilot. The performances from the talented British cast deliver the material in an efficient and effective manner. The production values, as mentioned, all shine.
This nagging voice in the back of my head tells me that, in about three episodes, this may drop to the bottom of my DVR list. For now, I like what it’s giving me, and I’ll come back for seconds. Don’t blame me, though, if Taboo becomes a supernatural bore in the end.