I’ve got no use for you…

Please note the review below may contain minor spoilers - I've done my best to keep them to a minimum.

After working together on hit show Peaky Blinders and small film Locke, Tom Hardy - along with his dad Chips - team up with veteran writer Steven Knight, for their latest television creation - Taboo. So, with the entire series now in the can is it worth a watch?

The year is 1814, a war between the British and America rages across the ocean in the name of freedom, and on a foggy London morning in England the prodigal son returns, though not to the warmest of welcomes.

James Delaney (Tom Hardy) is a man many presumed dead and most wished had stayed that way, with a swirl of rumours from incestuous relations with his half-sister Zilpha (Oona Chaplin) to occult cannibalistic practices whilst in Africa tarnishing his name - most if not all, are true.

But James Delaney didn’t return to London to merely scare the local populace with his devilishly top-hatted visage, no, his arrival coincides with the death of his now late father and the inheritance he left behind - a birthright that could very well shape the future of the world.

The prize in question is a piece of land in the Americas, acquired from the one-time Indian populace for a paltry sum, and now a prized possession for all sides. With England, America and the East India Company all seeking the deed at any cost, the game is afoot.

Over the past several years television has slowly transformed, taking over its brethren media and becoming the defacto method of portraying a story on screen - especially as it moves away from a serialised ‘monster of the week’ format. Taboo is the perfect personification of that movement, a roughly 5 to 6 hour movie cut into digestible sections that remains quality viewing throughout. A difficult thing to pull off mind you, when there’s two directors involved (Anders Engström and Kristoffer Nyholm) each covering their slate of the full 8 episodes, yet still managing to keep everything visually consistent to remain a single cohesive piece of work whilst making use of some fantastic production design.

Thankfully the writing of Steven Knight also helps in that cohesion department, crafting a unique tone within Taboo that remains a through line until its conclusion, even if it does start to edge into contrived territory whilst attempting to tie up its loose ends (from around episode 6 onwards) and teases you with pseudo supernatural elements that really don’t pan out at any point, feeling injected into an already highly intriguing tale for mere visual fluff.

But what they do bolster is adding another mysterious trait to the character of James Keziah Delaney, a man whom Tom Hardy portrays with all the grunting and side-glancing he can muster. From his portrayal of Bronson in well, Bronson, to Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, Tom Hardy is truly coming into his own as a staple character actor, and his personal Mr Hyde in Taboo is no different; portraying a clearly troubled yet mysterious figure who emerges from the darkness seemingly knowing all, yet whose motives you constantly question.

Taboo - Season 1 (Tom Hardy, Jonathan Pryce, Jessie Buckley, Stephen Graham, David Hayman and Oona Chaplin)

In fact, as Taboo reaches its eventual conclusion you may even come to realise that James Delaney is indeed the monster many perceive him to be, but like all monsters has a heart buried deep within. It’s a feat then that you’re still rooting for him through thick and thin, and that’s helped by some great supporting performances from - another bad fellow - Atticus (Stephen Graham) who helps James tackle the infamous East India Company which is led by the fantastic Sir Stewart Strange played by Jonathan Pryce, who coming off Game of Thrones manages to once again get under your skin.

Right about now I’d be continuing my laudation of Taboo, diving into the special features of this must-watch show. Sadly, that is Taboo’s biggest crime, managing to mould a brilliant show yet not giving its home release the care and attention it deserves, by including zero, yes you read that right, zero special features.

I asked myself why isn’t there anything? From a writer, actor or director’s commentary, for well, anything. Or even a deleted scene or two. Nope, nothing, zilch. Maybe Tom was too busy stealing sugar cubes for that Sky advert, or going fullsteam ahead and donning a cape with his moonlighting as a crimestopper. Expecting - in a world of instant digital gratification - a person to pay a premium price for a blu-ray box set that offers no tangible advantages over a streaming service, you could say such a thing would be heresy, in fact such a thing should be taboo. But I digress, as this is the hand we have been dealt.

Taboo continues the fantastic trend of recent quality television offerings, with a story that will have you hanging off its multiple conclusion as each of those 8 episode credits roll, episodes that could very well be tied together to create an extremely long movie, with a now stalwart Tom Hardy character performance at its very center.

And with the visage of second series already upon watery horizon you should definitely jump aboard Taboo, but you might want to catch it on-demand as unfortunately the home entertainment release offers nothing in the way of special features - a crying shame.

A Blu-ray review copy of Taboo was provided by the distributor for review purposes.

  • Review by
    David Robinson

    Twitter: @5ypher

    Posted on
    29th May 2017

  • 3 Out of 5 Stars
  • No special features

    Gets a little contrived nearing end

  • Intriguing story

    Great performances

    Feels like an extra long movie

Film Info

Taboo - Season 1 Taboo (Season 1)
Rating: 18
Medium: DVD/Blu-ray
Episode/s: 8
Creator/s: Steven Knight, Tom Hardy & Chips Hardy
Starring: Tom Hardy, Jonathan Pryce, Jessie Buckley, Stephen Graham, David Hayman & Oona Chaplin

  • Peaky Blinders
  • Ripper Street

No, the show contains sex, nudity and many scenes of violence and murder.

The first season reportedly cost £10 million to produce.

Writer and director of Locke (Steven Knight) apparently agreed to write Taboo if Tom Hardy would star in his small film.

A second season has been confirmed to be in the works by writer Steven Knight.