The highly anticipated FX show, “Taboo,” has hit its midpoint with four episodes under its belt. Tom Hardy stars in the gloomy period drama, portraying the enigmatic James Delaney. Long believed to be dead, Delaney returns to his London home in 1814 to inherit his family’s shipping empire after his father’s mysterious death. After the groundwork is set, viewers follow Delaney as he deals with the struggles of taking on his father’s company and his own personal demons.
“Taboo” belongs to Hardy — his face is plastered on every bit of marketing FX has released — and rightly so. Hardy’s often maligned mumbling and grunting fits perfectly here as the hulking Delaney. Donned with a top hat and tattered garbs, Hardy dominates his scenes and leaves viewers wanting more every time he leaves the frame.
The acting is solid across the board, from younger talents like “Game of Thrones” actress Oona Chaplin, who plays Delaney’s sister, or veteran actors like Jonathan Pryce (“Game of Thrones,” “Tomorrow Never Dies,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”). The actors sell viewers on the fact that this world exists — no one feels out of place.
What really grounds viewers in the setting of the show is the technical side of the production. The grimy, bleak cinematography draws viewers into the seedy world of “Taboo.” Viewers can nearly feel the textures of the world through the screen — the bumpy brick roads, the rain-soaked dirt, the old candle-lit corridors. This bleak aesthetic mixed with excellent production design completely envelops viewers with the show’s atmospheric, moody style.
“Taboo” takes its time with its narrative, slowly inching further and further in its timeline. While at times certain scenes can feel slow, well-placed story turns and character reveals keep viewers’ attention through the course of its four-episode run thus far.
But this doesn’t exclude the fact that the narrative is sometimes confusing. There isn’t too much of a lull in the pilot where you can sit back and figure out everything that’s going on, as is true with some other shows.
“Taboo” starts off fast, leaving the viewer picking up the scraps of story the writers left behind for them. This is where the slow-burn pace of the show proves helpful, because once viewers get themselves settled in the show’s atmosphere it’s easier to grasp what’s happening when the writers give their audience the time they need.
Similar to the acclaimed “Peaky Blinders,” “Taboo” is best appreciated with subtitles. The thick, period-accurate accents and dialect of Hardy and company is occasionally tough to cut through. It’s quite easy to miss important plot points simply by misunderstanding the dialogue.
Aside from this small inconvenience for some, “Taboo” should be on the radar for anyone looking for a dark drama to catch on live TV every week. While not a mind-blowingly impressive four-episode run so far, the show has laid a solid foundation for itself. Above all else, “Taboo” has shown potential to be another great show in this modern golden age of television. It has left room for growth, and fans of great acting, stark, atmospheric cinematography and dark subject matter should be on the lookout for FX’s newest drama. New episodes of “Taboo” premiere every Tuesday at 10 p.m. on FX.