Taboo Season 1 Episode 4 Recap: More Fun Than A Barrel Of Pee

Photo: Courtesy of FX.
Not that anyone watching needs evidence that Taboo is well-written, but you should see just how many complete quotes I've jotted down from this episode. I'm not just tempted to repeat Tom Hardy's dialogue. Every character's words are perfectly measured for impact. That's how you elevate a show — even one that features one man spilling another's intestines onto the ground in front of a child.

"Delaney is turning London into his own private bear pit!" Strange complains. We the viewers are no less manipulated. First, he lulls us into believing the good in his nature will prevail. Look how he rescues his father's widow, Lorna Bow! Wait. Never mind. She's just one more element of his plan. He lets soldiers lock her up with Solomon Coop, who threatens her with rape and the gallows for attempted murder unless she signs over her half of Nootka Sound to the crown. All the while, he's sent an anonymous tip to the East India Company that the Prince Regent was working to get the land for himself, in violation of their agreement, prompting them to interrupt Coop's interrogation. Could Delaney have had them release her before Coop stripped her naked? Hard to tell. But he has Brace get her flowers, which should totally make up for that.

For a minute, it looks like Delaney's having a tender moment with his old pal Godfrey, who relays that the only thing he'll be able to trade for pelts at Nootka is gunpowder, and the crown controls all gunpowder sale during times of war. But Delaney doesn't have time for the doubts of nervous prostitute-secretaries, and he's rather harsh in the face of Godfrey's fear for his life.

"I don't keep anyone around me that doesn't deserve what they get," he says. He later reiterates this uncaring stance to Lorna, who seems to want some sign that her new ally actually cares about her wellbeing. "All those I gather are a damned. It's just part of a company policy of mine." They are "a group of people who are drawn together with a willingness to do exactly as I say."

There's a reason they're willing, though, and I think it has something to do with the fact that he's some kind of genius. How, for instance, did he know enough about chemistry to be able to hunt down Cholmondeley (Tom Hollander), the man who can turn cow dung, pigeon droppings, prostitute urine, ashes, and stolen salt peter into homemade gunpowder? When did he have time to plan that proto-Ocean's Eleven heist at the EIC?

While we're asking impossible questions, how does Delaney do that remote telepathic sex possession thing to Zilpha? In case I haven't mentioned this enough, I really wish she would turn out to not be his real sister, because then I could allow for the hotness of their every encounter. It could seem romantic that his possible motivation for all of this is to run away with her, as the elusive Carlsbad (a.k.a. Countess Musgrove) has surmised. We could get excited about a potential love triangle with Lorna. It's so unfair of these writers to make us feel nauseated by them instead of titillated. And it's so unfair to make us watch Delaney have to fight a duel with his brother-in-law, when he has so much else to worry about.

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