From the moment James Keziah Delaney walked into his father's funeral at the start of Taboo, he has believed that he had everything in control. For the most part, this proved to be true. Sure, the pieces on his chess board (to co-opt Sir Stuart's metaphor) acted unpredictably in a few instances — he didn't see the stepmother twist coming, and that gunpowder order had to be rushed — but eventually, they lined up just right for him. Except for Zilpha.
Based on his surprised reaction, we can assume Zilpha didn't murder her husband on Delaney's orders. That could be why he cast her off last week, saying they were no longer the same person. This week, she makes her separation complete by freeing herself from the cage of her mortal body. The shock of this news is almost enough to derail Delaney's entire plan, which is saying something. It is not enough to take up very much of this episode, however, which is something of an injustice. I would have liked to see more of Oona Chaplin's exquisite acting as she came to this conclusion. And more of Tom Hardy showing his underbelly after reading her letter.
Alas, because there are a million steps to Delaney's getaway plan, there is no time to contemplate all the collateral damage building up along the way. If you don't pause to think about all those people dying, though, it's actually pretty fun to watch.
It all begins with Delaney's much anticipated conversation with Sir Stuart. They play a little game of "who's more callous about human life," recapping the evil that went down in Africa. I appreciate their little shout-out to "poor, sweet Godfrey," confirming that's how everyone thinks of the guy. Eventually, Strange leaves to do Delaney's bidding — release the prostitutes, procure a ship, retract his accusation of treason — and still thinks he'll emerge from this victorious.
Meanwhile, Robert speaks and runs around like a real boy, invigorated by his job of handing out letters of instruction from Delaney (who has really pretty handwriting, btw). He even gets to sing outside the Tower! To stall for time, Delaney begins bleeding profusely and somehow fakes a seizure, because of course he has ways of doing all of these things. Here's everyone else's job, in a nutshell: Pettifer retrieves the whores to be "kidnapped" by Atticus, who shoots Pettifer in the head, probably on orders to tie up loose ends, but I like to think it was revenge for Winter, too. Lorna visits Carlsbad to get a letter of safe passage from the Americans. Lorna really shines posing as a saleswoman of anti-aging potions and powders, making me also wish for a spin-off about her becoming a spy. Cholmondeley has to rig up lots of "things that go bang." And everyone has to meet back up at the docks to wait for their fearless leader/the reason they have to leave the country.
When Delaney meets with Coop, he gets one more opportunity to trot out his best "savage African" act, chanting in Twi and speaking of messages from the ravens. By now we know that, yes, he has PTSD and speaks to the dead, but most of his strangeness is an act meant to unsettle his proper English tormentors. Then, ta-da! He's free again...free to return home to that devastating letter from his sister. The scene in which Lorna sits next to him, rousing him to action again despite his loss, while a single tear trickles down his face, is one of my favorites of this entire show. Her speech works too, and he's able to channel his grief into gruesomely murdering Dr. Dumbarton. The American spy was supposed to be Sir Stuart's "ace in the hole," double-crossing his country to sell Nootka Sound back to the EIC for the price of Delaney's letter of safe passage — that leak Lorna told Carlsbad about. How did Delaney figure out his treachery? Another detail we'll probably never know. That's when Delaney gets his vision of Zilpha, confirmation that she's dead after all.
How did Delaney predict the Prince Regent would get fed up with everything and send soldiers to straight up kill him? Also no idea, but they were ready for those red coats with a ragtag army and lots of things that go bang. I lost count of how many of Atticus' men got shot or run through by bayonets in the battle. Helga's killed, too. Cholmondeley's probably mortally wounded, at last, by his own explosives, and Lorna doesn't look good after getting shot in the side.
As Team Delaney leaves London for good, we see the last of his work. Brace and his dog sit heartbroken in the home he's just been given, sort of free at last. Chichester stops by to pick up the testimonies from Godfrey and Delaney, again in such a pretty handwriting! "Justice," he says, with satisfaction. And Dumbarton does one posthumous favor for Delaney: His treaty is the wrapping paper on a bomb that, I assume, finally rid the world of its Sir Stuart Strange problem. (Not that more EIC snakes won't inevitably take his place.)
On the oh-so-subtly named Good Hope, Delaney and his wounded followers set sail at last, not for America, it seems, but for the Azores, where they're meeting up with the mysterious Colonnade. In one last bit of symbolism, they take down the Union Jack and raise the American flag. Will that be enough to protect them? If Taboo comes back for season 2, I'd say not at all.