Tuesday, 7 March 2017

"Taboo"


The first thought that sprang to mind was - bless the Romans. Judging by all the mud, dirt and filth, with rats crawling through the houses, the lack of heating less it be by a coal fire that British folks endured from the occupation until late Victorian times, was the civilised manner in which the Romas lived with their underfloor heating, their baths and the rest they introduced over here. The fact it took the British so long, nearly two thousand years or so, is mind boggling. 

The second thought was how easily this TV series could have been scripted by Frank Miller. The show had that Miller darkness shrouding it. And to be honest, there were times when belief had to be surrendered as James Delany, the anti-hero of the series endures physical pain beyond the capacity of ordinary people. He appears to be a form of 'Dark Knight' in the time of the Prince Regent. Not that he haunts high rise cornices or delivers justice onto those ner-do-wells skulking in sordid back alleys but his vengeance is both brutal and horrific. He disembowels a couple of foes with a glee that casts him as some sort of psychopath.

Returning from Africa where he had learned the dark arts of that dark continent, Delany returns to his family home following his father's death. Not only has he come to claim his inheritance but also to challenge the almost omnipotent power of The East India Trading Company along with that of the monarchy. Not that the two have any more love for each other than Delany has for them but each of the two parties has a lust for that which Delany has inherited - Nootka Sound. It is an inlet that separates Vancouver Island from Nootka Island which links trade with China. In itself, the island seems worthless but Tea trade is worth more than gold hence both monarchy and East India's interest in it.

Tom Hardy's performance was perfection. You cannot really say you like the character he portrays, he is, after all, a bit of a cutthroat, but the odd idiosyncracies Hardy gives Delany makes for compulsive viewing. The rest of the cast (you need a great cast to make a great show no matter how good the central protagonist is acted) feed the show's fire with glowing performances with definitive characterisations. Brace, the family manservant who cooks, I would say cleans but there is little evidence of such an activity, and maintains the general running of the house, is a bracing performance by Scott actor, David Hayman. Brace is acerbic but loyal, truthful to the point of being rude.

Other actors who impressed were Tom Hollander as chemist and scientist, Dr George Cholmondeley but also Jessie Buckley, the widower of James Delany's father Horace and of course the impeccable Jonathan Pryce as the nasty Sir Stuart Strange with a truly explosive performance.

It is dark, it is grim and in that dark, dreary world where children's lives are given less concern than that of street cats, comes this rough, ruthless man whose soul seems somehow connected to another sphere, a sphere where ash and soot give rise to strange magics. Delany has more to him than meets the eye.

If the show portrayed East India in a negative light, well so what. The East India Company were hardly a business based on high moral ethics. And if the makeup used to create the gluttonous Prince Regent, as acted by Mark Gatiss, was a little too plastic for it to be real, then what of it? The show was hugely entertaining, undoubtedly pulling in a great many men who enjoy the blood and guts that gritty drama so often presents, but supplying a dynamic plot with sufficient sub-plots of interest to be an intoxicating mix of drama. 

I enjoyed all eight episodes and found myself looking forward each week to the next instalment. Now if that isn't the best recommendation for a TV show then I don't know what is.

Can't wait for series two.

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Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

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