It was one of the more distinctive shows of 2017; a grimy gothic drama awash in both portentousness and the muddy slurry of the Thames, and now Tom Hardy and Steven Knight’s Taboo is back for a second series. The prodigal return of Hardy’s James Keziah Delaney to Regency London was the focus for this rip-roaring Dickens via Scorsese vehicle for everyone’s favourite mumbling thesp.
Occasionally maddening, often overblown and always criss-crossed with a sense of its own ridiculousness, season one was a spectacularly twisty, baroque puzzle that played with the ideas of personal agency, business interests against state loyalty, and an attitude to familial relations that would make a Lannister blush. A full recap would take far too long, but after eight episodes of red herrings, double-bluffs, betrayals and death, Delaney and his motley crew were high-tailing it out of London en-route to the Americas; having apparently nullified the malicious East India Company.
What can we expect for the upcoming season? The ostensible destination for Delaney is Nootka Sound, a small settlement that proved the main bone of contention between the various parties in the first season. However, Knight has stated that there is a very definite three series arc – escape, journey and destination, which would mean we shouldn’t expect Delaney to reach the Americas until season three. Instead, in a final bait-and-switch, the ship appears to be heading in the direction of Ponta Delgada in the Azores, which would mean we can perhaps expect much of season two to take place in a more confined setting, on board the ship and on a small archipelago.
This squeezing of space should mean more character developments for the survivors of the bloody climax of season one. Delaney is more-or-less unscathed, although brooding mightily over the death of half-sister/ lover Zilpha, who hurled herself decorously into the frothing Thames. Tom Hollander’s priapic, shit-eating chemist Cholmondeley was literally hoisted by his own petard as he got too close to the vicinity of one of his own explosives, and was hauled blistered and delirious onto the ship. It can only be hoped that he survives as he’s a truly vivid character, played with relish by the versatile Hollander. Besides, there had been the beginnings of an interesting dynamic with Lorna Bow (Jessie Buckley).
Speaking of Lorna, the feisty actress and widow of Delaney’s father sustained some damage herself from the Prince Regent’s dockside lobsterbacks, but it appears to be a minor injury that shouldn’t put the character in any real danger. Hopefully, we will also see more of Scroobius Pip as French Bill, the taciturn henchman of Stephen Graham’s tattooed gangster Atticus. Having played a very minor part in the first season, circumstances should mean more screen time; a welcome development given the rapper and podcaster’s genuine charisma.
Beyond the immediate situation, any speculation of the events of season two can be only that. All we know is that Delaney plans to meet with an agent named Colonnade. It’s likely that Mark Gatiss’ grotesque Prince Regent won’t take took kindly to Delaney’s escape and send the navy out on their tale. It’s likely that Delaney’s past on a slave ship will emerge again, and we may learn more about where he learned some of his apparently supernatural abilities, such as communing with the dead. I think we can also safely assume we’ll be in for much more of Tom Hardy’s formidable grunting skills. Here’s hoping it also retains the heightened, ridiculous tone that permeated all of season one.