TV Review: Taboo: ‘Episode Seven’


S1, E7: ‘Episode Seven’

James has a use for you

Grade: A-




Now this was fascinating. The plots and counter-plots are beginning to converge, and just as it all seems to be building to a head, the coffin doors are kicked open.

‘I have done much worse things than…stealing diamonds.’

James watches Winter’s funeral from afar. You remember – the girl he may have killed? I commend the show for not trying to draw out the revelation of James’s involvement until some sort of pivotal moment. Nope, Helga knows and is furious with him. Lorna feebly spins out some ‘I know you, I know your heart’ guff that James – completely rightly – rebuffs.

And when George Chichester shows up at James’s door, he finds a man with a thousand-yard stare and an alarmingly forthcoming disposition about his past as a slaver and his role in the sinking of the Cornwallis. I like Chichester’s steely intelligence and principle, but I maintain that the show tends to treat slavery as little more than exotic shading to its tormented Byronic hero.

‘You got lucky with a whore, Stuart.’

Atticus warns James that Helga will go straight to the Company. For how long can she be content with calling ‘murderer!’ after James and taking shots at him? And indeed, soon enough Helga and Associate are rocking up at Leadenhall with a very interesting story for the Company.

Sir Stuart locks up the ladies ‘for their protection’ and hotfoots it to Solomon Coop to offer up Nootka Sound and the testimony that will put away James Delaney for conspiracy to manufacture and sell gunpowder to the Americans. And what does the Company want in return? Oh, only all the tea in China.

‘I have a use for you.’

James repeats this like a mantra at various points in this episode. First, there’s a sweet, strange, curiously playful interlude where he hands the keys of the house’s safe to his son. Next, James gets Godders to go on the record to George Chichester’s Royal Commission about the sinking of the Cornwallis and Sir Stuart’s role therein. Or at least to pretend to do so. Because by the time that the time for the trial comes around, James will have sailed away to the New World, with Godders at his side. Poor besotted Godfrey agrees, even though he points out that James doesn’t, you know, have a ship. He also gets Godfrey to pack up and leave the molly house, go to Atticus with Helga’s whereabouts and await instructions.

Indirectly – one assumes – he gets Chichester to get his gloat on with Sir Stuart. Ratting out poor Godders in the process, but presumably James’s exotic and musky mantle is thrown over Godders in whatever picturesquely grimy East End boltaway Atticus will secrete Godders away in.

But by far the most thrilling use of the phrase occurs in the episode’s final moments. You see, James has been arrested for treason and Coop wants the names of his conspirators. James is in an awfully giving mood and promises to sing like a canary, in exchange for a tete-a-tete with Sir Stuart. Coop tortures him instead, but James, remember, takes pain ‘like a stone’. So the clock’s a-ticking, and Cholmondeley and the Countess Musgrave are burning their correspondence and/or skipping town while James is being waterboarded and given psychotropic substances. Finally, in exasperation, Coop gives in. A wild-eyed and panicky Sir Stuart walks into James’s cell and asks what he wants. I sit up expecting an explanation for James’s vendetta – the season’s motivator, if you will. As you would expect of the penultimate episode.

And then James looks up and says ‘I have a use for you’.

And ho. Lee. Shit. Is it the 25th yet?

Historical notes

  • Lorna says ‘You OK?’ to the little Whirling Dervish boy. ‘OK’ (short for Orl Korrekt) is not attested in the English language before 1840.

Odds and sods

  • ‘No, no, I’m always like this’ says James when George Chichester offers to come back in the daytime when he’s sober. I do like the show when it’s this self-aware.
  • James breaks up with Zilpha. Possibly because he doesn’t trust himself around her anymore, unless she develops a taste for erotic asphyxiation very rapidly indeed. Possibly also because his flashes of his mother look more and more like Zilpha herself. But the way he cuts her loose is cold, yo. A jewel ‘for your widowhood’? Way harsh, Jimmy.
  • Brace is the one who poisoned James’s father. He claims it was euthanasia. As a plot or character detail I don’t much care. Brace himself interests me very little – astounding given his way with snark. But Tom Hardy’s gentle ‘Talk to me about the rats’ made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. So much menace packed into such simple words.
  • Lorna has an eyewitness who saw the Company men kill Winter. She acquires this by befriending a Doe-Eyed Urchin. Okay, Lorna.
  • I quite like James’s impassivity when watching poor Godders pack. It’s a welcome moment of levity as James murmurs soothing baritone responses to Godders’s pettish snapping.

6 thoughts on “TV Review: Taboo: ‘Episode Seven’

      1. I think I have a copy of that video on one of my more recent Tumblr posts. I think I was on the last humor related post. I first saw it on, but it is on YouTube. Just type in Tom Hardy Grunts.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. lol on the grunt counter. I need to rewatch this episode as I was only half paying attention and missed many of the major plot points you highlighted. Zilpha and James’ visions of his mother converged for me a few episodes ago; I just thought we moved from a sleeping-with-your sister situation to something more Oedipal. And I found Brace touching, but I suppose he’s not all that relevant to the overall plot.

    Liked by 1 person

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