Taboo Season 1 Episode 2 Review

I wrote last week that the new FX drama, Taboo, was slow and drawn-out in its premier. I had no idea how the season would unfold because the writers essentially left us in the dark (just like much of the show’s scenes). The characters, their relationships, and motivations were as much a mystery as the premise of the show so I found myself twiddling my thumbs through much of the first episode.

Unfortunately, not much changed in the second episode. At times, I found myself bored with what was on screen and other times just confused by what was going on. Episode two didn’t really build off the mystery created in the premier, but instead just added to it. We were introduced to more characters (many of whom see unnecessary and distracting), more mystery, and more close-ups of Tom Hardy’s face.

Much of this week revolved around James and his quest to strengthen his claim to the plot of American land inherited from his late father. He dug up his stash of secret diamonds and used some of them to purchase a ship to reestablish his father’s old trading company. Of course, that didn’t sit well with heads of the East India Company, including Stuart Strange because of their disdain towards competition and their interest in Delaney’s plot of land. Because of this, they sent an assassin after James and of course, the episode ends on a cliffhanger that sees James bleeding out on a London street after offing his assailant. Oh, let’s talk about this scene for a second, shall we? What was with the upbeat, happy, classical music? It didn’t exactly fit with the dark and gloomy theme of either the scene or the show in general. The scene felt more like a show choir than a pivotal moment of the episode, but I digress.

Perhaps my biggest problem with the show so far, though, is its lack of identity. Does it want to be a Sherlock-Holmes-style mystery? A House of Cards-esque political drama? A Game of Thrones-ish fantasy/period drama, or something completely unique? Because if Taboo is trying to establish its own identity, its failed through the first two episodes. To become established, Taboo needs a clear identity.

Last week I said if the story fell flat the show might still be worth watching because of how good it looks, but I was wrong. Yes, the show is elaborate, gritty, and gorgeous, but it can’t carry an uninspired and messy story forever (especially because most of the show is at night and very dark). Just because something looks good doesn’t mean it can’t be boring. However, for all my gripes with the first two episodes of Taboo, I’m still invested because I think there is a lot of potential here. It’s well made, looks good, and has had some wonderful performances from the likes of Tom Hardy and Jonathan Price. Once the narrative clears up and is established, Taboo will be a fast and intriguing drama.

Score: 7/10

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