Taboo Amps up Its Shock Value and Its Storytelling

It may have gotten off to a very slow start, but the pieces of Taboo‘s story are starting to fall into place. The first two episodes mostly fluctuated between being uncomfortable and dull, with fleeting moments of brilliance, thanks to the cast. The third episode manages to move the story along with very few dull moments, and plenty of discomforts. Taboo, by design, is not a pleasant show to watch. It’s ugly, bleak and disturbing. Those are some of its best qualities.

The show began with some kids walking along the river and coming across a dead body. The body has a few holes in it, including one in the neck and a large cavity where his heart used to be. It’s the silver-toothed man who tried to kill James Keziah Delaney at the end of the last episode. As the kids rip out the dead man’s silver tooth, we cut to Delaney, who is having the American doctor/spy stitch him up. Without anesthetic. That’s the kind of show this is.

Delaney takes the opportunity to ask about contacting President Jefferson. He doesn’t quite get there, but he does tell the doctor, and us, exactly what he wants. In exchange for Nootka Sound, he wants a monopoly on all trade coming through Nootka from China. As he puts it, he’s literally asking for all the tea in China. For his trouble, he learns that Carlsbad, the person who can put him in contact with the president is a woman. That narrows it down.

Michael Kelly as Dumbarton. (Photo: Screenshot via FX)

Delaney also takes steps to ensure the East India Company doesn’t send any more assassins after him. He draws up a will,…

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