Taboo Season 1 Episode 4 Review: League of the Damned

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The gauntlet has been thrown down: will Delaney accept? What the hell do you think? 

In the action packed Taboo Season 1 Episode 4, the big challenge of a duel from that uber dick Thorne was the crescendo, but we'll have to wait a week to see if Delaney takes the bait.

Delaney Is Suspicious - Taboo Season 1 Episode 4

I challenge James Delaney to a duel. At dawn. To the death. Do you accept? DO YOU ACCEPT?

Thorne

I expect he will, and we will have a magnificently shot duel scene at dawn, in a fog shrouded field, in beautiful slow motion. But this isn't a lock by any means.

Given how the Americans have kindly offered to waste Thorne, Delaney might just take them up on it.

Just think about that for a minute. If the Americans do the deed, his hands are clean, and he might actually get Zilpha. 

He clearly wants her, but the jury is out as to whether she wants HIM. They have a sick dynamic, and this episode finally showed us how sick.

The hoodoo, astral projection, incubus ritual was, let's face it, a rape. Now we know for sure that we have a genuine supernatural element in the show.

Coop: My wife is a strange fish. I talk to her about my work when we sit up in bed at night. Her belief is that James Delaney is in league with Satan.
Lorna: I believe that to be true too.

How creepy was it that she was reciting the Lord's Prayer during the assault? Creepy as f*ck,that's what.

Delaney: You feel me, don't you, when I break in?
Zilpha: No.
Delaney: Yes, you do. You feel me. And I could come more often, but I spare you.
Zilpha: Then spare me. I went to a doctor. He took me to a priest who'd been to a mission in Africa.
Delaney: Yes. What did he say?
Zilpha: He said they exist as animals. He couldn't even look at me after I told him.
Delaney: After I left England, I thought I was mad. But they taught me to use it: now it's a gift.
Zilpha: It's the devil.

And Thorne basically raping her right after was just too much. Poor Zilpha. 

Zilpha and Lorna Have a Moment - Taboo Season 1 Episode 4

That got me thinking about Zilpha and Lorna both being metaphors for Nootka Sound. Zilpha, like Nootka Sound, is highly sought after and is being claimed by two parties.

Both want her as a means to an end: Thorne, for money, Delaney, for his supposed love for her. She has little or no say in the matter, since subjugating women back then was pretty much the norm.

And did you notice when Delaney and Zilpha were talking outside at the party, there was a huge cauldron of fire burning between them? Not just coincidence, folks. 

Lorna: Judging by the horror on the faces of the ladies, you are known.
Delaney: Yes, and judging by the shame on the faces of the men, so are you.

Lorna is being used as well. Her claim to Nootka means that she is being used as a chip by Delaney, The Crown, East India, The Americans, hell, everybody.

Lorna: If your intervention had been 10 minutes later, I'd have been raped. But the consequence to you was worth the risk to me, yes?
Delaney: You see me as I am. All those that I gather are damned, it's just a company policy of mine.
Lorna: Is that why you let it happen? To teach me a lesson?
Delaney: No, that was to teach the King a lesson: and the Company. But if you are absolutely resolute in staying, then I may agree to incorporate you into the organization.
Lorna: Oh, I see. I passed the test.
Delaney: No.
Lorna: And join the League of the Damned?
Delaney: A group of people who are drawn together to do exactly as I say.
Lorna: We are the ships: you are the river.

It's no wonder that you have women like Helga and Countess Musgrove who do whatever they can to look out for number 1.

Brace Is Depressed - Taboo Season 1 Episode 4

We get further proof here that Delaney is on a scorched earth mission to take down East India and anyone or anything else that gets in his way.

Almost every interaction with anyone in this episode rams home the sad fact that they are all just cogs in the wheel of his vengeance.

We're all just part of the plan, aren't we sir?

Brace [to Delaney]

Godfrey: They talked about gunpowder. And it was said that if Delaney Trading wanted to trade with the Indians at Nootka the only merchandise you could possibly use would be gunpowder. Wilton pointed out that in wartime production of gunpowder was controlled by The Crown. You will not be granted a license to purchase: your name is already on a blacklist. You will not get a single grain in all of England. So now, is the game up? When they speak of you there is such hatred now. Before they laughed.
Delaney: They stopped laughing-that's good. That's a good thing, Godfrey.
Godfrey: James, for God's sake. The art of war: your motive, your strategy, your outcome. They can't kill you, but they will crucify your name: will crucify all those around you.
Delaney: But I don't keep anyone around me that doesn't deserve what they get.
Godfrey: Does that include me?
Delaney: Yes, that includes you. Only half a man.

And anyone who thinks Delaney has feelings for anyone but Zilpha will be sadly mistaken. That's what makes Musgrove's veiled threat to Delaney about Zilpha so interesting. That is the wrong button to push, girlfriend.

They seamlessly keep introducing more new characters, and I already love the chemist Cholmondeley (where do they come up with these names? His nickname should be "vegetable soup."). 

Delaney: I have a use for you.
Cholmondeley: You know, semen not ejaculated at the point of passion, turns to poison and narrows the mind. Actually, you become an ape.
Delaney: So, ejaculate. Then we can talk business.
Cholmondeley: Is that gold?
Delaney: Has the semen yet turned to poison? I believe you invented a chemical process for verification.
Cholmondeley: Yeah. So what is it exactly that you would use me for?

He is a rogue of the first order, and his scenes are hilarious. Love this guy.

Cholmondeley: Show me this cow shit. Pigeon shit? Yeah, better. Now wood.
Delaney: Some birch, but it's mostly hazel.
Cholmondeley: Oak's better. What about piss?
Delaney: I'm sorry?
Cholmondeley: Human urine is by far the best for leeching the ash. Especially with traces of alcohol. How many humans live here?
Delaney: Three. I sent them away. Ask me no more questions and speak to me only of chemistry.
Cholmondeley: If you mix the pigeon shit and the cow shit at a ratio of around 60/40 in favor of the pigeon, and if you burned this stack of wood today, you could soak the ashes with 50 gallons of human piss and leave for a minimum of a year, and then, my friend. you would have gunpowder.
Delaney: I don't have a year.
Cholmondeley: Well, I have a theory that the introduction of several barrels of saltpeter that have already been refined at the start of the process can cut the leeching stage down to 4 weeks.
Delaney: Theory?
Cholmondeley: Yes, but my theories are always right.
Delaney: As far as I know, there is only one place one can find refined saltpeter.
Cholmondeley: Two: the bat caves of Burma, where the batshit refines itself, or the warehouse at the East India company.
Delaney: You are hired. As to the saltpeter I will get it for you.

When he was eating the various forms of crap, was I the only one who threw up in my mouth a little? I'm guessing not.

Even though he was only in one scene, Jonathan Pryce killed it, as usual.

Strange: We had a fucking agreement! Common cause. Fucking snakes! Who tipped you off?
Lackey: Anonymous note.
Strange: Delaney! He's turning London into his own private bear pit. And what are we? The bear? Or the dogs? Shit! And that fat pig-Prince Prinny, plays the fool so he can better play the game. I'll pop him. I swear to God I'll burst him like a pig's bladder! Get a message to Coop; tell him we withdraw our negotiators from the India talks.

There are much more comedic breaks here than in the first couple of episodes. Anything to lessen the grimness of the overall story is welcome in my book.

The saltpeter heist reminded me of a Breaking Bad episode, with split second timing and how Delaney's crew was making with the science: brilliant. 

Atticus Gets Ready - Taboo Season 1 Episode 4

I love the character of Atticus, but damn, it's almost IMPOSSIBLE to understand what he's saying, right?

Since there are starting to be some recurring elements in the show, I thought I'd give you a rundown of the most popular (to me, anyway). Possible drinking game fodder to be sure. In this episode we had:

Taboo-ty

  • Grunts: 29 – Delaney (20), Giant Assassin (5), Delaney's Horse (4)
  • Swear Jar: 20 – F*ck (10), Sh*t (7), P*ss (3)
  • Men Without Pants: 4 – Delaney (Twice), Chemist (1), East India Lackey (1)
  • Sex Scenes: 3 – Delaney (Once. Sorta), Chemist (1), East India Lackey (1)
  • Killings: 4 – Giant Assassin and 3 East India guards
  • Cane taps by Stuart Strange: 16 (and counting)

One other random thingy. That fight scene between Delaney and the Giant was brutal as hell! You don't often see someone get dragged around by bale hooks, do ya? 

I'm kinda torn about some of the violence as being gratuitous, but since they've established this as a filthy, grim, and hellish world, I guess the violence is par for the course. 

Delaney takes a licking and keeps on ticking. I wouldn't be surprised if he is in fact not human. He could be a demon, a specter, hell, there are some theories out there that he's some sort of werewolf or wendigo, 

There are screen grabs from promotional elements that show him with fangs. Is it possible? On this show, anything is.

You are in every way an unopened box. Just when I think it's empty I hear a tiger roaring inside it.

Lorna [to Delaney]

Oh, and one more thing I found to be very funny. When Delaney was looking at the whore using the chamber pot, Helga asked him if he liked that, meaning the girl.

But I think when Delaney said he could think of a use for that, he meant the pee for his gunpowder scheme. 

And if you're looking for Delaney's Kryptonite, just send him to a fancy party. That's the most lost and uncomfortable I've ever seen him.

Who knew that Delaney was a horse whisperer? More like a horse grunter, actually. 

Another great episode. Love where this is going, and I can't wait to see how they weave all the disparate elements in by season's end.

And PLEASE kill Thorne next week – pretty please?

That's my take. Tell me what you think – have any far out theories? Here's your chance.

And remember, you can watch Taboo online anytime, right here on TV Fanatic.

League of the Damned Review

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Rating: 4.9 / 5.0 (39 Votes)

Ron Gilmer is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and read his personal blog at Idiotbox Watcher.

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Taboo Season 1 Episode 4 Quotes

Delaney: You feel me, don't you, when I break in?
Zilpha: No.
Delaney: Yes, you do. You feel me. And I could come more often, but I spare you.
Zilpha: Then spare me. I went to a doctor. He took me to a priest who'd been to a mission in Africa.
Delaney: Yes. What did he say?
Zilpha: He said they exist as animals. He couldn't even look at me after I told him.
Delaney: After I left England, I thought I was mad. But they taught me to use it: now it's a gift.
Zilpha: It's the devil.

Strange: We had a fucking agreement! Common cause. Fucking snakes! Who tipped you off?
Lackey: Anonymous note.
Strange: Delaney! He's turning London into his own private bear pit. And what are we? The bear? Or the dogs? Shit! And that fat pig-Prince Prinny, plays the fool so he can better play the game. I'll pop him. I swear to God I'll burst him like a pig's bladder! Get a message to Coop; tell him we withdraw our negotiators from the India talks.