Review: Taboo (Season 1)
February 28, 2017

I’m a sucker for lots of things, but FX’s gritty historical fiction series Taboo combines several of them.

  • the Georgian era
  • Tom Hardy
  • a good heist

Besides these three major perks of this show, it also included lots of extras that I didn’t expect but came to adore by the end of the season one finale which aired on FX on February 25, 2017. (There are plans for two more seasons but with Tom’s busy schedule, I’m not holding my breath.)

A few more things worth loving about Taboo:

  • The Costumes — Usually Georgian era dramas focus on the wealthy gentry with frills for days. Not so in this series which focuses on lower class rascals and prostitutes. The costume designers and prop makers on this series must have had a blast deciding on the tiny details featured everywhere. My favorite was the tiny silver strand of spiderweb that sometimes showed up on Tom Hardy’s top hat. Tiny details like that made this show feel dirty and more real than most old-timey movies and shows.
  • Tom Hollander — He played my favorite character, a scientist, chemist and explosives expert.
  • Jonathan Pryce telling someone to “f— off” at least once an episode — Is this guy in every damn costume drama ever? Yeesh. He plays a higher up of the East India Company that’s trying to take over a small island Delaney (Hardy) inherited from his late father.
  • Lorna Bow — She is the only woman in this show meant to be adored I think. Played beautifully by Jessie Buckley, this character is a badass but in a way that felt honest to the period. I really liked her.
  • The inclusion of a queer person among the main cast — Thank you! (I also learned the word “molly house” from an episode. Neat!) Not only was this character important to the plot but he was also accepted among Delaney’s merry band of miscreants. I don’t think his cross-dressing is ever questioned once. It was refreshing, especially for a costume drama.
  • Mark Gatiss in a fat suit — I’m convinced Mark Gatiss just enjoyed being enormous in Sherlock so took on the TOTALLY DISGUSTING role of the Prince Regent so he could be gross again. Uuuuugggghhhh.
  • Visually stunning — A very well constructed look and feel to the show. Lots of moody shots of dust swirling in front of a window, that sort of thing. Really helped to set the mood of the whole production.
  • Tom Hardy grunting — OK, it was a lot of grunting. Just check out the video below to see what I’m talking about.

With that being said, it’s not a perfect show by any means. Tom Hardy passing as the son of a biracial union is… questionable, but okay.

I also could have done without the weird “love story.” I’m still not sure it even served a purpose to the whole of the show. Maybe it was an afterthought? (Even if the love story did impact the plotline of the show, I didn’t care for the character Zilpha in the least. No, thank you.

In any case, I do look forward to the next season because, moreso than anything else, Tom Hardy’s portrayal of, well, just about anyone or anything is hard to look away from, even with the grunts.

Jillianne Hamilton is a history enthusiast and the author of The Spirited Mrs. Pringle (historical fiction), The Hobby Shop on Barnaby Street (historical romance), and The Lazy Historian’s Guide to the Wives of Henry VIII (non-fiction). Jill launched The Lazy Historian in 2015. She lives in Charlottetown on Canada’s beautiful east coast. Learn more.

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Hi, I'm Jillianne.

I'm a historical fiction writer, a lover of history, and a hoarder of books. I'm the author of The Spirited Mrs. Pringle, The Hobby Shop on Barnaby Street, and The Lazy Historian's Guide to the Wives of Henry VIII.

The Lazy Historian is a history blog featuring stories from the past with sass. With a focus on Western European and women's history, I delve into anything fascinating. Learn more.