Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Catch Up TV... Missed the TV Moment Everyone's Talking about? Alastair McKay Tries to Look beyond the Blood and Guts of Taboo and Find a Plot One Can Take Seriously

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Catch Up TV... Missed the TV Moment Everyone's Talking about? Alastair McKay Tries to Look beyond the Blood and Guts of Taboo and Find a Plot One Can Take Seriously

Article excerpt

Byline: Alastair McKay

IT'S obvious by now that Taboo (BBC iPlayer) the widescreen, paranormal, devil-worshipping, incestuous costume drama about mad power and corrupt elites is a kind of triumph. But what kind, exactly? You could say; you might say; you probably shouldn't bother saying; that the story is a parable about current events, because, really, that's true of all drama from Dixon of Dock Green to Danger Mouse, and it isn't particularly helpful.

And though Taboo's mad logic invites an appreciation of paranormal reasoning, and an old-school understanding that the devil's works might have been franchised out to mere mortals who undertake them with a zeal which Mephistopheles himself would struggle to match, it's slightly insulting to the creative imagination of Taboo's creators to suggest that their efforts add up to nothing more than a sensational morality tale about these peculiarly unpredictable times.

It is, though, a triumph of elaboration. The plot of Taboo, the blunt point, is hung on a yarn about free trade. Our hero, the shape-shifting scarred cowboy James Delaney (Tom Hardy), has returned from one of the colonies, or Hell (delete as applicable) to take up his share options in a trading route between the Americas and China.

The English establishment, the East India Trading Company, aka the Mafia, aka Jonathan Pryce, want to stop him, and will use torture, the law, and loud Shakespearian voices to do it. The Americans, who are represented by murderous Doug from House of Cards, are the same, though they tend to disguise their violent proclivities by talking in a quiet murmur, accompanied by the thin smile of a retired gameshow host.

But who cares about access to all the tea in China? Nobody. Not the actors, not the viewers, and certainly not the writers or directors, because Taboo isn't really about that. …

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