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Taboo - Episode 5 - Review

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After last week's faster, more eventful hour, this week's episode saw Taboo slow down slightly as it moved into the back half of its eight episode first season. But when I say "slow down", I say it relative to this show's standards, as the latest episode did feature a duel, an exorcism, and Tom Hardy chopping off a man's thumb. I suppose it's to the show's credit that it can do each one of those things in an episode and make them seem like a completely natural progression of the story.

After the episode opened with the rather anticlimactic resolution to last week's cliffhanger, Thorne at least made up for his survival of the duel by continuing his journey of becoming one of TV's most likable and endearing characters. I mean, who can't love a guy who viciously beats his wife and then has an exorcism performed on her? But while Thorne's near-cartoonish villainy is becoming a little much, I did enjoy the mood set by the scenes with him and Zilpha in this episode. Separated from the rest of the show's narrative, this subplot developed a much darker tone, brushing up against outright horror at some points.

On the James side of things, this episode didn't give us a ton of plot development, though we did get confirmation that the boy on the farm is in fact his (and presumably Zilpha's) child. James also had to contend with leaks within his newfound organisation, leading not only to the aforementioned de-thumbing, but also the Americans using him for his gunpowder, thereby further limiting Cholmondeley's time-frame to make said gunpowder.

Lorna and her dynamic with James is continuing to grow on me, as their banter was once again on display this week. But my favourite moments in this episode came in the more political scenes, as last week's robbery have placed the East India Company and the Crown even further at odds, leading to Coop and Strange continuing their game to outmaneuver one another. In these scenes the show paints a particularly grim and cynical view of politics and capitalism, as seen in the introduction of George Chichester, a black solicitor fighting for justice for the sinking of a slave ship (likely the one James was on). Ignored for nine years, Coop and the Crown only now recognize this injustice when it is to their advantage in their escalating cold war with the Company.

After last week's more serious tone, the episode seemed to return the show to the self-aware dark and outlandish tone it established in its first few weeks, with scenes and dialogue so absurd that it's impossible not to laugh at them. From Tom Hardy wagging a man's severed thumb at other men to practically everything that came out of Tom Hollander's mouth, the show's penchant for macabre humour was on full display in this episode, which was welcome.

Grade: B

Best(?) Line: "Not only is she among the large group of women I’d sleep with, she’s also among the much smaller group of women I would masturbate over."

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