Critical Condition: Taboo

Taboo (SoHo, 8.30 Tuesdays)


“The parable of the prodigal son takes on a whole new and darker meaning in the unsettling miniseries Taboo. This time the prodigal returns to a dead father and may wind up that way himself if he isn’t careful. Tom Hardy plays James Keziah Delaney, who returns to England in 1814 after a decade in Africa getting up to all sorts of strange and possibly nefarious things we can only guess at as the eight-episode series begins. Long thought dead, he has returned to claim his inheritance after the death of his father, who owned a shipping business … At heart, Taboo is a melodrama, but a melodrama with superior attention to character detail and finely nuanced performances. It is filled with darkness, danger and mystery, and has a level of quality and import not often seen in television miniseries.” — San Francisco Chronicle.

“Tom Hardy, an actor best known for playing thugs with indeterminate accents (see The Revenant), and his father, ‘Chips’, have devised this juicy eight-parter and recruited Steven Knight, the brains behind Brummie gangster pop video Peaky Blinders, to write it. The result is a curious thing, a swaggering macho brute of a series, laughable in parts yet also commendably ambitious … Taboo’s strength is that, despite borrowing from westerns, gangster flicks and even Dickens, it still manages to feel utterly original.” — The Telegraph.

“The pace is slow and the payoff, which has barely been hinted at, could be minimal, leaving me to question whether the show is worth investing further Saturday nights into. Hopefully, as things pick up, Taboo will reveal a solid storyline to anchor down these so-far loosely fitting plot-lines. For now, though, without offering any real sense of adventure, I can’t help thinking there are more worthwhile shows to be watching.” — The Independent.

“Ponderous and heavy-handed, this new period drama wastes its talented actors on chiaroscuro and angst … Taboo has far too much going on for its relatively thin material … It is so outsize and over-the-top with elements of its storytelling that it might work better to think of Taboo as camp; but if so, it is very expensive, self-serious, and unfunny camp indeed.” — Variety.

“The series is slow, dark (visually as well as tonally) and unrelentingly humourless. Any of those three qualities on its own would be fine, but put together in service of what’s ultimately a trashy, if pretentious, revenge story, it’s an utter slog, and the biggest creative misstep FX has made in a while … There’s raw material here for an unabashedly campy potboiler, but Taboo and its star both take themselves far too seriously for the story, and for the pace at which it’s being told.” — UPROXX.

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