BBC One – Saturday 14th January 2017 – 9:15pm
Created by: Tom Hardy, Edward “Chips” Hardy, Steven Knight
Written by: Stephen Knight
Directed by: Kristoffer Nyholm
LEAGUE OF THE DAMNED
“The King and Company are after your head…”
Now more adamant than ever that his inherited piece of land on the Canadian-American border is not for sale, in this sophomore instalment of the eight part BBC/FX mini-series, troubled rogue James Delaney (co-creator Tom Hardy) is a man on a mission: to recruit a team of trustworthy allies to aid him in reclaiming his poisoned father’s legacy, the Nootka Sound… and stop any number of his myriad enemies from striking him down to take it. And there was me thinking he was a superhuman one-man band?
Culminating in a squelching back alley knife fight artistically set to Beethoven’s symphony, Taboo episode 2 is still as dark and grubby as last week’s atmospheric-but-unenthralling debut. It also transiently re-establishes the baffling elements of the occult, with James hearing haunting Tribal music as he loses consciousness, mumbling chants in foreign dialects and reciting incantations as we are afforded sparing glimpses of his watery dreams.
In this respect I feel no more clued up or invested in Mr Delaney’s curious background after a second hour in his inhospitable company, but with renewed purpose and a clearer vision 1.2 does have more drive than the preceding premiere. The East Indian Company want him eliminated to take his land, prostitute Helga (Franka Potente) wants him eliminated so she gets to keep his offices for her shady business, a “silver-toothed” man wants him eliminated so James burns down his boat, meanwhile all but a handful of folk are still scared stiff of this brooding “ghost” of a man.
At the public reading of his father’s will, two sizable shocks set up an intriguing continuation to his historical drama, with sister Zelpha (Oona Chaplin) seemingly frozen out of the picture, and the unexpected introduction of a young widow (Jessie Buckley) who may well lay claim to a slice of Nootka. Furthermore, a glimpse at the bloated Prince Regent (Mark Sherlock Gatiss, under considerable make up) frivolously perusing a map of the British/American blockade in his sitting room lays the groundwork for forthcoming continental expansion to this presently London-centric adventure.
I am still struggling to wholly warm to this big budget period piece, perhaps because I find next to no light relief in the sordid and grubby diegesis filled with sordid and grubby characters (save for Gatiss’ gurning), or maybe its slow-burn approach exacerbates my frustration rather than stokes my curiosity by teasing supernatural elements which seem to contradict the otherwise earthy status quo? I will tune in next week to see if Delaney sets sail on his new purchase – the former slave ship Ferice Adventuro – hopeful that this week’s forward momentum continues apace, however Taboo is yet to fully earn a fourth CR@B in my rating system.
CR@B’s Claw Score: