Tom Hardy ignites the Gothic

Taboo, the new series with Tom Hardy, feeds my obsession with dark tales and makes me want to write them. It is one to be watched more than once. My husband and I just spent an entire weekend watching it. Four episodes through the show, we were thoroughly hooked, wondering frantically what brilliant clues, signs, and nuances of character we had missed. Well, I was frantic anyway. My husband not so much. I wanted to stop right then and go back to the first episode, such was the gripping power of the show. But my husband didn’t let me. Hmmmph.

It is another haunting performance by an actor who does dark and brooding like no one else. Hard to imagine Tom Hardy’s cheeky, boyish face capable of such intensity, ferocity, savagery, and, oh yeah, passion. But the transformation is utterly complete and true. Think Forrest Bondurant in Lawless; Ronald and Reginald Kray, identical twin gangsters in Legend (yes he switches back and forth between two characters with an ease that can be only described as “unreal”); think Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights. If you haven’t seen those, think Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, think Mad Max: The Wasteland. If you haven’t seen those either, you’re missing out on an unbelievable talent. And he plays the hulking, grim, savage James Delaney on Taboo (FX); back from the dead, scornfully disregarding useless social and religious norms, loving whom he wants, killing whom he wants, and indulging in whatever he wants, namely the horrifying, scandalous magic arts. Hence the name Taboo. He ignites those Gothic parts of us that want to defy society, want to be shocked, and crave violent justice, and yet are too scared to do so. All the while he is supremely intelligent, aware of everything that is going on, and skillfully manipulates people and situations to his own advantage. He races through 1814 London on his stunningly white horse, dressed in a flowing, black overcoat and black top hat, reminding us of Mr. Hyde. Or a dark knight. Flawed, troubled, frightening, but with a big heart and sense of justice. We feel the wrongness he has been through in his past and we forgive and enjoy his trespasses. Oh, and he’s nice to children. For those of us into dark, Gothic heroes, Tom Hardy is it.

The show, set in 1814 London, abounds in shocking filth, savagery, and depravity in the poor, and just as shocking corruption and debauchery in the wealthy. It is complicated. Events are often ambiguous. Clues are obscure. Characters are duplicitous. The audience sees the surprising results of events without being completely sure how they transpired. The pieces have to be put together afterwards, like solving a jigsaw puzzle. That’s when you want to go back and watch it again.

Here is the official trailer:

If you enjoy it as much as I did, drop me a line!

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