Taboo – Episode 8

FX’s Taboo
Episode 8
Directed by Anders Engström
Written by Steven Knight

* For a recap & review of Episode 7, click here.
pic-1As George Chichester (Lucian Msamati) was digging into the sinking of the Cornwallis, James Keziah Delaney (Tom Hardy), tortured beyond the realm of human imagination, finally received his meeting with Sir Stuart Strange (Jonathan Pryce) in the Crown’s dungeons.
This final episode begins with Zilpha Geary (Oona Chaplin), ruminating on what’s next in her life. OR, in her death. She plunges herself off a bridge into the frigid waters below after sending a last letter to her half-brother. And he’s chatting with Strange, telling of his time in Africa when an African saved him, as well as admitting to his own atrocities: “The things I did in Africa make your transactions look paltry.” They speak of Godrey (Edward Hogg), his role in the plan James has enacted. Then he offers Strange a deal. Not an easy one, apparently. Yet James always has a plan in his back pocket. Usually a bit of blackmail. The table’s set. Will Strange deliver a ship and whatever else is in Delaney’s letter? Can he?
pic-2Young Robert (Louis Ashbourne Serkis) goes running around to see Brace (David Hayman), Cholmondeley (Tom Hollander), with letters for them written by James. Like dominoes, one after one receives whatever news and plans are at hand, including Atticus (Stephen Graham).
All the while Strange is sweating the details, and James starts in on his eerie voodoo prayers in his dungeon cell. A few of the Crown’s men go to get him, finding he’s seizing, foaming at the mouth, bleeding. Solomon Coop (Jason Watkins) worries they’ve done permanent damage, though I’m inclined to believe it’s all part of the master plan. Simultaneously, on the road Atticus stops a coach taking Helga (Franka Potente) and her friend elsewhere, which ends in the death of Mr. Pettifer (Richard Dixon). A little while later Lorna Bow (Jessie Buckley) picks up Helga, and the young boy she tracked down confirms that James did not kill her girl Winter. It was the Company.
But most of all Strange is falling apart trying to maneuver all the pieces in order to appease Delaney, as the man himself continues pulling strings from behind the scenes. Everything is set deep into motion. Cholmondeley works on “things that go bang” and others which “cause confusion.”
Lorna goes about her business, too. She’s off to see the Countess Musgrove (Marina Hands) about certain feminine products, secrets. And powder. Ah, yes. Afterwards, alone, Musgroves pulls a knife on her visitor until finding out the details, her association with Delaney. He’s sent word about the “leaky ship” she captains.

pic-6What about James? He sits there in that cell, having masterminded the entire series of events. Now he hears Robert singing from outside the dungeon’s walls. A sign. “Im ready,” he tells his captors.
Upstairs, his account for the Crown begins. Only it isn’t what Coop and the lot expected. He reveals the nastiness about to come. His double dealing, playing both sides has ensured his own best possible outcome. Everyone else is left in his wake. So, James walks free from his chains and all his charges.
Plus, he has a ship once more! There’s also his discovery now that Zilpha has plunged into the River Thames, carried away dead to another place. This certainly won’t do him any good. He refuses to believe her death: “If she was in the river, she would sing to me. And I would hear her.” Lorna tries convincing him otherwise, but he’s lost in all that voodoo magic or whatever he believes in, thinking that he can see beyond the grave. He manages to get himself back in action, with a little help from his friends, such as Dumbarton (Michael Kelley) and laudanum. Trouble being he’s got to captain a ship from England to America. Might not go so smooth if he’s fucked up, in more ways than one. And that friendship with Dumbarton, it goes sideways. The doctor’s left strung up, sliced up, his face inked in blue. Yikes.


Cholmondeley’s got himself laced with explosives, ready to rock. At the docks, the ship is readied, and more Company men are laid to waste. Delaney is really doing a number on Sir Strange before shipping out.
Prince Regent George IV (Mark Gatiss) eats like a slob, talking with Coop about faith. Then, how many people might be dispatched for treason. He wants Delaney dead. When his right hand man protests a bit, the Prince Regent proclaims angrily: “Im the head of fucking state!” With so much death and betrayal and double-crossing afoot, no telling who’ll make it out alive in the end.
On the dock, James cuts Brace free, revealing he will not be going to America; only decent thing is that anything Delaney-owned left in England belongs to him.
With that, the plan commences. When Crown soldiers rush the dock, Cholmondeley sets off a huge explosion, killing some and disorienting the rest. After which the remainder are smoked out and gunned down mercilessly. More soldiers rush in and the rest of the guns start blazing. Lorna, Godfrey, Helga, everyone is rushed to the boat – stopping for her dropped pistol, Helga’s shot before boarding. And Lorna, she takes a bullet in the shoulder. The streets and the dock are literally and figuratively on fire; Cholmondeley is gravely wounded when some of his explosives go off. Nothing goes as well as hoped.
Eventually, those still able make it onto the ship. Away they go.


At the East India Company, Strange finds a message waiting. He still believes everything’s going according to what he discussed with Delaney. That is, until a package from Cholmondeley is set off as he opens its strings, and his office blows sky high. The end of Sir Stuart.
Brace sits quietly at the Delaney home, facing an eternity of loneliness left behind. That same afternoon, Chichester turns up to get the account of the Cornwallis, Godfrey’s account, as well. Justice will be served.
On the open ocean James and his crew sail towards America. With plenty of interesting intentions. What will they do when they get there? James has his machinations, as the American flag is hoisted up in place of the ole Union Jack.
Atticus: “I thought the gunpowder was for the Americans?”
James: “We are Americans
pic-13Whoa. Are we going to get ourselves another series? Seems like it. I anticipated this as a limited series, but I’d LOVE to see Delaney and Atticus and Lorna and the lot doing their thing in America. Could get pretty wild. GIVE US MORE! We need it now.

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Taboo – Episode 5

FX’s Taboo
Episode 5
Directed by Anders Engström
Written by Ben Hervey & Steven Knight

* For a recap & review of Episode 4, click here.
* For a recap & review of Episode 6, click here.


At last we saw James Keziah Delaney (Tom Hardy) he was at a party, stuck between Lorna Bow (Jessie Buckley) and his half-sister, his true love, Zilpha Geary (Oona Chaplin). And then Zilpha’s husband Thorne (Jefferson Hall) challenged him to a duel.
We open as James and Thorne are rowed in their respective boats on a foggy river. They head to a small island, a patch of land where others including Thoyt (Nicholas Woodeson) wait to watch the duel. A gypsy woman owns the land, between two parishes. Perfect place for a duel, no? Pistols are inspected, and all is ready; Lorna’s even walked through the walker to the island without a boat, like a bad ass. According to the “Irish Code of 1777” they go to first blood, no second shots afterwards, and a doctor stands waiting to treat them.
When they line up and the pistols are drawn, a shot from Thorne doesn’t do much to James. Because there is no bullet in his pistol. The young man meant to help Thorne was obviously sent by the East India Company. James remarks that his life is, apparently, “more precious” than that of Thorne. Yikes. Another blow to the man’s impossibly fragile ego. However, when Zilpha sees her husband return she assumes things worked out for the better, but he of course responds with his usual half-paranoia, half-bottled up anger.
At home James is tended to by the ever faithful, ever hopeful Brace (David Heyman), whose faith does dwindle a bit in the face of his master and friend’s unpredictable behaviour. Meanwhile, James confides more in Lorna, whose interest in things is obviously more than just money; she cares. How much, who knows. But she does, enough to not want to see him dead. She meets Winter, too, who also doesn’t want Delaney to die, either. Can they help that? Or is it inevitable?
screen-shot-2017-02-05-at-2-43-51-amThe East India Company discovers their warehouse raided, as James heads off into the wilderness. He catches a man following him: “Are you King or are you company?” Instead of killing the man, he leaves him with a few nasty cuts to tell his friends about when he gets back. Back at James’ new factory Cholmondeley (Tom Hollander) is working steadfast on his gunpowder formula and things are going as planned. Four weeks to go if he’s given an assistant.
Lorna discovers a trunk at the Delaney house, one which Brace seems to hate. He’d rather burn the thing, saying that inside is “the truth.” And what exactly is that? Sounds dangerous.
In town James goes to see Ibbotson (Christopher Fairbank) for a ship’s sail; the man who takes care of the boy, y’know, the one that could be James’ son, or his brother, or whatever. And this will be the chemist’s apprentice during the gunpowder process. Now, that’s an interesting little twist. Of course Atticus (Stephen Graham) is still in the mix. James asks him and his crew about the bounty on information concerning his business around the city. He claims he knows who’s considering giving him up. Then he cuts a man’s thumb off: “I am inside your heads, gentleman, always.” After that it’s off to see Helga (Franka Potente) and her harem, asking for help with the Company men. He offers the thumb up to show he’ll help them, and with a ruthless attitude.


Sir Stuart Strange (Jonathan Pryce) is in a foul mood with Delaney making the Company look like a bunch of idiots. “We are richer than God,” he exclaims while making clear they must squash the problem. Poor Godfrey (Edward Hogg) sits at the table, visibly worried for his safety after aiding the man the Company wants to ruin. At the same time a man from the Company searching for information, threatening one of Helga’s girls, is dispatched bloodily, left with a note on his chest to make sure there’s no misunderstandings: the devil Delaney did the deed.
And what of that devil? The Gothic feel of the series keeps poking its head through, peeking at us, and we’ve not yet understood it all. Which I enjoy. There’s plenty to keep us intrigued, or at least myself, anyways. The mystery behind James’ time in Africa, all he experienced, is gripping me. “Everybodys scared of you,” Cholmondeley tells him at one point; very fitting, and true.
In the big, old house, James searches for the Nootka Sound Treaty, signed between him and the Natives. The land was bought for gunpowder and not much else, which included his mother, something he obviously wrestles with in his soul. His mother wouldn’t play along, so she was sent to an insane asylum by Horace; shit, that’s brutal. And then amongst the papers James searches, he finds that very document.
Back with George IV, Prince Regent (Mark Gatiss), he’s eating and getting fatter, his health truly starting to decline in the decadence of his luxury. His man Solomon Coop (Jason Watkins) continues advising him on the best course of action going forward, concerning the East India Company. Coop believes it best to go headlong at Sir Stuart, as they have a bit of dirt on him apparently.
Again, James meets with Dr. Dumbarton (Michael Kelly) in his cholera-ridden building. Perfect for their clandestine chats. The doctor needs his help with gunpowder, and he knows about the farmhouse, the factory James has going with Cholmondeley. So many spies, everywhere! Everybody has spies, especially an American in London. Not only that, Dumbarton even knows Cholmondeley, too. The plot thickens. The doctor wishes James to make chlorate gunpowder, a process the French attempted and one that created an undesired, massive explosion. There’s more danger now than before, and that’s saying something. Needless to say, Cholmondeley isn’t exactly thrilled with the prospect, him being the chemist and all.


In the Geary household things are becoming worse. Thorne finds his wife fantasising in bed again, prompting him into nasty violence. He beats her badly on the floor. You can already see how things will turn out for him in the end, if you couldn’t already.
George Chichester (Lucian Msamati) is called to Mr. Coop’s office, to talk about a slave ship which sank; 280 souls, even children, drowned at sea. He’s given a bit of offence, as Coop assumes he had relatives aboard, at which Chichester chuckles briefly. He believes the ship was sank deliberately by slavers, supposedly men of the EIC. Coop delivers him a letter from the Prince Regent; good news, he says. Things are about to get dicey. There’s a new commission opened into the sinking of the Influence, the slave ship, and this has Sir Stuart more prickly than you can even imagine. He sets about a frantic rush to set things in place to cover their asses.
James goes to see Countess Musgrove (Marina Hands) about the gunpowder, though she plays coy and talks of Nootka Sound, their overall deal. She pressures James to trust her, something on which he isn’t too keen. Every relationship he has is a slippery one, no matter with whom.
At home Zilpha is confronted by Thorne, with a priest wanting to exorcise the spirit of James that visits her in the night. Now by force they’re planning to relieve her of the demons, or so it seems. A terrifying prospect. The priest goes to work in his madness, basically molesting her as he recites nonsense about “evil come to the surface” and other wild crap. They leave her on the floor, they untie her. But this has done nothing, obviously, to change how she feels. Only that she hates Thorne more. So much so you can see his death in her eyes; it’s coming.
screen-shot-2017-02-05-at-3-30-02-amA fascinating episode, beginning with a bang and ending in a weird, wild way with plenty to offer for a setup leading into the following episode. Next one ought to be another whopper. I’m loving Taboo. Some others seem to think it isn’t so great, but I couldn’t care less. It’s interesting to me in so many ways. Let’s see what comes next.

Taboo – Episode 4

FX’s Taboo
Episode 4
Directed by Kristoffer Nyholm
Written by Steven Knight & Emily Ballou

* For a recap & review of Episode 3, click here.
* For a recap & review of Episode 5, click here.
screen-shot-2017-01-28-at-9-50-31-pmJames Delaney (Tom Hardy) can’t shake the memories of where he’s been, they’re with him all the time. All the while life does go on. Suddenly men from the Crown are looking for Lorna Bow (Jessie Buckley), so James tells her to “hold out” and he’ll sort everything proper. In the meantime, she’s cast down to some nasty old dungeon with a filthy man putting her in shackles. Solomon Coop (Jason Watkins) arrives to play his part, the rotten bastard. He threatens her physically and sexually in no uncertain terms, despicable to say the least. He urges her to sign it all over to the Crown, or else she’ll be convicted for attempted murder. And who knows what else would happen to her before she ever got into a court.
However, in the face of it all Lorna will not relent. She believes in James. This obviously angers Mr. Coop and as he further threatens her, she’s set free in the nick of time. Brace (David Hayman) is there to pick her up, too.
screen-shot-2017-01-28-at-9-52-33-pmOh, and you know that Sir Stuart Strange (Jonathan Pryce) has his knickers in a twist. At the same time, James is off getting what information he can from the crossdressing Godfrey (Ed Hogg). He gives over what he knows of the latest East India Company movements. Apparently there’s a “blacklist” and Delaney is definitely on it. “They cant kill you, but they will crucify your name, and crucify those around you.”
We’re introduced to an interesting character now, a wild chemist played by Tom Hollander named Mr. Cholmondeley. He gives a demonstration for a crowd, of which Delaney is a part. Later while Cholmondeley is having sex with a fan of his, James turns up awkwardly. But all’s well when gold is literally put on the table. Seems the chemist has a process he’s very interested in.
At home, James walks in nonchalant. “All part of the plan,” his trusty caretaker Brace remarks, a bit pissed. And it’s true, though. No matter the knocks he takes Delaney looks as if he’s got it all figured out, at every turn. How long will that last? He’s juggling so many things, not least of which is the taboo love he has for his half-sister Zilpha Geary (Oona Chaplin). In an eerie sequence she experiences a sexual moment in her bed, as in his own home James does some strange ritual, as if both connected in a spiritual sense across space and time. Weird, yet cool scene. Truly conflicting moment. Then Thorne (Jefferson Hall) shows up, drunk, soaked to the bone. Wanting her, even as he detects she was just thinking of someone else. The whole thing is twisted, though it’s almost most twisted how Thorne wants to have sex with her knowing she’s thinking of James. It’s just… a ball of awfulness.
In other news, James has Cholmondeley aiding with some pigeon and cow shit chemistry. Throw in a dash of human piss on the ash of some fire. Then, in a year – gunpowder! Well, Delaney doesn’t have a year. If they can get some saltpeter, or potassium nitrate, then that cuts the time to a month. So now there’s a new journey ahead. James must go either to Burma, or an East India Company warehouse. Hmm. You know which one he’ll pick.


Great tension in a lot of Taboo‘s scenes. One of which in this episode leads up to a fight James finds himself in when attacked by a massive man on a lonely street. He knocks James totally unconscious with an old school wooden flapjack. Or does he? Delaney uses the last bit of force inside him to stab his attacker with a sneaky knife. The brutality in him comes out at certain times in such unexpected ways: “I told your friends, Nootka Sound is not for sale,” he tells the man as he butchers him with two wood-lifting picks. Followed by a perfectly shot moment where James uses his blade on the man, again. Haunting stuff.
And that’s one of the best Gothic aspects of the entire series. There’s this magical realism at play, but it’s dark. James walks around his ancient house without making a sound, to the surprise and near heart attack of poor ol’ Brace. He conducts strange rituals in the dark by himself. He goes into a near trance when defending himself, descending into tribal violence in those same moments. Truly a mythic quality about Mr. Delaney.
Now James gets an invitation from the Americans. Right now he goes to see Helga (Franka Potente), setting up a few girls for later in the evening. Then he goes to see his well of underworld information, Atticus (Stephen Graham). Thus getting more plans set in motion. That night, James heads over to the East India Company Docks, where he briefly meets Cholmondeley and receives a package. Then it’s back home to fetch Lorna and they’re off to spend their night dancing. All gets pretty awkward when James spots Zilpha, who runs off. And in the midst of all those people he nearly has what might now be known as a near PTSD attack. He finds Zilpha in the garden. They speak, Zilpha worries people know about them. He, of course, references his ghostly visitations in the night. Then Dr. Dumbarton (Michael Kelly) arrives, breaking it all up. He has things to say about their “first resort” – the man Delaney gutted in the street. The Americans want to guarantee safe passage for him, to let James flee with his half-sister, to find anonymity elsewhere. Neither side of the deal for James, despite his own leverage, is turning out to be too spectacular.
The prostitutes James paid for work their magic, providing distraction at the East India Company Docks. All the while Atticus and his motley crew infiltrate the place, killing who they must, and Helga even puts one of the men in a precarious situation herself. Everyone doing their part. At the party things rage, Thorne gets hammered. James looks worried and constantly checking the clock. Luckily Atticus and Co get the job done, blowing a whole through a door in the warehouse. They get what they need, as the soldiers are momentarily stuck in their quarters, and make off into the night. Meanwhile, Lorna’s starting to sniff out the relationship between Zilpha, who doesn’t do much to make things easy on herself.

screen-shot-2017-01-28-at-10-36-12-pm


At the party, James is hauled into a crowd by Countess Musgrove (Marina Hands). His PTSD-like symptoms return. A magician does a trick, during which he’s meant to step into a closet contraption with the Countess. They’re put inside together, and the contraption spins them around so they’re hidden. It’s all a ruse, so that the Countess and James can speak in private. He makes clear that he can be a good deal of trouble, as if he hasn’t already. The Countess doesn’t particularly settle anything, and James is left unsure. The way he looks at everyone around him, seeing the decadence of their lifestyles and the depravity into which they all fall with a bit of drink and music, it’s astonishing. The way it’s shot makes things perfectly intense.
Then Thorne goes mental, drunk off his ass. Until James takes him outside and Thorne proclaims to Zilpha: “You dont call him anything but nigger.” He also says this is “my society” and challenges James to a duel, at dawn. To the death. Whoa.
screen-shot-2017-01-28-at-10-46-08-pm


I never expected the James-Thorne situation to come to a head this quick, nor to this level of madness. Will he accept the duel proposed? Or will his love for Zilpha reach further and allow him to turn it away? Can his reputation stand turning down such a duel? So many questions.
Next episode ought to be intense. We’re halfway through, looking forward to seeing how the plots and the overall arc of James play out by the time the mini-series is finished. Hardy is great, Chaplin is fascinating. They’re all doing fine acting, and the cinematography, production design, all these things are on par, too. Amazing work all around!

Taboo – Episode 3

FX’s Taboo
Episode 3
Directed by Kristoffer Nyholm
Written by Steven Knight

* For a recap & review of Episode 2, click here.
* For a recap & review of Episode 4, click here.
screen-shot-2017-01-21-at-7-53-49-pmWith James Keziah Delaney (Tom Hardy) having been stabbed, and having stabbed back, at the end of Episode 2, what’s left of the man as last we saw he was lying, bloody and dying in an alley?
As far as the attacker goes, the man with the silver tooth, he lies dead on the shore where young thieves pick him clean. They also notice his heart is gone. Eaten by sea creatures, or gone by some other means?
Well James, he’s being worked on by Dr. Dumbarton (Michael Kelly), who stitches him back together again. Luckily the doctor had someone follow him after he left the office previously. He also warns James a bit about his “peacock” swagger around London. James wants word sent to Thomas Jefferson and the US, but Dumbarton’s not particularly forthcoming in his intentions to help any of that. He’s actually trying to get Nootka Sound from Delaney, although that’s not entirely easy, either. James has his own ideas on gaining a “monopolyfor all the tea in China.” This is something Dr. Dumbarton actually understands.
In other news, Prince Regent George IV (Mark Gatiss) gets caught up on all the Nootka Sound business by his man Solomon Coop (Jason Watkins). On the horizon might be war, who knows. Coop tells the Prince Regent of James Delaney, as an “adventurer of very poor repute.” Ought to be interesting to see how George IV and Delaney come together in some way. Could make for some fun writing.
screen-shot-2017-01-21-at-7-56-27-pmBack at the Delaney house, Brace (David Hayman) continues with helping his old friend James with all his madness. They patch him up a bit before the man of the house feels compelled to run off again on another adventure. He’s essentially waiting now for more people to come kill him. “So, we are besieged,” Brace laments, as if to say: here we go again. Another Delaney, same bullshit.
More Atticus (Stephen Graham)! Bless his heart. He and James are doing a bit of business, though Brace believes the man to be a snake. We’ll see. He’s brought James guns, they discuss what Atticus thought was a partnership; could this drive a wedge between them? For the time being James has wounds that need tending to, but his tough guy stubbornness won’t allow him rest. They’re headed off, he and Atticus. They’ve gone to see Thoyt (Nicholas Woodeson). To make a will, supposedly. Then one of the lawyer’s men goes to the East India Company to see Sir Stuart Strange (Jonathan Pryce) about Delaney. Seems he’s left all his possessions and holdings to “the sovereign nation of the United States of America.” And Sir Strange is all but frothing at the mouth over what’s next: they can’t kill him, they must keep him alive. A strange turn of events, though all due to the cunning of James K. Delaney; he’s playing the lesser of a few evils being in danger only from the Americans at this point.
There’s still all the spookiness of whatever James experienced while in Africa, whatever he did while there and so on. In the dungeon-like basement of the Delaney house, James finds Winter (Ruby-May Martinwood). She cut out James’ would-be killer’s silver tooth out to bring him. She wants to be taught “about magic.” He knows that anywhere he goes, especially at home, is no safe place for anyone, especially a young person such as herself. There’s a Gothic feeling about Taboo, which makes every step further into the world of James Delaney eerie, like a ghost story. He wanders through the decrepit home of his father, memories of Africa and witchcraft of some kind in his head. And he ventures further into the house, finding secrets, unearthing messages out of his own past. It’s stunning as a Gothic slice of London, just before the Victorian Era.
Now James tries unravelling the story of the bird, branded on his back. Found in the base of a chimney in his house. All leading back to the trail of his mother, the supposed mad, savage woman.

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Sir Strange receives visit from Solomon Coop, on behalf of the King. They speak of Delaney, whose will is no surprise to Coop; they have plenty of spies. “Then you know we have a problem that cannot be solved with a musket or a knife,” says Strange. Well, Coop and the Crown have already received an offer from Delaney about a monopoly. None of this is making Strange a happy man, at all. Coop and the Crown are playing the game, taking land and money where they can. And Coop’s also got an idea about why James seeks revenge against the East India Company so relentless.
Widow of Horace Delaney, Lorna Bow (Jessie Buckley) is sought out by Coop at her latest show. More shady deals, no doubt. Meanwhile, James is off in a dark, seedy part of London where, in drag, he finds Godfrey (Edward Hogg) – one of Strange’s men at the EIC. Ah, a bit of blackmail using the secrets James finds. Everyone has their spies. What’s more is that James doesn’t try to hurt Godfrey, he only wants information. They’ve known each other many years, and Godfrey’s been in love with him most of that time. “Ill protect you,” James tells him tenderly. Wow. A moment of beauty amongst the darkness I never expected.
Zilpha (Oona Chaplin) is written another letter by James. He talks of his plans, of the “greater good” he is seeking. She writes back about the “depth of our sin” in knowing what they did together, whatever physical love they shared, was wrong. The montage of moments cut over the writing and recitation of letters between the half-siblings is EXTRAORDINARY! Excellent score on top makes this one of the best scenes so far in these three episodes. The narration by both Chaplin and Hardy is fascinating, too.
Zilpha: “Please, Im your sisterlet all else lie.”
At the Delaney house Lorna’s turned up to tell James she has a lawyer now, that the house is half belonging to her. Seems like Coop has been up to nasty business. Doesn’t particularly worry James. Until she goes on, about owning half of Nootka Sound, as well. So either James gives up his half of the house, or she owns half of that land. He appears fine with working on things with Lorna. He also feels she’s in danger.


James runs into brother-in-law Thorne Geary (Jefferson Hall), who wants a bit of a chat. He’s interested in the ship Delaney recently bought. Wants to insure the thing for him. But James is already insured, and has no need for the patronising tone of Thorne, or any of the other nonsense he comes in with to boot. “Since you came back our fucking has become almost murderous,” Thorne taunts him. This, as rotten as it is, sticks a dagger in James’ gut.
Later, he goes to meet with Zilpha herself. In a church. And they embrace, lustily for a moment. “Now, I never want to see you again,” she claims. I doubt she’s seen the last of James. At home things are about as equally as awkward with Thorne checking the laundry to see if Zilpha’s menstruating. Weird. She’s really stuck between a rock and a hard place. Thorne is a pig. Even if James is her half-brother, he doesn’t talk to her the way Thorne does, with such a misogynistic disdain.
At Lorna’s next show, James lurks to make sure nobody is threatening her, or trying to turn her to their cause any further. There’s always a plot afoot. When Lorna leaves a woman stops so she can share her carriage. The woman says she’s an “admirer from the darkness” and tries laying lips on her. She’s taking Lorna somewhere nasty, a paying suitor. Only Lorna isn’t a woman with whom to trifle, as well as the fact James is following with a gun. They make off into the night together.
James tells Lorna she must head to Paris, to stay there until all the business with Nootka Sound is finished. At home, he plans for more people to come for Lorna: “And they will come.”


A bruiser of an episode! Really loved this one. Lots of good things happening, lots of darkly interesting things. Excited to see more, and to see what further deception lies in wait for James K. Delaney and Lorna Bow.

Taboo – Episode 1: “Shovels and Keys”

FX’s Taboo
Episode 1: “Shovels and Keys”
Directed by Kristoffer Nyholm
Written by Steven Knight

* For a recap & review of Episode 2, click here.
screen-shot-2017-01-11-at-11-33-44-amWe begin on the open ocean. From a ship in the water comes a boat. In it is a mysterious, hooded figure. They hit land and the figure digs something from out of the ground. He reveals himself as James Keziah Delaney (Tom Hardy). He pushes on to a city nearby where he goes to see a dead man; interesting that he takes the coins from the man’s eyes.
Forgive me, father. For I have indeed sinned,” James tells the corpse. Is this his own father? Or someone else close? I’d bet that’s old Mr. Delaney himself, though time will well.
Between these first scenes, the eerie music of the theme and its montage of bodies floating in the water, Taboo is off to a beautifully sinister start and I already need more.
screen-shot-2017-01-11-at-11-34-24-amLondon, 1814. The streets are alive with the sound of capitalism, and people are all doing various things to stay alive, stay fed. In the midst of the city a funeral procession goes on. Zilpha Geary (Oona Chaplin) ad Thorne Geary (Jefferson Hall) sit for the funeral of her father. At that very moment in walks James.  “There walks a dead man,” someone says, as Zilpha is mortified to see her brother. Another interesting note: James plunks the two coins from his father’s eyes into the collection at church. But there’s a dreadful air surrounding the man, everyone seems to fear him. Next to the grave James seems to be doing some semi-voodoo-type stuff, saying prayers in another language, wiping a red streak of ochre (or something similar) down from his eye like a tear. So much intrigue in such a short time.
Sneaking about while everyone drinks in the pub, James comes upon his father’s lawyer, Robert Thoyt (Nicholas Woodeson). Everyone believed James dead, except for his father, which everybody thought was a product of the madness inherent in whatever illness he suffered through until death. Thoyt tells James of his father’s last holding in America, although says the asset is worthless. Oh, is it now? Well, the male Delaney heir doesn’t buy into all that.
Thoyt: “If America were a pig facing England, it is right at the pigs ass.”
Dark things are brewing. Thorne doesn’t seem thrilled with James’ presence, nor with the prospect of his doing business in the wake of his father’s passing. Also, there’s a strange connection between James and his sister Zilpha; possibly an incestuous tone to their prior relationship. Hard to tell, but strongly suggested. Furthermore, James is a changed man since being in Africa, where all thought him lost. He sees everyone around him almost as a group of vile creatures.


In another, more upper class part of London, Sir Stuart Strange (Jonathan Pryce) rejoices over old man Delaney’s death. He’s not exactly surprised to hear about the son turning up again. He’s already had Mr. Wilton (Leo Bill) try digging up dirt on James. His mother was mad. At 11, he was made a cadet for the East India Company; a “company boy” Strange says, wide-eyed. He reached the rank of Colonel, even. Then in 1800, he fought a lot, set fires, and a ton of other craziness. Said he knew where there was treasure in Africa. In 1802, he left for Africa on his own. He was on a slave ship at one point which sank; could be where we saw him in that first scene.
But now he’s back with business to conduct. This makes Strange and others nervous. They tried dealing with Zilpha, however, James’ return makes that pointless. Will they do something underhanded? Highly likely. Especially considering… the rumours, about James Keziah Delaney.
At his old family home James finds the caretaker, Brace (David Hayman); one of the very few happy to see him. They were, and still are, close. “In all this dirty city, there is no one I can trust, apart from you,” James tells his friend. We find out more of his father, too. That he was bad near the end. He’d crouch at the fire and speak in a strange language to James. I also want to know more of his mother. I wonder if she was from Africa, or somewhere else, because it seems there’s something further to her character than just simply being the mother; she has secrets, I believe. And James, he’s seen darkness, as well.


James starts going through his father’s things. In an old office of his family he finds Helga (Franka Potente) running a brothel out of the space. She offers half of her daily take to stay, and James isn’t interested. Back at the Geary household things aren’t so smooth, either. Thorne wishes his wife Zilpha would be firmer in hand with her brother. “Delaney is nothing more than a nigger now,” he says. I feel we’re going to see a bit of liberation on Zilpha’s part. Whether that’s a good thing is left to be seen. Because there’s a weird vibe between her and James to boot.
The rumours about James in Africa involve evil, witchcraft, all sorts of nasty stuff. There’s also a boy, I assume James’ brother, who was taken in by a family. And we see that there are other reasons Delaney feels the cold shoulder of people in London, not just due to whatever he did while in Africa.
Moreover, James is trying to figure out what happened to his father in the end. All the while fighting off the madness in his own head: “I have no fear to give you,” he rants to himself, walking through the morgue and speaking to corpses. Ghosts, all around him. Particularly an African man, chains around his wrists, bloody from the neck down; he approaches James, who soon repels him. Then back with his physician friend Dr. Powell (Michael Shaeffer), he discovers his father was poisoned.
James: “I know things about the dead
Poor Zilpha’s caught in such a hard, awful place. Her half-brother, returned from his macabre adventures, is making things difficult, as well as her husband Thorne pressing her into making the decisions he requires, lording over her like a maniac. There’s a determination in Zilpha, though. She won’t be pushed over, not entirely, even if it is the early 19th century.


James brings money to Ibbotson (Christopher Fairbank), who took care of the other Delaney boy while the father went mad and James went about his business elsewhere. So, is that his brother, or could it be his son?  Hmm. There’s a gorgeously textured number of layers already in this story, and I feel that this first episode is putting them out in front of us with grace. This should stretch out nicely over the series’ 8 episodes.
Up at the East India Company, James goes to talk with Sir Strange and his brethren. An uneasy meeting, for sure. They all treat him as if he were a mythic figure out of a book. “Do not pretend,” James tells them plainly. They want to talk about Nootka Sound, where old man Delaney’s last property bought from the Natives lies; a point of contention between “His Majestys government and the cursed United States.” What’s fun is that James knows much more than any of these stuffy old bastards ever imagined possible. He has quite a grasp on all that’s happening in terms of geopolitical plans and strategies coming down the pipes. He realises Nootka Sound (a sound on the West Coast of Vancouver Island) will become extremely valuable, both to the British and certainly to the Americans. So the bribe comes out. And that doesn’t interest James any more than the rest of it. Sir Strange gets angry, and the look on the faces of the others spells quite the story, as James rises calmly to leave. Now they’re left with only other options. None of which will come to pass without lots of blood.


At home, James receives a letter from Zilpha. She wants the “secrets of the past buried” and now we see she and James are on two different ends of the spectrum.
What exactly will he do from here?
I, for one, am damn excited to watch more.
screen-shot-2017-01-11-at-12-31-13-pmWhat a great opening episode. Honestly, I expected a lot, and for me this one delivered. Great involvement of artists, from Tom Hardy (and his father Edward ‘Chips’ Hardy), to Steven Knight, to Jonathan Pryce, and of course director Kristoffer Nyholm on this first episode.
So much to come. Join me, as we take a ride with James Keziah Delaney into the dark, gritty spaces of London, and beyond!

Peaky Blinders – Season 3 Finale

BBC Two’s Peaky Blinders
Season 3, Episode 6
Directed by Tim Mielants
Written by Steven Knight

* For a review of Episode 5, click here.
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Here it is, the Season 3 finale!
We start as an institute for poor children in Grace’s name is being opened by Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy). Everyone’s there, Aunt Pol (Helen McCrory) introducing him, Arthur (Paul Anderson) and John (Joe Cole), the lot of them. Tommy gives a nice speech about taking care of the children, proper. Looking after them. Naughty Arthur even makes sure to throw in: “By order of the Peaky Blinders.” Saucy.
But what would Grace think of all that Tommy’s about to do? The big job and all. Well, up shows Father Hughes (Paddy Considine) and dashes all the nice thoughts. He has an office there at the institute. Claiming a place there. Poised to do untold more damage. The look on Michael’s (Finn Cole) face speaks volumes when he sees the priest pass by.
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Lots of other things happening other than a reception for the institute. Peaky Blinders never rest, no sir. Of course Tom does his best businessman face, popping about with his boy, and doing all he can to appear legitimate, squeaky clean. That image doesn’t suit him all that well. Then all of a sudden his boy Charlie goes missing. A nurse took out apparently. Christ almighty. This is the ultimate nightmare to end all nightmares. Arthur tries to calm his brother, he sets things in motion. The word’s out now. Whoever took that boy is going to die. Hard. Who was it, you wonder? Father Hughes? This is a sinister turn of events, as the man himself arrives to confirm it. “All children are dear to me,” Hughes explains creepily. Afterwards, there’s a further deal struck. He has to blow up the train on his own now. All in the name of staying clear of Soviet Union influence, y’know. Communism. Rabble rabble. On top of that all the jewels and such they stole, Hughes and his crew want it. Every last bit. Or else.
Only problem is this makes Tommy paranoid. He wonders who’s grassed up. He points a finger at each and every last one of them. The whole family’s tense now. Bridges may start burning if he’s not careful. Nevertheless, he puts John and Arthur on a job, preparing for the deadly train bombing to come. Tommy’s too busy accusing Polly, insulting her, which is out of line; calling into question Ruben Oliver’s (Alexander Siddig) interest in her and why a high class fella like him would take a shine to a woman like her.


Tommy’s meeting, once again, with Alfie Solomons (Tom Hardy). The Wandering Jew himself turns up with a list of people concerning the Fabergé eggs, so that hopefully Shelby can figure things out. Then Tom gets upset. There’s a name he knows that’s left off the list. Ahh, interesting! He questions Alfie, his allegiance, so on. Whether he’s pulling strings and in with some of Tommy’s own enemies. He was in on most of it. Greasy.
When things go sideways Michael comes from nowhere to make things even. Instead of Alfie dying, he gives a savage monologue. He calls into question Tommy and his own idea of a “fucking line” over which he’s crossed. This brief appearance in Season 3 over the past couple episodes is fan-fucking-tastic. Hardy is beyond talented, enormously so. As far as Tommy and Alfie go, things are settled. “Well fucking said,” Tom tells him. And at least the one thing Alfie didn’t know about was the taking of Charlie.
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Alfie: “I want him to acknowledge that he who fights by the sword he fuckindies by it, Tommy.”
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Over with John and Arthur, Michael is proving to be every bit Shelby as any of them. They’ve got an address where apparently Charlie is being kept. Things are set, though they don’t want Michael pulling the trigger ultimately. Yeah, like that’ll happen.
The unnerving Father Hughes has the boy, and watching them together is just unbelievably terrifying. In the meantime, Arthur and the boys are getting things suited for the train bombing. Not everyone’s happy about the six men who will die; Arthur and John hand picked them. That’s rough, they take the brunt for what has to be done. At the same time, Tommy and his military pals are tunnelling through the earth, fast. So many things happening at once, all intense. Everyone straining under the brutal pressures.
Tommy gets through fine into the Russian’s little armoury/jewel stash. All the while Michael gets a beating from Hughes before he’s able to pull the trigger. John and Arthur wait for the train, as it starts to head out. Michael hulks out and slices up the dirty priest, cutting his throat. Then as Finn Shelby runs with news for Arthur seemingly to stop the blast, it goes up in flames. And at home, Polly sees her son now has the thousand yard stare like his cousins who came home from war, damaged and tortured. Seems like Birmingham is no better than the fields of war.


Arthur: “Who wants to be in heaven when you can send men to fuckinhell?”


Tommy offloads the diamonds and jewels with Tatiana Petrovna (Gaite Jansen), getting all that settled up. She is one hell of a piece of work. For a minute you almost worry for his safety. Then you just realize she’s a sly, dangerous business associate, and off he goes again to bigger, better things.
Back at his place, Tommy has the Shelby Organization all come in for a sit down. Everybody, from the wives to the family associates, the lot. He admits making a mistake getting involved with the Russians. He forks over money to Arthur and Linda, John and Esme, in a way of asking forgiveness. All’s well that ends in payment for the Shelbys, eh boy. The entire room gets money, though Lizzie (Natasha O’Keeffe) refuses her share. When Polly questions him, Tom reveals he cares nought about money. Not any more. He realizes there’s no change in his future. Because the politicians, the priests, the higher class, they’re worse than the Blinders, than any normal criminal: “You have to get what you want your own way,” Tommy proclaims. He gives up his praise for all those around him. Also, he’s straight up honest with them all, about every last inch of their business.
Pol steps up, though. She wants a better, more hopeful way for them all, as do the women. For his part, Arthur’s heading off for America with his wife. He’s saying goodbye to the family. Except that Tommy reveals there are charges headed for John and Arthur both, as well as Polly and Michael. They are all going down for the crimes. Tommy’s made a drastic deal with people “more powerful” than their enemies, so he claims. Wow. Just wow. Never saw this coming, at all. This is going to change the Shelby family dynamic for certain. How can we still feel as if Tommy’s a good man after this hypocritical move? We’ll what the next season brings.
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This has been a solid, intriguing season. Lots of things happening, especially now in this final episode. Just a wildly entertaining chapter. Can’t wait for the next season. Two more already confirmed, so that’s exciting. Head back and look at my other reviews, as I go back through the entire show, episode by episode.

Peaky Blinders – Season 3, Episode 5

BBC Two’s Peaky Blinders
Season 3, Episode 5
Directed by Tim Mielants
Written by Steven Knight

* For a review of Episode 4, click here.
* For a review of Episode 6, click here.
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Here we are at the penultimate episode of Series 3, and with two more already confirmed series’ ahead. What a treat!
Starting out with David Bowie’s “Lazarus”, a nice sequence shows us Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) at the doctor. His head bashed in. We’re given a view into his past, also seeing his present, and in between. Still, the drugs are holding him tight. Even worse now with the morphine to keep his head from bursting. What will this bring for everything ahead?
He receives a visit from Michael Gray (Finn Cole). He knows things about Father Hughes (Paddy Considine), bad things from when he was a kid. He offers to even shoot the priest himself, long as Tommy shows him how to shoot. Wonder if this is finally the big way in for Michael.
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Cut to three months down the road. Tommy’s now trying to kick the morphine habit; good on ya, Tommy boy. Not sure how well that’s going to work, but who knows. Anyway, he talks about mad fever dreams on the drugs. Seeing his housemaid naked, reading from Leviticus. Amazing little moment here, the writing had me in a crack up.
Tommy and Johnny Dogs (Packy Lee) have a chat. Boss wants him to do a few things for him. Seems there comes with it 5,000 pounds, so nothing troubles Johnny much in the end. Better than that the other Shelby brothers arrive with someone who calls himself “the Wandering Jew.” Upstairs, Tommy meets with him – Alfie Solomons (Tom Hardy). The one and only. He’s come back along to tell Tommy about the funny rumours about him since the head injury, and to speak of business.
Meanwhile, Arthur (Paul Anderson), John (Joe Cole), Johnny, and Michael have their own chats. There’s trouble about for Michael, as his life is in turmoil. Yet none of them are exactly living smooth. What I love most is the chemistry these guys have together. They do seem like a big family, which is ultimately the goal of any ensemble cast; these guys are meant to be family, so their natural feeling chemistry as a group is excellent.
Arthur and Alfie have their reunion. The latter wants to bury the hatchet, all just business. Right? He extends apologies of all sorts. The Shelby brother isn’t exactly happy, though his new path to Jesus Christ urges him not to cause a scene. Quite a good scene filled with tension. Alfie’s not exactly there to make things easy. But Tommy’s got plans for how they’ll deal with the Russians, which is the reason for Alfie being there apparently.


Johnny Dogs: “Arthur, if youre gonna get on like dis with the Apaches theyd fuckinscalp you, by.”
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Headed out getting ready, Duchess and Princess Petrovna require seeing the brothers’ skin. They need to check for tattoos, et cetera, which may identify them as assassins. A hilarious scene, especially when Arthur’s not pleased. John doesn’t seem to mind, as the Russian ladies check every inch of them. Things get quite intense for Arthur in particular. That Princess is definitely one to watch. “Inside every man there is a devil,” she says ominously, looking back to Tommy.
Aunt Polly (Helen McCrory) and her son Michael are doing business, Ada (Sophie Rundle) along, too. He heads off to make a call to his lady, we find out he wants to get her an abortion. In the other room, Pol and Ada try to forge a “new kind of politics” in order to make a good life for themselves. “Welcome to the bourgeoisie,” Polly tells Ada with a sly smile. Now Ada is a member of the organization – properties and acquisitions. Also, we discover she and Ruben Oliver (Alexander Siddig) are getting incredibly close, soon likely to fall in bed together, as she makes clear to Ada. But tonight, “why should all the boys have fun?” asks Polly. The boys are certainly having fun – Arthur’s given up on sobriety, so it appears. They’re all busy drinking, getting laid or trying to, and all sorts of debauchery; there are even two men getting lustily close on the couch nearby under the radar. John gets some information off Stefan (Josef Altin), as Tommy goes with Tatiana to see some of their operation.
Downstairs, Alfie’s there. The Duchess and Duke (Jan Bijvoet) are there, as well. We further find out Solomons spoke Russian – he has beef with them, over her being hunted down by dogs in the snow. Yikes. He turns the other cheek, all in the name of business. But you better know not to fuck with Alfie, he doesn’t play games. He helps Tommy get an eye on how much the Russians have, and they have quite a bit of treasure.

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Ruben has finished the painting of Polly. It is astonishing. She looks upon it admiring the work he’s done, how beautiful he made her look (and she’s a gorgeous lady), and the effort it took to put her form to canvas. For his part, he believes it’s his best yet. Always a charmer. Either way, she’s flattered and wants a relationship with him: “Therell be more Sundays,” he tells her. Finally, they consummate their love. Except she’s reminded slightly by her rape at the hands of Campbell. Luckily he is a good man and he apologizes, he’s tender with her. A beautiful love scene, as opposed to so many in shows that are crude and just all for aesthetic pleasure.
Too busy falling down the bottle, Arthur is heading off with a prostitute. At the same time, Tommy sits back with a drink, listening to Tatiana’s bullshit. Later he breaks down a bit in her arms. Is he getting too close to her for his own good? No telling, but we’re close to finding out. A freaky sequence where he imagines being with his dead wife once more.
Tommy’s got some old army buddies with him now, along with Johnny Dogs, Arthur, and the rest of the mad bastards helping the Peaky Blinders. They’ve got the plan ready, maps, blueprints, the whole lot. Boss Shelby lays everything out for them and things are about to get underway.


Snooping around, Polly finds a wedding ring in Michael’s desk. Or so she thought. Inside is actually a literal bullet with Hughes’ name on it. Then Tommy catches his aunt with it right in her hands. Of course she worries for her son. Only she doesn’t know why Michael wants to do the job. She susses it out, though nobody says anything out loud. So now Pol knows why Tommy gave the job to Michael. “By order of the Peaky Blinders” and so on. She doesn’t want that for him. Threatening to bring them all down if her son pulls the trigger. Whoa.
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Great episode right before the finale. Cannot wait to see what they have in store for us in Episode 6. Lots to which we can look forward. Plus, they’ve already confirmed two more seasons. Glory be to the Peaky Blinders!

Peaky Blinders – Season 3, Episode 4

BBC Two’s Peaky Blinders
Season 3, Episode 4
Directed by Tim Mielants
Written by Steven Knight

* For a review of Episode 3, click here.
* For a review of Episode 5, click here.
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The lads are out hunting. They gun down a fine buck, the whole clan out and about, from Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) to Arthur (Paul Anderson) and all the rest. Love this opener, as it’s strangely ominous. And these dudes know how to ride a god damn horse.
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Good Friday’s come round. Tommy gets a letter that their father is dead. A woman he was with while he died wrote them, saying he asked their forgiveness. Finn (Harry Kirton) and John (Joe Cole) are too young to really remember him. They hunt, in part, to do some honour to him. Piece of shit he was and all. Otherwise, Tom talks business about the upcoming robbery.
Meanwhile, Aunt Pol (Helen McCrory) is in the confessional. Is there one big enough to contain all her sins? Doubt it. Anyway, she chats with the reluctant father. She reveals little bits. About the murder of a policeman, Inspector Campbell. What she tells him is that she feels no regret for it. That his murder was just. And I somewhat agree with Polly.
At the Shelby organization, the women are doing a good bit of the work. Not just Polly, but Lizzie (Natasha O’Keeffe) and others, as well. Turns out, she’s sleeping with Tommy, now and then. When he feels like it. “Its hard to sleep bent over a desk, isnt it?” she laments.
At the same time, Michael Gray (Finn Cole) is slipping further into the business of his family. Tommy’s giving everybody the low down with the Lanchester Factory blueprints to boot. They’ve got big plans ahead, if only the robbery goes as planned. Set them all up for life and then some. One last job. Not everyone’s so eager, such as family friend Charlie Strong (Ned Dennehy), though everybody’s in all the same.


Now Linda (Kate Phillips) is over trying to help at the organization. Only thing is she’s too proper and prim for any of the illegal stuff. She’s fine with doing little bits and pieces around the place. Then there’s lots of talk about female empowerment, strikes on Good Friday by disenfranchised women, which sends Polly off. She and the women march downtown, visually similar to earlier when we saw Tommy and the lads ride their horses. LOVE the stylish camera work and techniques they use throughout the series, as well as again having to mention the anachronistic music. Often this might hinder a period piece. Here, it enhances the fun.
Over at his office, Tommy meets Princess Tatiana Petrovna (Gaite Jansen) to talk more business. He mentions being hurt to kill a stag. Yet would feel nothing to “put a bullet in the priests face.” May be more than business on the table, apparently Tatiana comes as part of their deal. Then John rushes in quick to tell his older brother about the women gone on strike. Also, John has trouble with his wife Esme (Aimee-Ffion Edwards) who can’t keep off the cocaine while she’s pregnant. But everybody is trying their best to turn things around, in all sorts of ways.
Tommy and Tatiana end up in bed together. Of course. They get closer, chatting about their weakness, desire. More importantly, they speak of possibilities. Well, she’s a bit wild. Taking his gun and running off through the halls of his nice big house. She leads him on a little chase. Then opts for a bit of Russian Roulette, y’know, a game she used to play. This freaks him out: “And I dont want your mad fucking Russians brains all over me fuckinwalls.” What a way to follow up some old fashion lovemaking. Tatiana tries to run the house, showing Tommy what it is to be royalty, to have money and be a big shot. Except that’s not who he is, really. And still there is a part of him that likes the dark madness in her. Above all else, she encourages him to do what he wants. Not to be afraid of freedom any longer.
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The Shelby brothers get together once more. More maps and plans to help them during the robbery. They’re looking for a Russian speaker, possibly finding one in a young man that’s looking to get himself a bit of cash. Lizzie and the rest of the women have formed a union. Polly’s in a bit of a hangover state, so part of her hubris is alcohol. But there’s no backing down. They have terms. Before that, Tommy discovers Arthur’s been telling his wife lots. About the robbery – not the factory, but their other one. The robbery that’s been planned undercover from the women and everyone else. So that’s not going to be good. He knows Linda finds out everything. Moreover, Tommy later talks to Linda. She knows far more than is good for health. The extent to which Arthur lets his wife in on things worries the brother in charge. What’s more is that Arthur wouldn’t be happy to find out these talks are happening behind his back, he may see that as something emasculating. Regardless, Linda wants to get away to America instead of sticking around Birmingham.
Simultaneously, Father Hughes (Paddy Considine) is finding out there may be danger coming his way. And that’s certain to set off a counteracted action on his side.
Ruben Oliver (Alexander Siddig) is still painting Polly, in all her glory. He is quite seductive and charming in his own way. Although, she does not fall for it. She is one of the strongest women on television.


Polly: “I think when men want sex they become hilarious, like a dog when you pick up a lead and he knows hes going for a walk.”
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Tommy’s off readying to get the deed done on Father Hughes. He slyly follows the priest until getting ambushed in a toilet by a couple men. They beat Tommy badly before loading him into an ambulance. He’s carted off somewhere dark and mysterious where Father Hughes stands over him with MP Jarvis (Alex Macqueen). They want to know why Tommy tried killing the priest. Mostly he just goes in and out of consciousness, managing a “fuck you” in between. Hughes talks about passing information over to the Soviet Union, as well as expecting an apology in front of the Russians. Big threats, too. Directed towards Tom’s son. “We have people in your life,” warns Hughes.
Wow. So with all the reach of the Blinders, this priest seems to have even more. His grasp is tough and vicious. Back at the house, Tommy sacks most of the people in his employ. Can’t trust a soul any more. Worse, he has quite a concussion by the looks of it. Not doing well at all. He shows up to the Russian dinner half concussed, half blown on the cocaine. At the table with the Grand Duke and Duchess (Jan Bijvoet/Dina Korzun), he does his best to apologize with Hughes ranting on about punishment.
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Saying a prayer in repentance, Tommy winces through. But everyone in attendance knows there’s something wrong. Tom rushes off to another meeting. Only he can’t manage to keep it together much longer. The concussion finally takes its toll on him. He collapses, telling Ada (Sophine Rundle) to get him to a hospital, that he has internal bleeding, a fractured skull. Then he fades away.
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What an excellent episode that progresses plot and character. Not only that, Tommy Shelby is proven once again to not be a completely invincible, untouchable gangster, as awesome as he is there’s no need for him to be completely God-like. So I love that this is a new move towards a more vulnerable Tommy, and Shelby organization as a whole. Excited for the next episode. Stay tuned with me, fellow lads and ladies!

Peaky Blinders – Season 1, Episode 1

BBC Two’s Peaky Blinders
Season 1, Episode 1
Directed by Otto Bathurst
Written by Steven Knight

* For a review of Episode 2, click here.
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When? Just after the First World War and the horror of the trenches.
Where? Birmingham, a’right.
Leader of the Peaky Blinders, a gang named for wearing razor blades in the bib of their peaked caps, Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) visits Birmingham’s lower quarters. He finds a girl that “tells fortunes” and proceeds to have a spell put on his horse. He tells everybody in the nearby vicinity when the horse is racing. And to keep hushed up about what they’ve seen and heard. One immediate thing I’ve always loved is that we get Nick Cave’s “Red Right Hand” as the theme song of the series. Great addition.
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There’s more than just Tom in the Shelby gang. Little Finn is smoking cigarettes, Arthur (Paul Anderson) is apparently pissed off. Then there’s John (Joe Cole). And every last one of them, well except for Finn at his young age, is putting in work. The oldest is Arthur, and he is the pissiest, too. Both in attitude and his alcoholism. Arthur ain’t happy about Tommy being down with the Chinese casting spells. More than that he feels overstepped by his younger brother. Though Tom puts it blunt: “I think. So that you dont have to.”
Meanwhile, Inspector Chester Campbell (Sam Neill) is on his way towards the Blinders. He’s got files all them all. At the same time, there’s some Communist-type activity happening amongst the workers in Birmingham. Freddie Thorne (Iddo Goldberg) is riling people up to strike. Imagine there’ll be some conflict along the way between the Blinders and the Communists. Right smack dab in the middle is Campbell, as well. Lots of good angles for the story to play towards. Also, it turns out Tommy and Freddie know one another from serving during World War I in the army. Fighting in the dirty trench warfare over on those fields far away from homein France. However, they’re at separate ends of the spectrum. Tommy doesn’t entertain Mr. Thorne much. But we learn from the latter about a “robbery of national significance“, which came down with word from Winston Churchill that also included a list; apparently both Tommy and Freddie are on it. Hmm.
At the same time there’s another soldier back home, Danny Whizz-Bang (Samuel Edward-Cook). He’s obviously got PTSD, Shell Shock as they called it. He doesn’t remember freaking out, yet Tom helps him out. Lots of chatter from Thorne. He’s a mouthy one, that.


Now we meet Aunt Polly (Helen McCrory). She pulls a gun on nephew John. Turns out she’s the one keeping a lid on the Shelby boys. At least John, anyway. Love that she’s this tough woman amongst a family of men. Speaking of family, the lads and their associates are having a meeting. Seems there’s a big city wide clean up. Tommy – without telling Arthur – found out from their bought officers that Inspector Campbell has made a name for himself busting up the IRA in Belfast. Now he’s headed to Birmingham, recruiting tough Irish fighters to help him beat the streets. The Blinders aren’t exactly worried, though John in his youth looks a little anxious. Still, Polly is tough, as is Tommy. For his part, Arthur’s not pleased with his younger brother. It’s as if Tom is slowly undermining him.
Through Campbell’s eyes we see Birmingham as a dirty cesspool. The streets at night are filled with the yells of the drunk, vomit, madness. A real mess that he’s looking to fix.
In a church, Tommy tells Polly about the recent robbery she knows nought about. Him and a couple of the good ole boys found a bit of heavy artillery – “all bound for Libya,” he tells her. Rather than leaving it all or tossing it, Tom stashed it away. And now there’s an Inspector out of Belfast headed to their turf. Coincidence? Doubt it.
Have to mention, I love that this is a period piece yet there’s contemporary music included. Makes for a unique feel that I find exciting. It doesn’t feel out of place, but exactly perfect somehow.


Seems that Ada Shelby (Sophie Rundle) is involved romantically with Freddie Thorne. Not something Tommy, or any of the brothers for that matter would enjoy hearing. So they meet in secret, even make love in secret wherever they can. This will absolutely cause chaos somewhere down the line. Just a matter of time.
At the local bar a woman turns up to find work as a barmaid. Her name is Grace Burgess (Annabelle Wallis), a proper Irish lass. The owner doesn’t think she’s cut out for a rough spot like that: “Youre too pretty,” he tells her. Although she convinces him by emptying out the spittoons while singing some song from back in the Old Country.
Inspector Campbell sees only the grim in Birmingham. He hates the prostitution, the abuse, the crowded conditions, thieves, beggars, a “stinking pile” of a city. He’s ready to take the Peaky Blinders on. Sam Neill is a bad ass and this opening speech is solid. The writing is great, too. Campbell further takes on the corrupt cops, so on. No fucking quarter. He’s brought in a load of “God fearing” men to swear in for knocking heads and such.
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Arthur is the first to end up meeting with Campbell. He’s taken by some men, beaten bloody. Then asked questions to which he has no answers. Because Tommy’s been doing his own thing without keeping older brother in the loop, everything’s a tad lopsided. “The only thing that interests me is the truth,” says Campbell. Arthur just can’t give up the goods. ‘Cause he doesn’t know a thing.
Now we get to witness Ms. Burgess working at the bar. She winds up coming across Tommy who makes a fairly rude comment. But the owner warns of getting too close to a Shelby, specifically that one. Later on, she calms all the fighting Irish hearts in the bar by singing a nice song, another one from back home that all the lads join in singing, too. Until Tommy Shelby arrives, then the place goes quiet. This might be the beginning of something. Simultaneously, Ada and Freddie are shacking up under everyone’s noses. Something is clearly broken in Tommy, as he can’t seem to gain back the emotion he once likely had, not after the war. While others are moving on and living life.
At the next family meeting, Arthur is getting fixed up. He brings back all the news from Campbell, about Churchill, the robbery. Things didn’t go as planned for Tommy. Worst of all Arthur wants to work with them. He’s got no clue what’s going on.
Furthermore, we come to find Tommy’s taken to smoking opium. That may stand for the lack of libido or feelings he’s had, accompanied by PTSD, the memories of war. He has flashbacks that are terrifying, even to the audience. Imagine being Tom Shelby. Even the opium can’t cut it all out fully. Christ.


The worst happens when Danny Whizz-Bang is being told to go home. By a Frenchman. Who pulls a blade. This ends up with the poor man getting stabbed, as the memories of Frenchmen with bayonets rain down on Danny. Likely, Tom or someone else is going to have to put Dan down. Because he will only suffer a worse fate if they toss him in the bin; those mental hospitals back then were beyond snake pits, they were death sentences, a lifetime of brutal madness.
Campbell is busy meeting Mr. Winston Churchill (Andy Nyman). They catch up on things. The Inspector tells him all about what he suspects thus far, as well as the way forward. Appears Campbell is a tough, hard man. Still, he gets a media warning about the papers from Churchill: “If there are bodies to be buried, dig holes. And dig them deep.” Awesome appearance of Mr. Churchill, giving us a side of him that too many rosy-eyed people would dare not entertain.
Not everyone is impressed with the way Tommy’s handling things for the Blinders. An old family friend, Charlie Strong (Ned Dennehy), warns against being too bold. It may just begin something terrible.


Charlie: “Is it another war youre looking for, Tommy?”
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We understand now that Ms. Burgess and Mr. Campbell are both working on the same side. She’s a copper. Tommy Shelby intrigues her, and Campbell worries she might let her judgement be clouded. We also come to discover Grace’s father was murdered by the IRA. A personal connection to wanting crime, particularly that of the Irish persuasion, eradicated from their stomping grounds. Little tougher than it sounds.
The man Danny killed was an Italian, not a Frenchman. He has connections. In order to save themselves from a war, Tommy has to “dispatch” Danny on his own. As the Italians watch. “I died over there anyway, Tommy. I left my fuckinbrains in the mud,” Danny weeps. Such a tragic thing. To see men torn apart by war like that. Saddest part? Hasn’t changed a whole lot since. Still not enough help for veterans. At least Danny is with his buddy Tommy near the end. Though he has to toss the body in a boat, get it out of the city, so as not to alert the new coppers in the city.
Except Danny ain’t dead. Charlie’s driving the boat, filling him in on things. Now he’s headed to London for a job.
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Excited to recap and review the next episode. Stay with me. This is one of my favourite series’ ever. My second time watching these now, so things are popping out I’d not noticed the first go. Love the cinematography, the grittiness of the plot and story, the characters. Love everything about it.

Peaky Blinders – Season 3, Episode 3

BBC Two’s Peaky Blinders
Season 3, Episode 3
Directed by Tim Mielants
Written by Steven Knight

* For a review of Episode 2, click here.
* For a review of Episode 4, click here.
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After the vicious events of last episode’s finale, Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) is most certainly ready for vengeance. His wife is dead now. Grace is gone. Or is he deciding on something else instead of revenge?
Everybody’s worried about him, as he’s been leaving all day on horseback and doing his own thing alone. Things are touchy, of course. No one wants to push him any further over the edge than he seems to be headed. Polly (Helen McCrory) clearly cares, but he wants none of it. Arthur and John (Paul Anderson/Joe Cole) are a bit pissed they weren’t all called in.
However, brothers is brothers. It all gets along. Well the Italians are getting locked down and the score’s ready to be settled. Tommy’s taken to writing up lists for everybody, so like Polly and Michael Gray (Finn Cole), the brothers likewise get their slip. John’s not happy that Michael was brought in before him. This eventually prompts Tommy to yell at his younger brother. He’s most concerned with “legitimate business” now after the death of his wife.


A little later Arthur gets up in Michael’s face after egging him on. Although nothing comes of it. They eventually sit back down for a few more drinks. For her part, Polly wants them all to start acting more appropriate to people with a big house, money, et cetera. And to unite with Tommy.
Only Tommy’s off with his little boy and Johnny Dogs (Packy Lee) headed for Wales. To see a woman, he says. Back in 3 days he tells them via note. A journey is needed. On a little stop, Tommy tells his child about his mother, what happened, and how things will be ahead of them. Though, he expresses: “Im not much good, Charlie. Youre gonna find that out soon enough.”


Teaching Michael how to shoot turns out wild for John and Arthur, as he puts the gun to both of them being led on by their taunts. Seems like there’s going to be actual fallout between these three. After all, Arthur continually pushes at Michael for being a ‘boss’ even though the latter doesn’t have any ambition to jump over them. Yet the insecurities of the oldest Shelby are abound. Either way, they try and teach Michael about their “side of the business” until Polly breaks it up. Michael makes clear he ain’t no little boy. GREAT SONG included here as “Burn the Witch” by Queens of the Stone Age plays and the Shelby brothers fire away on their guns. Nice little scene. Maybe Michael’s going to start getting his hands dirty and into the shit. We’ll see how it plays.
Down at the factory, the Shelby brothers meet with Connor Nutley (Ralph Ineson). They hand him a list of people involved with the Communist Party. He’s got six weeks to “sack them” or else, y’know… but Connor isn’t so easily convinced. The man is clearly just a working bloke and the Shelby clan are forcing his hand.
At the same time, Polly’s getting painted by Ruben Oliver (Alexander Siddig). She plays coy, but does have interest in him. I get the idea Polly is used to things going poorly, or downright awful. She’s seen hardship galore. So that’s perhaps a reason why she stands back at a distance. Here, she breaks down a bit in front of Ruben. He seems a sweet man. A bit eccentric, not weird just a painter type. For a moment she believes he’s into the fact she’s a “gangster” but he is more so into her, as subject, and a hopeful lover.


Tommy’s out on the marshlands and meeting a gypsy woman named Bethany Boswell (Frances Tomelty). He brings her the sapphire that’s supposedly cursed, the one his wife wore while getting shot. He believes in the curse, it seems. Although, Ms. Boswell doesn’t appear to get any bad vibes off the piece. Mainly, he hopes the curse is real so that is absolves him of guilt in his wife’s death. “All I have is you,” he tells the gypsy. No religion, none of that. She believes it’s cursed, saying it nearly burns her flesh. Then he heads out: “All religion is a foolish answer to a foolish question,” he explains to Dogs.
Vicente Changretta (Kenneth Colley) is headed to get on a ship in the midst of a massive crowd. His look increasingly nervous. Soon, he sees a suspicious man heading for him. He flags down a polcie officer and feels safe escorted onto the boat. Little does he know, the law is bought and paid by Shelby money. It’s all worse because Changretta’s wife taught the Shelby boys, she pushes them to let him go, reminding them of their youth under her tutelage: “I gave you sweets and cakes!” she cries. They disobey Tommy by letting his wife go, though. There may be hell to pay for this decision. Now, Mrs. Changretta is off to America on her own. You can see it definitely bothers John, so underneath the rough exterior of a gangster still lies the heart of a boy.
Some nice Nick Cave in this sequence with “Tupelo” jamming. The Shelby clan is busy in this episode, man. They don’t stop with the aggression. Certainly after the death of Grace, this is expected. Tommy is there now to do what he will with Changretta. The gig is up. Only Arthur steps in to finish Changretta off quick, as John also reveals they didn’t kill his wife. They don’t want to be that sort of gangster. Like a distinction can be made.


Tommy (to Changretta): “I forget who I am. Im a Blinder, Ill take your fuckin eyes first.”
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So Tom goes home with his boy and he tries getting back to business. He and Lizzie have a chat about her place in the Shelby Company. All sorts of legal stuff, selling perfumes and all that proper stuff; in Boston no less. Maybe things aren’t so bad for her after all.
In a jail cell, Tommy meets a gentleman who has information he needs. Wants. Badly. About Section D, or whatever they want to be called. The man warns the people he’s after are “dangerous“, but Tommy isn’t deterred. The Blinders are pretty fucking dangerous.
Arthur’s back on the booze. Although I doubt his wife is aware. She’s more happy about the baby they’re going to have. Wow! Papa Arthur. That sounds like a god damn mess all around. He seems happy as hell, but I’m not so sure he’s cut out for the family life like a normal chap. Or could it be the thing which turns him around? Maybe he’s not as ruthless any more after having spared Mrs. Changretta. There’s possibly a turnaround.
Anyway, Arthur reveals the big news to everybody. The boys are all impressed. Tommy is a bit heavy hearted to see his brother happy with a family, yet he obviously loves his brother. “Proud of ya,” he tells Arthur before heading off to a meeting.


At a swanky dinner, Tommy meets Father Hughes (Paddy Considine), Grand Duke and Duchess Petrovna (Jan Bijvoet/Dina Korzun), the whole lot. They chat together, Tommy answering questions about his family, so forth. The shady priest leads everyone in a nice grace. But Tom wants to get down to business. He lays out the update on their mission, all the stuff with the Communist Party and the plan for the robbery. Big event. Tom has it all under control and answers any question they lob at him. Something about Hughes strikes me as odd. He keeps interrupting all over the place, which doesn’t really please Tommy. Nevertheless, Tom slips a note to the Grand Duchess without anyone else getting to see what it says, pretending it’s a price for fuel and vehicles. Then he insults Hughes before leaving them all to their dinner.


The Duchess sends her daughter Tatiana (Gaite Jansen) out to talk with Tommy. He tells her about Hughes passing information over that’s going back to the Soviet embassy. He offers to kill him. Tatiana mouths off a bit about his wife, to which Tommy responds saying Grace is always with him. A strong moment, great writing.
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Loved this fucking episode. What a whopper, and unexpected. Really subverted what I thought was going to go typically like other mob-styled shows. Never underestimate the power of Steven Knight as a writer. Great chapter, looking forward to next week’s episode now so bad.

Peaky Blinders – Season 3, Episode 2

BBC Two’s Peaky Blinders
Season 3, Episode 2
Directed by Tim Mielants
Written by Steven Knight

* For a review of Episode 1, click here.
* For a review of Episode 3, click here.
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After a whopper of a premiere, Season 3 keeps on ramblin’. Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) is out taking meetings. He’s talking with Connor Nutley (Ralph Ineson) about a little business. He needs some keys, evidently to some storage. But you know it’s more than for a place to store a few things. Either way, it appears Nutley is reluctant to take money from a Shelby, Tommy specifically. He takes it, though.
And a little later, he ends up speaking to Father John Hughes (Paddy Considine), as the two sit and have a smoke. They talk of choosing sides, so on. And without a whole lot of effort, Considine makes Father Hughes and his talk of “little creatures” into an eerie sort of chap. I’m a fan of his for a long time now, but this is immediately an effective performance. Interested to see where this relationship goes from here. Hughes is a crooked priest with irons in the criminal fire, so there’s no doubt a further end to having a great actor like Considine playing the part. The tension between Hughes and Tommy is excellent, too.
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Now I’m blown away. Because an excellent actor I didn’t realize was part of this season shows up – Jan Bijvoet, as Grand Duke Leon Petrovna. This character is also quickly intriguing. Seems things aren’t as lively in terms of social engagements and business asthe Duke had hoped. He’ll be an interesting addition to the cast, as well.
Arthur Shelby (Paul Anderson) and brother John (Joe Cole) are sitting for a meeting of their own. However, not everybody’s too happy living under the rule of Shelbys like Arthur and John. As much as Tommy can get psycho when needed, Arthur and John are most certainly a little less subtle, and perhaps a little less respectful, than their brother. Vicente Changretta (Kenneth Colley) ends up literally spitting at them, making clear they’ve gone too far this time. Nice tense scene that’s sure to bring about a little trouble.
I’m always interested in what Aunt Polly (Helen McCrory) is up to. Because as greasy as she can be like any of them, Polly doesn’t get enough credit. They often walk all over here. But then again, none of them are saints, so what does it matter? Regardless, she doesn’t back down, and always gets her two cents in. Despite getting ignored or flat out mistreated, Polly manages a degree of strength in her male Shelby dominated world. Except right now all she manages to do is rile up her son John over Lizzie and her messed up situation.


Meanwhile, Tommy is making sure he’s on the special list at a swanky hotel. He’s dining and chatting with the Grand Duke Petrovna, who for his part is a bit of a disgusting man eating and drinking and talking in unison. Petrovna makes a bit of a dirty remark about Russian women v. English women, one which doesn’t appear to strike Tommy as very funny. But they get on talking. The conversation has its… ups and downs, including the Grand Duke crushing a glass in his hand, so obviously stressed yet completely composed at once. Another really impressive scene, both in writing and in the execution of the actors. Of course we find out more about what happened in the first episode of the season, re: the killing of the supposed Russian. Now, there’s further business ahead for the Russians and Shelbys. Serious business at that.
And John, he’s busy kicking the shit out of people. That’s one thing that constantly drives the fear of the Shelbys is that they’re very up close and personal fighters. Yes, they use weapons, guns sometimes. But they’re mostly brawlers. This is part of why many fear them. They don’t have to resort to guns in the night, or at least not all the time. These are blokes that’ll take you on, head to head.
When the Shelby brothers come together, along with Aunt Pol, there’s problems over John’s actions. He listened to nobody, and now there’s hell to pay. All the same, Tommy will have nothing but solidarity. It’s his way, or the fucking highway.


The Grand Duke sees his Grand Duchess Izabella (Dina Korzun). This reveals the fact they’ve likely got sinister intentions within their dealing with the Shelbys. She says it’s possible he may have to kill Tommy, with his own hand. Something the Duke is apparently ready for, one way or another. But is he? Without the possibility of death, any show’s characters become stagnant. So while Tommy is strong, all powerful with a wide reach, there is always a possible murder lurking around the corner, an assassination close behind or being brewed in the dark corners of Birmingham, maybe even further than that. Yet what I know for sure is there’s a nice showdown coming for the Petrovna and Tommy.
At the same time, Tommy is giving his wife Grace (Annabelle Wallis) the sapphire Petrovna gifted him for the murder of the Russian (spy) from last episode. And he’s got so much to worry about now with a wife, the child, it’s more to be used against him. Aside from that there’s Arthur trying to fight his demons, aided by his overbearing wife Linda (Kate Phillips). It’s only a matter of time before something in the Shelby clan breaks, snapping like a twig. Violently, I would imagine.
More Radiohead in this episode with “I Might Be Wrong”, a personal favourite of mine out of their catalogue. We see Arthur out on “business” as he tells his wife. But really it’s shit kicking time. So put on your shit kickers. Although, give it to Arthur: he goes home like he said he would. Even if his brother isn’t happy.


Tommy gets scooped up by the coppers. Then up shows creepy Father Hughes with an equally unsettling dog to see Mr. Shelby in his cell. The priest brings news about having Scotland Yard in their pocket. Veiled and open threats at once. Except Tommy is a hard bastard. A fighter to the bone. The two stand toe to toe, might as well be butting heads. Still, there’s a scary element to Father Hughes: “We can reach anyone. Anywhere.” And this puts a proper spook into Tommy, who rushes home to find a further threat. Proving that Hughes and his people really can get to anybody. A highly unsettling moment. Both in its own right, as well as for the fact Tommy is such a powerful man and someone can still go above and beyond his grasp.
As things go on of which she has no idea, Polly is ready to be painted soon by Ruben Oliver (Alexander Siddig). These two are fast becoming a little romantic. Wonder how far that will go, or what more trouble that might get Aunt Pol into with her boys. Because you know there’s only so far happiness goes for her. Mostly it’s a bleak and dreary ride through life for her among the Shelby clan. “A woman of substance and class,” she repeats to herself in the mirror before a party, the words Oliver had said about her earlier.
And at the party, Tommy’s not pleased to see Father Hughes, along with MP Patrick Jarvis (Alex Macqueen). In the dark behind closed doors, the three meet, and Tommy smokes his way through another tense encounter. They discuss an upcoming job, a bit of business. And Tommy really has no time for anybody else’s shit. The MP and the priest have their own ideas about how things will go. Even with the force of their power against him, Tommy will not lie down and take it for anyone.


Tommy: “You know gentlemen there is hell, and there is another place below hell. I will remember everything, and forgive nothing.”
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Tommy doesn’t want to bring Princess Tatiana Petrovna (Gaite Jansen) through for a factory tour while the place is being watched. Also, Princess Tatiana is a bit of a bitch. She even goes so far as to play on the whole gypsy angle, saying the sapphire from the Grand Duke has been cursed by one. So Tommy rushes to his wife, asking her to take the thing off.
But it’s too late. A man barges in through the crowd and takes a shot at the happy couple, hitting Grace right in the chest above her heart. As Tommy holds his bleeding wife, the other Shelbys beat the shooter, likely to death.


What a finish! Christ. I am sweating. Looking forward to the next episode, which will undoubtedly bring a ton of exciting developments. Much trouble on the way between the Irish and the Russians. Plus, plenty more amazing cinematography, acting, and lots of fun music. Stay tuned with me.