Taboo Episode 4: Context, Questions, And Theories

A look into FX’s hit series “Taboo”  – to read previous insights for previous episodes, click here

Episode 4 really picked up the pace in terms of action, particularly the murder and sexual deviancy kind, so without further ado, let’s go.

James Delaney

It opens moving in between James floating facedown in water and sitting in front of a fire. It makes it difficult to tell if this is a vision or a brief flashback and he’s drying himself off as a result.

One more thing of note is the buttons/decorations on his jacket (specifically the collar) the make it appear to be a uniform.

Lorna Bow

Lorna has a very strong episode and in the process lets us know that English prisons in the early 1800’s were fucking terrifying.

She shows that she has immense trust in James and declines £1,000 and her freedom from the Crown via Solomon Coop, who let us really see his darker side in action.

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This event also served as the perfect moment for James to pit the East India Company and the Crown against one another, helping to dismantle their “common cause.”

Lorna’s willingness to follow James’ advice and their mutual infatuation with each other leads to the early beginnings of an alliance as she signs on to join his “League of the Damned.”

We also get yet another allusion to rivers.

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Lorna also acts very dodgy when the former Mr. Delaney’s trunk is requested by James. It seems either its contents or the lack thereof aren’t quite what she had lead on.

Godders

A seemingly very creepy interaction between James and the crossdressing scribe transpired (little did we know this wouldn’t even register as creepy in comparison to how the rest of the episode unfolds).

He provides us with the following information:

  • Prince Regent will reject James’ offer
  • The Crown is aware gunpowder is the only valuable trade asset James could offer the Nootka Tribe
  • The Crown will not grant him a license as they control the supply of gunpowder during war times.

Mr. Cholmondeley aka The Chemist

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In Episode 4 we also got to meet everyone’s new favorite supporting character, the very flamboyant and occasionally shit eating chemist.

The Ringer’s Sam Schube did a nice piece about the importance of this character’s introduction to the show that you can check out here.

And while this Mr. Cholmondeley isn’t based on a particular historical figure, his surname did belong to a notable person during this era, if betting 500 guineas (coins, not the pet) that you can have sex in a hot air balloon is notable.

However, the way he informed all of us about the perils of blue balls may be reason enough to call this fictional character quite notable in his own right if we’re being honest.

One bit of history is involved with his character and that is a sign placed behind him that read “Royal Society” as he wowed some of 19th century London’s most willing and easily excited ladies.

This group still exists in London today and is one of, if not the, oldest groups of this nature dedicated to science.

It first received royal charter in 1660 and has included members such as Isaac Newton and Stephen Hawking amongst many other of the most world’s brightest minds.

The list of fellows is extremely extensive with over 1,000 members, but a relatively manageable pdf that contains those from 1660 to 2007 can be found here.

The Farm

Delaney summons his new friend to a farm, seemingly the same farm from Episode 1 as the boy in the window appears to be his suspected love child with Zilpha.

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Additionally, James said 3 people live there, which I would guess is the older man and woman in charge of watching out for the boy and the boy himself.

While there we learn the obvious, James is going to attempt to make it own gun powder.

This leads to interesting tidbit of how gunpowder could be made, which includes pigeon and cow excrement, human urine with traces of alcohol (50 gallons worth), and ash. Oh, and it takes an extremely reasonable calendar year to produce.

But, of course, James doesn’t even have remotely that much time as he has an equally reasonable 4-week timetable to complete this taxing process.

Which, segues into the foundation being put in place to rob the East India Company to obtain the necessary saltpeter aka potassium nitrate.

American Assassin

But, quickly before we move on, the man we saw lurking at the docks at Episode 3’s conclusion made his proper introduction in the form of an attempted murder.

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James is first tipped off because of the suspicious behavior of his horse, which makes me think everyone and everything James comes in contact with somehow gets a supernatural vibe to them.

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Regardless, he cannot react fast enough and Delaney takes basically a bowling pin to the skull before proceeding to stab, hook and disembowel his attacker. Luckily (as far as we know) he resisted eating any of his flesh.

The Heist

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So, just jump ahead for a brief moment, this is James’ solution to his saltpeter conundrum, a robbery of the East India Company’s warehouse at Wapping Wall.

He recruited Atticus, his brother-in-law and French Bill along with Helga and a few select working girls to do his bidding for him.

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The not-so-subtle handing off of a handgun (when this seemingly could’ve been done anytime, inside of any building) got the sequence in motion that included explosions (courtesy of the chemist), mass neck breaking and throat cutting and even a stick up mid fellatio.

And when all was said and done it appears Delaney’s League of the Damned succeeded in their quest.

In addition to the acquisition of the saltpeter, Delaney also made a deal with Atticus to collect barrels of urine and take them from Prospect of Whitby pub, the oldest riverside tavern, then up Fleet River, which is a subterranean river that runs through London, to Hampstead.

Countess Musgrove and Dr. Dumbarton

Earlier in the episode, James receives invitations from a notorious floozie and socialite, Countess Musgrove, to attend a party as well as an invitation marked with the American flag.

While at this party, which looked lit AF by the way, everyone just stumbling drunk or high on laughing gas and just being weird as hell, he is approached by Dumbarton offering seemingly the ultimate prize: A chance to be with his sister without judgment.

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Sidenote: This is a live look at me and your girl this weekend.

In addition to that, a new wrinkle we find out that Countess Musgrove is actually an American, Genevieve Decoux from New Orleans and is all the oft-mentioned Carlsbad.

The revelations at the party seem to put the Americans in the lead as the favorite moving forward to secure the Nootka Sound. But, one big domino would still need to fall and that is Zilpha agreeing to go along with everything and we’ll get to her…reluctantly…. next….

Thorne and Zilpha Geary

I’m going to be completely honest, I hate these characters and I hate their storylines despite how seemingly necessary they are.

Earlier in the episode James as a fairly mundane vision (I think) of a man by the shore with a dog, perhaps the dog from earlier episodes, but then things quickly get weird, very, very weird.

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What we see is James rubbing dust on himself before a fire while Zilpha seemingly does a little nocturnal meandering, a bit of how’s your father, a bit of… sex… with herself, but also with James, somehow…

This either proves James has a supernatural ability and can come to her “as an animal” if he pleases or that maybe Zilpha is a little crazier than we thought and James plays that up.

Following this “encounter” she mutters:

Deliver us from the devil for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Which, is nearly Matthew 6:13 verbatim aside from the substitution of the word “devil” for the original word, “evil.”

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All I do know is that it was weird as hell and even weirder that Thorne seemed to know and wanted to pick up the sloppy seconds of a telepathic get-together.

As weird and horrible as these two are, Thorne starts pulling his weight at the end of the episode.

In a very relatable way, Thorne gets drunk and high off his ass and all of a sudden thinks he can fight the biggest, baddest guy at the party. And all that climaxes with the greatest words the 19th century have to offer…

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Unfortunately, I’m a little skeptical that James will value his sister’s relationship to the point where he won’t want to kill her husband and have to decline…

(This is what we a call a reverse jinx in the biz, I need this duel to happen).

Theories

I am very suspicious of Lorna Bow, for a cute actress she seems unnecessarily willing to put herself into dangerous situations when her presence isn’t required and she also carries a goddamn blade for slicing up Dukes.

Her ties to Ireland are also interesting as it became known in one of the earlier episodes about the Americans alliance with the Irish, which opens the door to a connection existing there.

That would also explain how she was so knowledgable about the state of the Nootka Sound and the politics surrounding it when she first approached James.