Really, what's up with all the incest?
Ever since the first episode of Game of Thrones ended with Jaime and Cersei Lannister having sex in a tower and then throwing a wee little boy from a window for snooping on them, incest on cable dramas has become increasingly normalized. So, can Taboo still make it shocking? Chaplin, who plays Hardy's half-sister, had a role on the HBO fantasy show as Talisa Stark, and she still seems to think incest is a worthwhile topic. "I think that’ll still be the only interesting aspect of sex that remains," she told Vanity Fair recently. OK: That's settled!
Still, Taboo must work overtime to give the act the tawdry glow it clearly desires. What does that mean? In the third episode, we get the series' most effective use of voice-over yet as Delaney and his half-sister write each other earnest letters that hint at the misdeeds of their past, which include romance novel-worthy lines like, "I woke from a trance and realized the depth of our sin," and "We used to talk to each other without words in dark corners." Delaney clearly wants his half-sister back and he makes an elaborate pitch to her, suggesting that once he gets his shipping company running (and settles his bureaucratic battle with the East India Company) he'll be able to whisk her away to a land "where there is no damnation." She's not as into it -- perhaps because she hates North American winters or maybe because she's just not that into him.
The letter-writing scene is old-fashioned compared to the throwdown between Delaney and his half-sister's husband Thorne Geary (played by Jefferson Hall, also a former Game of Thrones cast member -- he had a small role as the ill-fated Hugh of the Vale). It's an answer to an interesting dramatic question: How do you make your hero's obsession with his half-sister more relatable to the audience? Make his romantic rival a complete monster. "Since you've come back our fucking has become almost murderous," Geary informs Delaney, giving way too much information about his sex life. "It exhausts us -- to think I have this wicked thing beneath me and it's my lifelong duty to punish her. It exhausts us both."
This scene may have exhausted you -- it's one of the episode's many showy monologues -- but it sets up an inevitable violent showdown between Delaney and his terror of a brother-in-law, a man who snivels, screams at his servant about oranges, and torments his wife with obvious glee. In their big confrontation scene, which takes place in Delaney's office, it's fun to watch Hardy listen to this madman with a twinkle in his eye. It's one of the few moments of restraint we've seen from him. It's like he knows Geary will be his lunch soon enough.