Oh, yeah -- Delaney has magic sex powers
One thing that's not about Nootka Sound: Delaney's psychic sex powers! Like its artier prestige doppelgänger The Young Pope, Taboo is a show that plays fast and loose with larger spiritual forces. One of the most pressing questions of director Paolo Sorrentino's gaudy HBO papal melodrama is whether or not Jude Law's Lenny is actually divine or a holy fraud. Similarly, Taboo has given us many scenes of Tom Hardy blowing magic dust, having creepy visions, and pulling off a seemingly ahistorical haircut without ever confirming Delaney's supernatural status.
The debate is officially over: Delaney has mystical capabilities, and he likes to use them for telepathic sex with his half-sister. After last week played with the forbidden fruit of incest, giving us breathy letter-writing and church-pew kissing, this episode delivers a bizarre interlude where Oona Chaplin writhes around in bed while pantsless Hardy starts a fire, paints his face, and drinks a mysterious liquid. (There's so much going on in this scene: erotic levitation, shirtless Hardy, and some likely problematic stuff with a "native" mask.) Clearly, Delaney will only use his psychic skills for good, like giving his half-sister orgasms, and not to take out his enemies. That would be uncouth.
Because, despite building a coalition of allies this episode, this guy still has many enemies. In addition to the East India Company, the British government, and the American spies, he has to deal with his half-sister's husband, Thorne Geary, who is consistently portrayed as a cruel and one-dimensional fool. As the wild party comes to a close, Thorne, tipsy off that laughing gas, confronts Delaney and accuses him of having sex with his wife. Delaney tries to be a good bro and takes Thorne outside so he doesn't embarrass himself, but Thorne makes a scene anyway, calling Delaney a racial slur and challenging him to a duel. I was hoping for a Zoolander-style walk-off, but a duel is fine.
How does Hardy play all of this? He stares into the distance. He grimaces. He does that twitchy eye thing that's supposed to connote thinking, but mostly looks like he's getting examined by an optometrist. It's almost like Hardy, the star and co-creator of this often absurd show, knows exactly what most of the audience already knows: Delaney always wins. A duel may sound deadly, but he's got bigger pieces of shit to take care of than Thorne. He's got pots of piss to boil. Gunpowder to make. And a whole stretch of land called Nootka Sound to claim as his own.