Taboo, FX's bleak new period miniseries that premiered last night, is a showcase for star Tom Hardy's unapologetic weirdness. The eccentric 39-year-old English actor plays James Delaney, a mysterious figure who returns to London in 1814 following the death of his father and spends most of the first episode brooding and intimidating people. Like a gloomy reality-show contestant, Delaney is not here to make friends.
So what's Hardy there to do? Make grunts. And groans. And little mischievous twitches with his eyes. While this eight-episode costume drama can be dreary, slow, and gruesome, Hardy's performance is a thing to behold: It's a mystical combination of tough-guy charisma, antihero swagger, and cheeky goofball-ery. Most of the first episode consists of other characters either reacting to Delaney's bizarre behavior or talking shit about him behind his back. He's not just the star -- he's the weird, enigmatic sun the plot circles around.
The same actorly instincts that led to peculiar (and often brilliant) performances like Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, the mumbly enemy of Leo in The Revenant, and the taciturn hero of Mad Max: Fury Road guide him throughout this series, which he developed himself with his father Edward "Chips" Hardy and his frequent collaborator Steven Knight (Locke, Peaky Blinders). It's a performance that lets him go full-Hardy. How exactly does he do that? Let us count the ways.