Ah, January… The time of year we’d usually get a break to catch up on all the stuff sitting around on DVR. But alas — that’s no longer the case. While we’re waiting for the next big high-concept series to grace the small screen, FX has done everyone a favor and premiered the much-anticipated series “Taboo” for us all to enjoy.
We use the term “enjoy” loosely as the period piece is cut from a very specific narrative ilk and may not appeal to viewers across multiple spectrums. Its biggest selling point, however: Tom Hardy.
The brooding, edgy actor — known for playing scenery chewing characters like Bane from “The Dark Knight Rises,” Max Rockatansky from “Mad Max: Fury Road” or even that crazy murder dude with the funky hair in “The Revenant” — not only takes up the responsibility here as the lead actor in the series, he also co-created the series with his father, Chips, and “Peaky Blinders” EP Steven Knight.
The gist finds James Kaziah Delaney (Hardy) returning to 1800s London — after being presumed dead in Africa — to settle his father’s business affairs while setting out to avenge his dad’s death.
While that doesn’t sound like much to go on, the series does well at laying on the visual style and character substance to make up for limited through-line. The cinematic stylings of Steven Knight are in full effect here and, along with the help of its supporting cast — Jonathan Pryce and Franka Potente come to mind — the stage is quickly set for Hardy’s Delaney to wreak his havoc.
While he doesn’t dish any vengeance in Tuesday’s (Jan. 10) premiere, we do get the Tom Hardiest Tom Hardy to ever Tom Hardy: A sort of Bill the Butcher from “Gangs of New York” without the Snidely Whiplash mustache-twirling that made Daniel Day Lewis’s performance so deliciously devilish and over-the-top.
To say Tom Hardy is “Taboo’s” biggest strength is to also acknowledge the fact that he’s the show’s biggest weakness. It’s a tough feat, as star and story creator, to walk that line — and we’re unsure whether Hardy’s doing a spot-on job of doing both.
But that’s not to say that “Taboo” isn’t worth sinking your teeth into: FX’s first real period piece does its job, right out the gate, to establish its own engaging tone and pace. As for Hardy’s take on Delaney, his performance is brilliant, or kitschy, or… Knowing him, probably both.
“Taboo” airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FX.