Entertainment Television

Remote Canadian locale entrances Tom Hardy in FX series 'Taboo'

By Bill Harris, Special to Postmedia Network

Tom Hardy in Taboo. (Handout)

Tom Hardy in Taboo. (Handout)

Remember that song, The Sweetest Taboo?

Nothing against Sade, who sang it, but I always hated that song. Like, really hated it. Which meant that I couldn't get it out of my head.

The tune re-emerged in my cranium while I was watching the new series Taboo, but in a decidedly ironic way. Because trust me, there is nothing sweet about this Taboo.

It's spooky and sordid and seemingly supernatural, and dark and dirty and deliberately dangerous. And that's just Tom Hardy's character.

Debuting Tuesday, Jan. 10, on FX, Taboo is an eight-episode journey to London in 1814. But the story stretches back far further than that, and touches places as far away as the jungles of Africa and the wild West Coast of Canada.

Hardy, of course, is a well-established movie and TV star, and he co-created Taboo. He plays lead character James Keziah Delaney, a man whose sudden return to London is a surprise, to say the least.

In fact, when James first emerges, his half-sister Zilpha, played by Oona Chaplin, describes him as, “Hell opened up.” Um, nice to see you, too.

“I said you were dead,” Zilpha says.

“I am,” James replies. And it doesn't sound like a joke.

It turns out the relationship between James and Zilpha is very complicated. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

James hasn't been heard from in a decade, so everyone logically assumed he had expired, likely violently, long ago. His return from deepest, darkest Africa coincides with the death of his father, a largely despised shipping magnate.

There are rumours about James. That he's mad. That he's evil. That he exists on some plane between the living and the dead. Or at least, he has senses that extend beyond the normal parameters of space and spirit and mortality.

In stark financial terms, there isn't much left of the shipping empire James' dad possessed. But there is a piece of land on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, called Nootka Sound, that James' dad owned, and now it gets passed to James.

What became known as the War of 1812 still is on, and the strategic value of Nootka Sound has increased, with borders being drawn between British North America – a.k.a. Canada – and the United States. The British East India Company really, really, really wants to purchase Nootka Sound, and it had worked out a deal with Zilpha and her husband Thorne Geary, played by Jefferson Hall. But that went up in smoke when James arrived back on the scene, reclaiming his rightful place as the heir.

The East India Company is baffled as to why James doesn't want to sell Nootka Sound. After all, it's just “rocks and Indians.” But is it much more than that? James knows his family history is deeply connected to the remote place. How does he know? Well, he just seems to know certain things, in an eerie way that makes you wonder what he can do, or even what he is.

By the way, the head of the powerful East India Company is a character named Sir Stuart Strange, played by none other than Jonathan Pryce. As you'll recall, Pryce was the so-called “High Sparrow” on Game of Thrones. Let's just say Pryce is very good at playing polite villains.

Taboo has a bit of a Penny Dreadful feel to it, but less splashy and not as extreme. Taboo has more of a brooding vibe, and anyone who comes across James lowers their heads, rather than raising them.

“You look the same,” James is told.

He replies flatly, “I'm not.”

The tale of Taboo will tell us just how much James has changed, and presumably why. Something is talking to James, or calling him, or leading him, or haunting him. Undoubtedly, these are not songs of sweetness.

Twitter: @billharris_tv

bharris@postmedia.com