“Taboo” has got to be the filthiest show ever made for television.
Not filthy as in sexy. Filthy as in baths seem to be few and far between for most of the characters.
Surgeons walk about covered in patients’ blood, men and women alike seem smeared with weeks worth of grease, and don’t even ask about the state of dental hygiene. Great gobs of manure litter the streets and people walk right through them.
Welcome to London in the early 19th century. Just returning to the city, after having long been thought dead in Africa, is a brooding James Keziah Delaney (Tom Hardy, ripe with animal magnetism).
Somehow, he learned of the passing of his father, a one-time shipping magnate who slowly went mad after his son’s assumed death. And he has come to claim his inheritance. Which doesn’t amount to much, but does include a key, if obscure, bit of land in the American Pacific Northwest.
Also counting on that inheritance is Delaney’s sister, Zilpha (Oona Chaplin) and her husband, Thorne Geary (Jefferson Hall). Zilpha and her brother were apparently unusually close in their youth — thus the series’ title — and James still carries a torch at the same time he intends to claim the inheritance. Awkward.
“Taboo” was created by Hardy, his father Chips, and the estimable writer-director Steven Knight (“Eastern Promises,” the current “Allied,” Hardy’s one-man show “Locke”) so it’s not all dirt and incest insinuations, there’s some serious geopolitical context thrown in, as well as what might be twisted mysticism.
It’s a rich mix of intrigues with the occasional bout of brutal violence as Delaney tries to build his own empire and assumedly reclaim his one true illicit love. Hopefully, along the way, he’ll discover the joy of serial bathing.
Tom Long is a longtime culture critic.
10 p.m. Tuesday