ByRicky Derisz, writer at
Staff Writer at MP. "Holy cow, Rick! I didn't know hanging out with you was making me smarter!" Twitter: @RDerisz.
Ricky Derisz

*Warning: This article contains spoilers for Taboo*

From the outset of Taboo, it is clear that the TV show, much like its protagonist, is unique. The costumes, the accents and the backdrop point toward archetypal, regal British period dramas such as Downton Abbey or Wolf Hall. The tone, however, points toward something completely different — a dark, supernatural tale of black magic, incest and conspiracy.

[Credit: BBC/FX]
[Credit: BBC/FX]

The new drama is a peculiar beast, difficult to pin down and unpredictable in its eccentricity. Now at the half way point of its debut season, Taboo is upping the ante when it comes to the grotesque, peeling back the layers of James Delaney's psyche in the same manner Delaney (played by Tom Hardy) peels a burly hitman's entrails.

At the midpoint, there are still more questions than answers. As Delaney's intricate plan to smite those who wronged his father slowly unfolds, the undercurrent of black magic is becoming more integral to the plot, accumulating in the latest episode with a scene that can only be summarized with two words: Voodoo sex. And, if that wasn't enough...

The 'Taboo' Ending Will Reveal A Big Twist

Tom Hardy as James Delaney [Credit: BBC / FX]
Tom Hardy as James Delaney [Credit: BBC / FX]

As much as we try to deny it, television audiences love debauchery (Game of Thrones is a prime example of that) and contains a seductive mix of the lewd and the ambiguous. Part of the fun is trying to decipher the DNA of the show, and in an interview with Esquire, explained how what we see now is not what it seems, promising a tonal shift and a big twist at the end:

"As we start to develop through the story, there are different tonalities through the style of shooting, the style of acting. Once we meet and greet the characters, it's actually not what it seems. I want to urge people to continue through that. It's designed to slow burn. By Episode 8, it's actually not what you think you're watching at all."

For a show that serves itself well to fan theory speculation, Hardy's comments are like a red rag to a bull — what does it all mean, and what could the big reveal be? Just who is James Delaney? What really happened in Africa? Is he mad, or can he talk to the dead? Below are four theories on what Taboo's twist will be. Brace yourselves — it's bleak.

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1. James Keziah Delaney Is Already Dead

Delaney's zombie-like resurrection has been foreshadowed from the very first episode. His entrance at his father's funeral causes uproar and disbelief, for his acquaintances in London has long presumed Delaney dead — he's even referred to as a "ghost" by family lawyer Robert Thoyt.

This is for valid reason. Delaney's return to London takes place in 1814, 12 years after he left for the distant shores of Africa. According to those who knew him, Delaney never arrived — the slave ship he was travelling on sunk off of the Gold Coast, allegedly killing all of those aboard. From his "false death" to his return, it's unclear what he experienced, but there is enough to suggest the talk of Delaney being a dead man is more than rhetoric.

The accident is mentioned in every episode, and even the opening credits show the victims of a shipwreck, floating helplessly in the sea. Whether he survived or not, since returning, Delaney can see and communicate with ghosts. He also revealed that, somehow, he was communicating telepathically with his father before his death. This could be the result of black magic, or maybe Delaney really did die in the wreckage, and, akin to Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense, he can communicate with ghosts because he is one.

A man, possibly Delaney, floating in the 'Taboo' opening credits [Credit: BBC / FX]
A man, possibly Delaney, floating in the 'Taboo' opening credits [Credit: BBC / FX]

Further evidence on his supernatural ability relates to impossible knowledge Delaney appears to have obtained. For example, he knows intricate details about the business dealings of the East Indian Company and the Americans (a ghost is very subtly seen in that scene — see below), as well as information about his mother; information only his father and loyal companion, Brace, knew of.

Physically, he shows signs of abnormal recovery or resilience. After the first "hit" on him results in a severe stabbing, American doctor Edgar Dumbarton remarks at Delaney's ability to handle pain. In the second attack, Delaney takes a severe blow to the head, and appears to be fully unconscious (or even dead) before returning to sentience abruptly, seemingly clear headed. Was this a mini-resurrection?

2. Dead Or Alive, Delaney Is Still Communicating With His Parents

Whether Delaney is using black magic or is a member of the undead, he could still be in a form of beyond-the-grave contact with his parents. This would explain how he knows personal information, and could identify the recurring vision of the face-painted ghost as his mother.

Is the ghost on the left Delaney's mother? [Credit: BBC / FX]
Is the ghost on the left Delaney's mother? [Credit: BBC / FX]

His actions also point to an element of contact. He uncovers the mysterious Sankofa mark in the fireplace, a symbol that matches his tattoo. He also asks Horace Delaney's widow, Lorna Bow, if he can have his father's belongings, as well as uncovering her identity after finding a pamphlet for a play she was starring in, hidden in his father's desk.

The significance? Either Delaney was deliberately sent back from the dead by his father, in an attempt to enact vengeance on those who wronged him in their bid for control. Or he is still in the land of the living, but uses black magic to communicate with his mother, father, or both, to help him orchestrate his revenge.

3. Delaney Can Enter Different Dimensions

The bizarre (and most definitely taboo) sex scene in the last episode showed Delaney's ability to remotely take control of Zilpha, infused with dream-like sequences that look to be from his time in Africa. Casting aside Delaney's use of his "skill,"] the scene demonstrates an aspect of astral travel, or the ability for him to use magic to separate his spirit from his physical body.

If this is the case, Delaney may have the ability to be in two places at the same time, or communicate with others on a spiritual level. Perhaps the Delaney we see in London is a spiritual projection, and the physical Delaney is still in Africa. Or vice versa — his physical form may be in London, with his spirit still in Africa.

4. Delaney Can See Into The Future

Delaney appears to pick up a sign [Credit: BBC / FX]
Delaney appears to pick up a sign [Credit: BBC / FX]

The last theory is less "big-revelation," and more a way of enhancing a second viewing. However, there are instances where Delaney appears to show foresight that may be the result of visions of the future.

When Lorna Bow is arrested, he tells her to "wait it out" as the East Indian Company will come and save her. Granted, it's logical he'd expect this to happen, but when Lorna reveals she would've been raped had they arrived only minutes later, Delaney's demeanour seems to suggest he knew she'd be okay all along.

Also, when the American hitman comes to attack him, Delaney is about to mount his horse before jolting to attention, and seeking out his attacker. Is it possible that he had a vision, forewarning him of the threat to come?

Taboo airs on Saturday's on BBC and Tuesday's on FX.

Let us know your best theory on the big Taboo twist in the comments below.

(Source: Esquire)


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