For its first several episodes, FX’s Taboo deliberately made Tom Hardy’s James Delaney an enigma to the audience, particularly with regard to the supernatural elements of his character. He periodically has visions of a woman decked out in war paint, he hangs beads, and he chants — but whenever Taboo checked in on that, it quickly moved on to a more sedate scene before the viewer could truly parse it out. But, the fourth episode changes this by clarifying his magical powers in a major way: He can magically mind-fuck his sister.
In the middle of the episode, we see him kneeling by a fireplace and chanting while smearing himself in some kind of white powder and making dramatic hand gestures. We then see his sister Zilpha Geary (Oona Chaplin) in bed, writhing in ecstasy. As the scene cuts back and forth between the two, it becomes obvious that he’s the one causing her response, visiting her in her dream. Her husband seems to know it too, because when he later bursts into her room and aggressively plunges his hand up her skirts, he says, “Who is in there? Where he leads, I follow.”
Later in the episode, James and Zilpha have a confrontation at a party, and he further explains his midnight dream sex visit. He refers to it as breaking in — ostensibly to her mind. “You feel me when I break in, don’t you?” he positively purrs at her, in the way that only Tom Hardy at his most scenery-chewing can do. About this ability to magically mind-sex someone, he explains that he used to think he was mad, but when he left England and went to Africa, “they taught me how to use it, and now it’s a gift.”
For four episodes now, the show has kept us on our toes about the exact nature of his supernatural abilities. And while “magical sister fucking” is probably not the extent of it, it’s the most concrete answer we’ve had so far. Magical dream-fucking is a gift to James Delaney, just as the delightfully bonkers Taboo is a gift to the audience.
Photos via FX