Zilpha Fights the Patriarchy With Demons on 'Taboo'

The fifth episode of Tom Hardy's 'Taboo' includes an exorcism that has surprising results. 


Tom Hardy is literally magical in his star-vehicle period-piece show Taboo. After playing it coy with its supernatural elements, the fourth episode revealed that his character James Delaney has magical sex powers. The fifth episode contains a similar revelation about his sister Zilpha (Oona Chaplin): She has magic Fight the Patriarchy powers.

The episode initially seems like a duel between Delaney and Zilpha’s horrible husband, Thorne (Jefferson Hall), will be its centerpiece, but that conflict is resolved surprisingly early. Both men emerge alive with Delaney apparently unaffected by a bullet. After returning home to Zilpha, Thorne is furious when he later walks in on her in the middle of a magic sex dream with Delaney. After attacking her in her bedroom, he brings her to a priest to exorcise her. “I told the priest he visits you,” he sneers.

“Visits” is indeed the term Delaney uses for the sex-dreams he sends her, and it’s curious that Thorne knows. That’s when Zilpha, who has tolerated his behavior to a bewildering extent thus far finally snaps. “Go to hell!” she screams.

Unfortunately, though she flails, she isn’t strong enough to escape Thorne’s grip, and the men tie her down. She channels Eva Green in Penny Dreadful as they proceed with a humiliating exorcism. At the end, she lies docile, apparently no longer an incestuous deviant. It seems to have worked, right? She’s totally ready to be a proper Victorian wife.

The way the camera zooms in on her glinting eyes and the ominous music swells, the show practically holds up a flashing sign reading “not so fast.” As she returns to Thorn’s bedroom, Zilpha whispers, “Teach me, guide me,” apparently invoking some unseen spirit while getting out a knife.

Either the exorcism procedure backfired, inviting some other demonic entity into her body … or more likely, it pissed her off so much that she’s now embracing the same magical powers her brother embraced long before. It’s a juicy note to end on, though admittedly it’s hard to top Taboo’s fourth episode closer of Thorne yelling, “I challenge James Delaney to a duel at dawn to the death!”

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