This review contains spoilers and graphic images.

Taboo’s sixth episode kicks off with James (Hardy) staring out to the water, as Brace (Hayman) grumbles and mentions James’ dad. Brace jumps to the defense of old Horace Delaney, claiming that his mother tried to drown him when he was a child. When finally separated from the baby, she turned violent and crazed, and was committed. James warns Brace away.

The next morning, James visits her grave and the now-abandoned asylum. He inspects chains and drawings of birds in the Northwestern Native American styles, and hears her screams.

At night and beneath a full moon, James seeks solitude on the docks. Winter (Martinwood) pays him a visit against his wishes. She denies being intimidated by him, but of his reputation as the African Devil. After speaking foreign words to her, she admits to being to be afraid. She heeds his warnings to leave the second time.

At the farm, Cholmondeley (Hollander) instructs several men in the dangers of chlorate in the process. After an amusing metaphor comparing it to adding a baby to a marriage, he bids them all to stir. The men and Robert (Serkis) take position and begin their dreary task as the catalyst is added to the vats.

“Think of it, as like adding a baby to a marriage. All was ordered, and calm, and now there is this thing… that demands attention.” –Cholmondeley

At the company headquarters, Wilton (Bill) and Pettifer (Dixon) bemoan their situation as they prepare for Chichester (Msamati) eminent arrival. After a brief introduction where he admits he was once a slave, Chichester enquires about a ship called the Cornwallis.

This seems to baffle the company men, who thought the commission was about a ship called the Influence. Chichester explains that the ship was renamed to hide it being used for slave trading, an illegal and unsanctioned act. Undoubtedly done for profits on the side. Furthermore, the manifest stated that the ship was listed as empty, and sailed by a skeleton crew. A factor in its sinking, four days later.

Alone, James goes into the river. After taking a moment to splash his face and hear voices in the distance, he sticks his head in, only to be grabbed. It is his mother. Breaking free and emerging, James heads back to land, where he was spied upon by Robert, who takes off running.

At the manor, Lorna (Buckley) asks about James, who has been gone for two days. Lorna fears for him, but Brace isn’t worried.

At the docks, men attend to the Felice Adventurero. Chichester wanders the alleys nearby, and comes to the door of the Delaney Shipping Company. He knocks, seeking James, but the request goes unanswered.

At the East India Company, Pettifer and Wilton tell Sir Strange (Pryce) what they were told. That the Cornwallis went down, the slaves sealed inside to hide the evidence. More disturbing, Chichester asked about Strange’s brother and his sugar plantation in Antiga. But at this, Strange seems oddly pleased and thinks it time to “start moving some pieces on the board.”

At the farm, one of the men falls asleep at the paddle. Robert cries to Cholmondeley, who calls for shift change. Nothing dangerous occurs, but the situation’s volatility is put clearly in perspective.

Lorna calls upon Zilpha, but is greeted by a drunk Thorne (Hall). Her husband naturally is suspicious of Lorna’s intentions, wondering why Lorna would seek to ask Zilpha. He grows threatening, but Zilpha (Chaplin) appears with a massive bruise. She seems emotionless as she denies knowledge. Thorne taunts Lorna with a rhyme he heard of James, but Lorna recognizes the rhyme as an old one. Thorne’s obsession soon turns to how everyone wants to know where James is. Fortunately, Zilpha takes his hand and asks Lorna to leave.

James pays a visit to the office of Dr. Dumbarton (Kelly). The doctor tells him that six have actually died of cholera, an interesting coincidence. James informs the bonesetter that the powder will be ready for delivery tomorrow night.

Back at the Geary’s, Zilpha’s bath is interrupted by an anxious Thorne. He is thrilled at having received word of his acceptance for a position in Australia. He is inclined to forgive her for everything, but Zilpha dryly states her disinterest and asks privacy.

Under Cholmondeley’s supervision, the completed gunpowder is loaded into a coffin and then onto a cart. James places Cholera warnings on the farm, then grabs Robert. When asked what he saw, the boy says nothing.

 “I strongly suggest you continue to see nothing.” –James Delaney

James, Cholmondeley, Robert and Atticus (Graham), venture into London dressed in black. Stopped by soldiers, Cholmondeley explains that they transport six cholera victims and a child. Suspicious, one of the soldiers opens the coffins and asks for a torch, dangerous given the cargo. But he sees Robert playing dead and steps away, yelling at them to go. Cholmondeley and James have no idea what happened, but Atticus compliments the clever boy as he seals the coffin.

Back at the farm, Ibbotson (Fairbank) finds a carving of the sankofa on a beam. Later, after a few drinks, he heads towards the barn…

The crew arrive and begin unloading the cargo for Dumbarton. The doctor is pleased as James’ reliable, who in turn reminds him of their deal. James also warns the doctor that should his factory be discovered, Dumbarton may fall with him.

James returns to the manor to Brace’s disapproval and Lorna’s relief. She feared he had left, and admitted she visited his sister. The company was asking where he was and offering cash and threats. Lorna fears that should the Prince-Regent and the East India company unite, he would be dead. James asks what his sister said.

As it was last episode, Zilpha draws a hat pin from a drawer, as well as a cloth. Sneaking towards Thorne, she straddles him in his sleep. Lifting his shirt, he carefully find a spot and runs him through as he wakes, covering the wound.

James descends the stairs to find Zilpha banging at the door, and in the rain. Slowly he lets her in, and after briefly warming herself by the fire before she giddily hugs her brother. But James is stoic, and asks about Thorne.

 “I killed him… just like you said.” – Zilpha Geary

She admits to leaving him dead in the bedroom. As she fetches a drink, James almost asks when he told her to kill him. He goes to fetch Brace to deal with the body, lest she hang. She is not thrilled with returning home, but agrees.

The next morning, Dumbarton inspects Thorne’s body. After slapping a cholera warning on it, he orders it immediately buried.

Strange has good news for the board as he reports that Ibbotson confessed James’ factory to a priest. The priest in turn, sold James out. The news worries Godfrey (Hogg), who comes running to James’ home. After giving the report, James assures the worried Godfrey to return home, for he shall deal with it.

James beats the blue coats to the farm, where Cholmondeley warns him that the powder inside is still unstable. A horse wagon would set them off. James is indifferent, insisting they must leave as he thrusts a tongue in Cholmondeley’s hand. The blue coats then arrive too late and find the barn empty. James and company paddle riverboats down the gentle stream.

Elsewhere, at a church, a priest opens the confessional to a familiar face. He realizes a moment later that it is a dead and tongue-less Ibbotson. Pryce considers the news, and decides to move against James from another angle.

Zilpha dresses in black and attends Thorne’s funeral, where James and friends prepare the burial. As the funeral party departs, Zilpha is left alone as James stares at her from a distance. It begins to rain, and after returning his gaze, she turns and walks away. James then rides to the Geary’s residence, marches upstairs and commands Zilpha to unclothe.

As they engage in coitus in the very bed Thorne died in, James has distracting visions. He sees his mother, he sees himself as a child before being dunked in the river. He reacts by choking Zilpha quite hard, but backs away before permanent damage is done.

Dress again and at the asylum, a troubled James strikes sparks with flint. Stepping out to the docks however, he encounters Wilton in a stagecoach. The company man informs him that Strange has declared war. As he drives off, something explodes, frightening several nearby residents. It is the Felice Adventurero, now aflame.

James pays a visit to Godfrey at his second job and threatens him for withholding info. Godfrey swears he did not know. Angered that this didn’t go through the board meeting, James leaves and visits Atticus. He suspects that they had been betrayed by the man whose thumb James had taken.

Atticus distracts the man, saying he was supposed to guard the ship. Then dispatches him as Atticus watches the dismemberment. He surmises aloud that the man had betrayed James either because of or despite James maiming him. James instructs Atticus to leave the body where it could be found, and that he could keep the heart.

Helga (Potente) enjoys a pipe of some narcotic when James arrives, quite drunk. He tells Helga he needs a ship, and orders her to take a captain upstairs and dispose of him. Helga refuses, and James reacts violently by throwing flagons aside. He takes some drink and leaves.

Again, taking solace on the docks, James drinks and wishes for a vessel. He steps into the water when Winter appears, asking what he is doing. He tries to send her away again. She gives him a bottle which he thoughtlessly drinks. And after visions of drowning by his mother, he awakes in the morning in the mud.

After collecting himself… he finds Winter’s body. Gutted.

James Fadeley photo.

About James Fadeley

James is a short story author and novelist who spends way too much time playing video games. His first novel, The Gift of Hadrborg is based on The Banner Saga universe. If you think yourself insane, he can be followed on Twitter @JamesFadeley.