Taboo - Episode 1

  • James:
    A sinner, at 11 (1798) he went to the East India Company Military Seminary, he was exceptional until the year 1800, he changed then, behaving as mad as his mother, who was put in an asylum, in 1802 he went off to Africa, back after 10 years,
    in love with his sister,
    practices African rituals,
    people think he's mad like his father,
    there is a rumour he ate the flesh of the dead,
    pays for an illegitimate child, hates hypocrisy
  • Zilpha:
    not happily married to Thorne,
    domineered by him,
    occupations: writing, stitching,
    in writing she is more talkative,
    pretends to be obedient, but burns for more,
    fights the feelings she has for her brother

1814: James Keziah Delaney comes to London to attend the funeral of his father and to accept his inheritance. In addition he has a bone to pick with the British East Indian Company. He encounters his sister Zilpha, and old, passionate feelings surge up.

First Scene:
Inside the church. The funeral of Horace Delaney. The lawyer Thoyt asks Zilpha if she had paid the grave diggers the extra shilling so they will bury Horace Delaney, her father deeper into the ground.
"My wife has no business with grave diggers," Thorne, Zilpha's husband replies, irritated. "Her father will rest at regular depths. Zilpha doesn't look as if she agrees with Thorne but she says nothing.

Oops! Wrong. Zilpha will have business with grave diggers, namely her brother, who will dig a much deeper grave to bury you, Thorne.

James enters the church. Thoyt says: "Dear God, there walks a dead man."
Zilpha gasps. "Who is that?" Thorne says.
"Is hell opened up?" Zilpha says to herself.
Thoyt leans in to Zilpha: "Dear Lord, Almighty, is that your brother?"
Thorne looks at Zilpha and then at James. Zilpha doesn't look at any of the men.
James puts the pennies taken from his father's eyes into the collecting box and sits down. Thorne keeps staring at him. Zilpha looks straight ahead and starts praying. Thorne joins her praying. James doesn't.

Second Scene:
The funeral. James speaks a very own prayer in a foreign language and paints a stripe of red onto his right cheek. Zilpha watches him. James turns his head and looks at her. She returns the look longingly. Thorne grabs her arm. She casts her eyes down. James looks away.

Third Scene:
James walks through the cemetery.
"Sir! Mr. Delaney!" Thorne calls out, following him. Zilpha is trying to keep up with him. "Is it? Sir?" Thorne says.
James turns around.
"James Delaney, is it?" Thorne repeats.
"Who are you?" James says, disgruntled.
Zilpha arrives and takes Thorne's arm.
James immediately moves his attention to her.
"They said you were dead," Zilpha says.
"I am," James says. "Such a shallow grave they dug for my father. Are you short of a couple of shillings?"
"He was buried to the depths of my love," Zilpha replies. "Last years, he disgraced me."
"Disgrace? Hm." James grunts, nods, and then walks away.

Fourth Scene:
An inn. People talk about James. The Negro words he said at the grave, that madness runs in the family. "Madness comes out through the umbilical cord," one woman says.
Zilpha listens to all of that, looking displeased.
"Any business with him will be conducted in my presence," Thorne says to Thoyt.
"See, I have the advantage, I have read the will," the lawyer replies.
"Meaning what?" Thorne says.
"Meaning I need to piss and need no-one to hold my cock. Begging the lady's pardon." Thoyt walks outside to look for James.

Fifth Scene:
James comes back into the Inn, looking directly at Zilpha. She looks back, anxious. Thorne notices his wife's expression, and who the cause of it is. He looks pissed. Zilpha casts her eyes down.
The girl Pearl makes a move at James. He ignores her.
Thorne insults girls like Pearl who go to widower's funerals because they know there are lots of old men there. He calls them all whores. "And that animal from Africa is here to pick at an old man's bones, too," Thorne continues.
Zilpha had heard enough. She stands up. "Perhaps we should let Thoyt deal with the matter. Let's call our carriage." Reluctantly Thorne walks to the door. Zilpha follows in a short distance.
Quickly James approaches her, holds her back, and whispers: "One thing Africa did not cure is that I still love you."
Zilpha stares at him, wide-eyed, and disbelieving. James looks at her intently. Zilpha casts her eyes down.
Thorne comes back into the room.
"And if you are ever short of two shillings, please do not hesitate to ask, as Africa also served me incredibly well," James continues, a little bit unsettled by Thorne's presence.
Zilpha just stares at him, speechless. James looks back unreservedly.
"Well, then you have no need for legacies now, will you?" Thorne interferes.
"We were just leaving," Zilpha ends the confrontation and walks out. "Hm," James grunts.
Thorne leaves, too.
James looks around the people in the Inn and looks disgusted by their bad-mannered behaviour. He leaves, too.

Sixth Scene:
Zilpha sits at home and writes a letter. She wears a black dress, an orange stole, and a necklace with orange pearls. The moment she is about to seal the letter Thorne walks into the room. He demands to see the letter. He reads the letter.
1. Letter
Thorne is not happy about the content. "You're not imploring him to relinquish his deed, you're insisting that for his own well-fare, he submit his claim to you."
"Implore is a more feminine word," Zilpha explains.
"And why must you be a woman to him?" Thorne says. "The offer of fifty pounds should be conditional on him leaving England."
Zilpha looks surprised. "Why?"
"Because if he does not leave England, I will kill him."
"Why?" Now Zilpha looks distressed.
"That is a very good question. Why would I feel that way about him, after meeting him only once? The son of the same father as the woman I love. Why does a soldier know that a nigger bowing low has a dagger in his shoe and is reaching for it? Delaney is nothing more than a nigger now. You know that, don't you?" Thorne lays his hand on hers. Zilpha controls her emotions.
"I have talked with seasoned merchants who could barely bring themselves to repeat these stories," Thorne goes on. "Among Christian soldiers, it's customary to bury the bodies of your fallen enemy and shoo away the dogs and crows that come for the carrion. Not kneel down beside them."
Zilpha looks worried now. Thorne takes his hand away from her and tears the letter up. "Try again, this time reflecting the disgust you naturally feel now you know the truth." He stands up and puts his hand under her chin to make her look at him. "Hmm?" he says. She forces a brave smile. Thorne leaves.

Seventh Scene:
James walks at the beach, a stray dog follows him. An old man talks to him. "The dogs here live off the flesh from suicides jumping off Blackfriars Bridge. Never know one go tamely to a man's hand. Must be some witchcraft you picked up somewhere."
James stops and looks at him. "What do you want?"
"You think your father's kid feeds himself? I heard you done a lot of evil over there. Now it's time for you to do some bleeding good among your own. Me and my wife have looked after that boy for ten years with not one penny from you and nothing but threats from the mad old bastard you just put in the ground. Now you're back I want payment. If it wasn't for us, that kid would be sucking cocks in St. Giles."
"Mr. Ibbotson, I've been meaning to pay you a visit."
"Bullshit. You're a liar just like your father. You're a Delaney."
"Tell you what. You get me an address and I will get you payment in the form of a banker's draft."
"How much?"
"Enough." He turns away. "Good day." He walks away, the dog still follows him.
"You don't even ask how your own blood fares?"
James doesn't turn around.

Eight Scene:
Zilpha in her home. She stitches a picture of a child with a lamb. She pricks her finger with the needle. She bleeds. She puts her finger in the mouth and sucks. Thorne walks in. "He's meeting with the East India. Apparently, they're happy to deal with the devil and leave us penniless," he complains. "The letter it seemed did no good."
Shortly Zilpha keeps sucking at her finger, then she replies: "He was never one to be told."
"Well, we have legal rights, and it's time that savage was made aware. I know he's your brother but..."
"Half-brother," Zilpha interrupts pointedly.
"...he leaves me no choice."
Zilpha continues stitching, and starts giggling. Thorne looks puzzled, and joins her briefly, though he doesn't look amused. Zilpha continues laughing. Thorne stops and stands up. "I'm going out."
"Good. I'm tired of these empty threats you keep bandying around," Zilpha says, and looks up to him.
"Empty? I'm your husband, and you are my wife."
Zilpha looks sternly yet impudently at him.
"And I will protect our interests by whatever means necessary. And as for him, well, he should have stayed where he belongs, in the jungle, dancing naked and screwing wild pigs, and his slaves in their chains." He turns away from her and walks to the door.
"He will leave soon," Zilpha says, and sounds on the edge of tears. "You're quite right, he doesn't belong in this world."
Thorne stops briefly to look at her, then he walks out.
Zilpha stops stitching and stares into space, as if she is thinking about the past, as if she is thinking about James.

Ninth Scene:
James rides out to a farm in the country. Mr. Ibbotson lives there. "I decided to bring it in person." James hands Ibbotson a bag. "Now, this is for the past, the present and the future."
Ibbotson looks into the bag, and appears shocked.
"Take me to the boy. I want to see if you're lying to me or not."
"Yes, sir, Mr. Delaney." Together they walk around the house, and watch a boy making the hay.
"Do you wanna talk with him?" Ibbotson says.
"No, I am not a fit man to be around children," James replies.
The boy notices them watching him and looks at them.
"Fate can be hard, so you put money aside for his future in case he grows up to be rash - like me."
"Will you wish to see him again?"
"No. Not ever." James leaves.
Ibbotson looks at the boy. The boy looks back, and then continues working.

Tenth Scene:
Night. James comes home and finds a letter from Zilpha. 1. Letter He reads it right away by the light of a candle.
Dear James, the letter I sent to you this morning was written under the supervision of my husband, to whom I am happily married. It is more than ten years since you went away, and at the time I was grateful that you had decided to leave England, for both of our sakes. Whatever happens with this business of inheritance, and no matter if it results in a dispute, I hope I can trust you to keep the secrets of the past buried, buried in a deeper grave.
After he had read the letter James immediately burns the paper with the flame of the candle. He blows the candle out and throws it away. He looks unhappy.

Best Quote:
James: "One thing Africa did not cure is that I still love you."

Best Dialog:
Zilpha: "They said you were dead."
James: "I am."

James doesn't take his hat off entering the funeral service for his father, showing that he has no respect for the church.

James loves his sister Zilpha in a not brotherly way. Zilpha does love him back.

It wasn't Zilpha's decision that there were no shillings to dig a deeper grave for Horace. It was Thorne who didn't want to pay the extra money.

Zilpha thought James was dead. Who told her that? Who is "they?"

Somehow Thorne knows about Zilpha and James. He is so full of hate and jealousy towards James, it can't be only because of the stories and rumours. His hate goes deeper and is more personal. But how? Did Zilpha tell him because she thought James was dead anyway and hoped for absolution due to confession? Did she confess to a priest and he betrayed her afterwards? Did Horace tell Thorne because he was going mad and talked about everything on his mind?

The symbol of the child and the lamb is innocence. So, either Zilpha was too young, when her relationship with James started, and didn't know what she was doing, or she is mentally disabled, meaning she was not responsible for any wrong doing back then and now today.

Zilpha doesn't take Thorne's threats against James seriously. She even laughs. Well, she knows her brother, and can't believe Thorne has any chance of winning in this fight.

The matter of an illegitimate child emerges. James goes there personally to have a look. Is the boy really Horace's? Or is he James' and Zilpha's? James pretends he doesn't care and the payment is the first and only thing he will do for Robert. Well. Also he considers his behaviour when he was young as rash and stupid. What did he do to ruin his future?

Is the incest the only secret James and Zilpha share or is there more? Zilpha writes three letters. The first which Thorne tore apart, the second written under his supervision, of which we don't know the content of, we can only guess, and the third, which is a plea to James to keep the secret buried. The secret of incest Thorne already knows of, right? So, what is the secret that worries Zilpha the most? What had happened in the past only she and James know about? What had happened to both of them?

The Crew of the Damned:
Robert. A boy. A bastard. Lives on a farm.

Godfrey. The clerk of the British East India Company. A poor soul because James remembers him.

Pearl. A very young prostitute who makes a move at James and is denied.

Questions & Thoughts:
What happened to James at the age of 13? Why did he change so radically?

How did Salish die? Did she die in the river drowning herself?

Is Robert James' and Zilpha's child? Was he born in secret and had been hidden since that day? Did James even know about him before he came back? Does Zilpha know about his whereabouts?

Is the ghost seen at the meeting with the BEIC real or just in James' mind?

What did Zilpha write in the second letter?

Who told Zilpha that James was dead?

How old are James and Zilpha?

Are James' visions real or just a side effect of too much brandy?

Why was Brace his friend to play with in James' childhood? Had he no other friends? Had he been home-schooled? Was he an outsider?

Are James and Zilpha just half-siblings or is there a different truth?

What happened to James in Africa?

How did Zilpha meet Thorne and why did she marry him?

Taboo Episode Guide