Fair winds! I had every intention of resuming Black Sails reviews at the start of Season Three. Alas, life got the better of me so instead I present a recap and thoughts on goings on so far. We are six episodes in (Episodes XIX through XXIV) with four more to go!
Last season had me at the first episode. Ned Low made a grand if bloody entrance and I’m still bummed he didn’t get to cause more mayhem. Episode one of this season did a good job of setting the stage, showing us the fates of our pirate brethren, where everyone stood. But the next few episodes, Flint separation from Nassau, wandering in the doldrums, just had me frustrated. When I saw the preview of XXII and Flint and crew’s apparent capture by island natives (now we know better; Great Scott, Mr. Scott!), I groaned and wondered if they’d wander into Pirates of the Caribbean territory. Flint works best for me when he’s interacting with other strong pirates like Vane. The sneers are in full force. However, the moments between Flint and Silver made up for some of the meandering and moved their relationship into a satisfying next phase. I admittedly cheered at the scene where they harpooned a shark. For those who have played Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag, you know what I’m talking about. Huzzah!
But let’s talk some more of our man of the sneer. Flint could probably convince someone to jump off a bloody bridge. Billy Bones agrees. He probably considered making the jump just to see if what Flint promised lay in the ocean depths. I mean, Flint’s line to Vane…you have to decide who you are…And Vane did, and he betrayed Teach…again.
I’m still traumatized by Miranda’s death so I’m glad they gave her ghost some time this season. Some tv shows kill off characters and don’t give enough space for the viewer and other characters to mourn. I didn’t much like her in Season One, but she became my favorite female character in Season Two. Loved her smack down of Eleanor (see in this recap).
Finally, episode XXIV gave me the confrontation I’d swab a deck for! Flint and Blackbeard. Ray Stevenson was a wonderful casting choice for our man of the beard. He has the physicality to play Blackbeard. I’m sorry, but John Malkovich just didn’t do it for me. See my thoughts on Crossbones here.
Okay, disclaimer first. I’m not buying everything the writers are throwing our way as far as Blackbeard. I mean, really, the Iron Man shrapnel? Was that intentional for some reason? I just don’t get it. What writer didn’t raise his or her hand and say, ah, guys, this smells too much of Iron Man and would come across as a weird, anachronistic reference.
I also didn’t get the opening scene of XIX where Teach killed his wife’s brothers. Or rather, I got it. They were trying to show us how badass Teach was, but it rang false for me. I’m pretty sure Teach would have tossed the brothers overboard and let them swim back to Bath. I don’t think he would have cared enough about those guys to bother killing them (or endanger the pardon he’d obtained from the North Carolina Governor).
Teach very smartly cultivated his dangerous persona, but, along with Sam Bellamy, there’s no record, in nearly 300 attacks on shipping between the two of them, of either Blackbeard or Bellamy killing a captive. (They may have roughed them up a bit.) Teach was shrewd but not reckless. It might have been better to “show us Blackbeard’s mettle” by giving us a scene based on a tale told by Captain Johnson in the General History of Pyrates. Apparently, while in one of his “savage humors” and without provocation, Blackbeard shot the Queen Anne’s Revenge’s master, Israel Hands’, knee. The explanation? Possibly to keep his crew in line, to keep them guessing so they wouldn’t dare challenge his authority. Ultimately though, Blackbeard, according to Angus Konstam in his book, Blackbeard, was a relatively benign pirate compared to Charles Vane, who, Konstam wrote, “seemed to take a psychopathic delight in torture and violence”. Lest we forget the lesson handed to Ned Low last season.
But everything else, I’m down. Charles Vane did serve on Teach’s crew before setting off on his own. Teach also had “settled down” in Bath for a spell. He supposedly bought a house after obtaining a pardon from the North Carolina Governor, Charles Eden. I read quite a bit about pirate escapades in the Carolinas for my Sargasso’s Mistress book and it’s quite interesting how much the pirates had insinuated themselves in Carolina trade and shenanigans, especially Teach. It’s also true he established a base of sorts at Ocracoke Island, where the pirates would sometimes gather to store loot and party.
On to Max, who has outlived her suspension of disbelief. Scenes with her just annoy me at this point. I’m all for creating strong women characters but not at the expense of the story and plausibility. Woodes Rogers would not have given her the time of day and the pirates on the island have absolutely no reason to listen to a damn thing she says. They have pardons. Their pirate leaders are gone. They just wouldn’t give a crap about Max. She has no legitimacy and for her to tell Woodes that she can control the peoples is silly. But wait, she has treasure! See next paragraph.
I also don’t think the Spanish would have given a rat’s ass about the missing portion of their treasure. (Nor would have Woodes Rogers for that matter, but more on him below.) Spain lost so much treasure to pirates and French, Dutch, British privateers. They’d cut their losses and run. At that point, they had a treaty with Britain and I doubt they would have endangered the truce by going after Nassau.
And Eleanor? Yeah, meh. I’m more invested in Anne Bonny at this point. I am, however, interested in seeing Eleanor cross paths with Vane and Flint and how that will play out. Will Flint convince her to betray Woodes Rogers or jump off the bloody bridge? Ultimately, I feel like her treads are wearing thin, like Max. I guess I’m still pissed at her for screwing Vane twice (in the bad way). I understood her motives but me no likey.
What Black Sails continues to do wonderfully is establish its pirates and their relationships to each other so I let my rumblings subside or bitch to my husband and lose myself once again in Billy Bones’s cut physique.
Tom Hopper is great as Billy. Not just for his hunked out bod either. No, I’m serious. Really.
So episode XXIV tied all those wonderful elements together, brought to fruition the wonderful ground they laid from the very beginning. Jack and Anne are awesome and should have their own adventures. The Bonny and Clyde of the seven seas. The writers and Jack sold me on his decision to fuck Woodes Rogers and I love how all he had to do was write a letter with enough nuance, trusting that Anne would read between the lines. And boy did she ever. Woodes still doesn’t know what he’s dealing with. Eleanor knows, but she can only give him so many worried looks. Me thinks he’s figured it out though.
So let’s talk Woodes Rogers. The pirate “utopia” of Nassau could only last so long, and knowing the history of the place, I wondered where they’d eventually go with the story given the eventual arrival of Woodes Rogers. The Golden Age of the Caribbean pirates began its decline with the fall of Nassau to Woodes Rogers. His arrival scattered the pirates and removed their power base.
Blackbeard attempted to establish new operations from North Carolina but was eventually killed in a cinema worthy battle with Lieutenant Maynard. Sam Bellamy died in a storm on his way to Maine. (I have been stoked with the two Sam Bellamy name drops this season!! I was so hoping they’d feature him, but no such luck.) And Vane and Jack? Well, I won’t spoil anything in case they decide to follow the history closely. Even though I mentioned my issues with the Spanish gold MacGuffin, Luke Robert’s portrayal of Woodes is fine (if not somewhat tame; see story below) and his interesting alliance with Eleanor. Woodes Rogers was a complex individual, who, if so inclined would have made a formidable pirate himself. A former privateer, according to Richard Sanders in If a Pirate I Must be, The True Story of “Black Bart”, in a battle, a musket ball tore off Rogers’ upper jaw, but he continued to issue orders on paper while spitting out his blood. Flint would be proud.
A couple of stray notes: Ben Gunn showed up this season! Of all the Treasure Island pirates, he actually has one of the best outcomes, and that’s all I’ll say, except maybe…cheese. And also, Long John Silver mentioned having a half black wife in Treasure Island, so in case you were wondering, yeah, I believe they are going there.
Honestly, I have no idea what fate is in store for Nassau, Anne and Jack, Woodes Rogers, Flint, the escaped slave colony led by Mr. Scott and his queen. (Who saw that coming?) Thankfully, Saturday is a few days away.