Black Sails: Power Consolidated Review

Vane and Flint slug it out over possession of Nassau in the latest episode of Black Sails. Here's our review...

This Black Sails review contains spoilers…

Well, I guess that the rest of the world wasn’t quite as thrilled as I was by the surprise ending last week. Just want to remind folks – 1. There’s nothing wrong with being gay (or bi).  2. Some of the most ferocious warriors of all times liked to have sex with folks who looked just like them. 3. Pirates basically invented the concept of gay marriage.

People who don’t care for Flint’s inclinations… Get over yourselves.

Speaking of meaningless fights, we open this week with Vane and Flint slugging it out over possession of Nassau. Eleanor breaks up that fight, and drags them both to the table to discuss terms. For once Eleanor isn’t being a whiney brat. She’s got a musket and a point. The two pirate captains look like kids fighting on the playground.

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We get the deal spelled out – Flint wants to return the captive Abigale to her father in England, and win the support of the persuasive lord, and have the whole island go “straight.” Vane wants to hold out via pure muscle, making the island too expensive in lives for the English to re-capture it.  And as usual in these matters, Vane ends up getting the good lines.

For what it’s worth I think he’s right. The politicians in London are… politicians. And they don’t think of the pirates—working-class bastards they are—as being really human. If Flint’s plan works, and England recognizes the pirates, they’ll be constantly working to overthrow whatever government the pirates put together.

Vane makes the point that the pirates – and especially the pirate captains, are what they are precisely because they don’t fit into the society Flint and Eleanor are describing. Vane has drawn his line in the sand and announced that, for him, it’s freedom or nothing.

In the meantime, the fallout from Jack Rackham’s machinations of last week are bearing fruit. He’s got Low’s old ship and Low’s old crew, and the intelligence from Max’s prostitutes, and is closing in on his first prize.  “Do you hear that?” he asks his second in command. “It’s the sound of no women.” He’s looking good, flying his new flag, one of the most famous pirate flags ever. He’s also wearing a calico coat. The costumes of the show are telling. Quartermaster Jack is about to become Captain Calico Jack Rackham.

Jack’s always been a thinker. He’s got a plan to take the ship. But he doesn’t have a plan when another, better-crewed ship shows up and claims the lion’s share of the captured ship’s goods. His second says to accept the deal rather than fight. And suddenly Jack sees the problem with being captain. If he doesn’t come out of this a winner – a real winner, not just an any-fight-you-can-walk-away-from-is-a-good-fight winner, he loses his place as captain.

In the meantime, Anne Bonny is facing her own problems. In another nice piece of exposition, we learn that, after Jack threw her out of his crew in order to appease the men, she has been trying and failing to get a place on another pirate ship. We’re guided very carefully in this. We see it through the eyes of Max, who owes everything to Anne, and who is an astute enough observer of human nature to understand what Anne’s going through, dropped by her most trusted ally and largely chased out of her chosen profession.

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Max proves her quality in her support of Anne. The fact that Anne has anger problems equal to or greater than Vane’s (she’s got better reason) is what brings about the tragedy. Anne’s attack on her fellow-pirate is entirely sympathetic (at least to me) but her murder of Charlotte is a true tragedy. That Anne more-or-less collapses afterward has been foreshadowed by Max.

We can see how Anne became who she is. We also see why she needs Jack. The world is so stacked against a woman like her being anything but a servant or a whore that she needs the respectability.

Now she’s got Max’s support. And Max has Silver’s. Silver is on the loose again, loyalty-wise, after Flint says the fatal words, “I give you my word.” Silver knows when Captain Flint is grasping at straws. And he knows what Max is capable of.

A word here for the cinematography. Once again, the tropical light, the flowers twining up the bannister in the whorehouse, the spatter of blood on Anne Bonny’s face are all beautiful. And I don’t think it’s an accident that Eleanor is wearing a captain’s coat when she confronts Vane, and that he isn’t. There’s a lot to see in these shows.

I’m going to end on Rackham’s solution of his problem with his fellow pirate captain. He solves is in true Rackham fashion – at least the Rackham of the show. He’s not a tough guy. He’s a thinker. And he’s often slow in his thinking. But when he’s up against losing the thing he betrayed Anne for, he gets smart really quick.

And he proves that he’s tough enough – just barely enough. He lasts out the fight, stands up, and talks like a captain. And being Jack Rackham, he knows that there’s not two sides to this fight. There are three. And he thinks fast enough and talks fast enough to win the majority.

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Anyone besides me notice the similarity to Flint’s first fight, including blood, death, and deception?

I think Anne’s getting her lover back.

Loose ends? Hornigold’s trying to get the pirates to vote Flint out and himself in, to kill Vane and capture the gold. Billy Bones has dirt on the English, and the promise of nine pardons, allowing pirates of his choosing to walk away from the pirate life safe and sound. And, as I’ve said before, Silver’s hedging his bets with Flint. And of course, Eleanor taking off with Abigale. Wonder how that’s going to work out?

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4 out of 5