Black Sails Season 2 Episode 3 review

Black Sails has another winner with plenty of sex and power plays. Here's our pirate expert's review...

This Black Sails review contains spoilers.

Black Sails is showing us more of the characters of the characters, and hearing more of the reasons why piracy worked back in the day. “Put a man on an island far from home, give him power and he’ll turn corrupt,” pretty much sums it up, especially when you throw in the fact that the New World has always attracted people who want to get rich quick. Pirates, for example.

I’m almost sorry that the conflict between Vane and Lowe comes to a head as quickly as it does, but it makes a huge amount of sense. The characters on Black Sails didn’t get to where they are by fooling around and failing to make decisions. Vane circles around the issue just enough, sorting out what he wants out of the situation, making the smart choices. He wants to protect Eleanor, but knows he’ll lose his tough-guy rep if he lets that become well-known.

I was worried about this character when he first appeared. But he’s proved to be as smart and tough as a pirate captain needs to be. His reputation is well-earned. It’s also a pleasure to see him in clothes. Not that I’ve ever minded actor Zach McGowan with his shirt off. But I’m aware of how odd his shirtlessness looked for the time period. He can still take the shirt off at appropriate times, and now we get to see him rock a really hot pair of black linen pants.

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I’d just like to say how much I’m enjoying the costumes in general. Yes, this is TV and therefore, fantasyland. I have been in the Caribbean, and a black leather coat on a sunny day is not something anyone would actually choose to wear, not unless they are trying to actually cook themselves alive.

But there’s a lot of stuff that’s “just right.” Hornigold’s neat, conservative attire, perfectly in keeping with his past and his recent position. Miranda Barlow’s apron and sleeve-protectors. Tea cups and rum bottles. All the wide variety of clothing, including a lot of Eastern influence, appropriate on pirates who travel for a living, and who might have been robbing ships from India only a few months before.

And of course, there’s the requisite nudity.

Another great thing is the skillful use of exposition. Last episode John Silver endeared himself to Flint’s crew by becoming the local source of gossip and scandal. This episode his skills remind us that Flint’s currently sailing a Spanish warship, and also of what the political situation was when Flint left Nassau. And the small detail of the crew imitation his foot-stamping introduction to each news item lets us know that his position has changed.

Flint’s problems are a little more intellectual. How to prevent Vane, the man in power, from claiming the Spanish gold once Flint gets it back to Nassau. This is the plotline that doesn’t quite ring true. If I were Flint, I’d recruit Vane’s help, then double-cross him or kill him on some pretext later. As it is, Flint’s crew looks a little thin to take on the Spanish.

His method of persuading his crew to go along with his plan is sketchy, and his tactics, as I’ve noted with this character before, suck. If you’re going to attack a fort, the place to do it from is NOT a ship that’s right under that fort’s guns. Flint doesn’t have the firepower to hit something that high up on a hill, and he doesn’t have a good second in command to either lead an attack from the rear or lead a diversion from the front.

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Vane solves his problem with Lowe the smart way – first by teaming up with Max to find a way to make it all about the money, then in an attack that’s brutal and self-serving. The head on a spike was brilliant. Of course, it’s very convenient that so many of his men could swim (a rare skill back in the day) and that, having observed him rowing over from shore, Lowe’s lookouts then took the rest of the night off, failing to notice a bunch of pirates coming up for air.

But all in all, this storyline works for me. And Vane, who has asserted his power, gets his reward in the form of sex with Eleanor.

Max has apparently decided that her power lies with helping Anne and Jack. It’s a smart move. If they are supposed to be the bouncers for her place, they need to be effective. And if they go back out to sea, she has more autonomy.

Sure, she might be falling for Anne a little, but I don’t think for one second she’s not about to help herself. Max is one of the smartest characters on the show. I had no idea how the writers were going to get Jack Rackham back to sea, but Max made a logical move that worked perfectly.

So Jack Rackham is to be a captain. It’s something he tried to do for himself, but he needed a little help. I think the line of Vane’s about Jack arising from the dead is significant. Vane rose from the dead in a more literal sense, and he came back smarter and more in control of his great weakness, his temper. I expect Jack to lose some of his confused, wilted look, and start playing it smart now.

Vane also dropped a line about how Anne and Jack will either kill each other, or end up running the whole island. Keep an eye out.

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So Jack Rackham regains his power as a pirate, and gets rewarded with an invite to the bed of the two women. Legend says Jack Rackham bedded both Anne Bonney and Mary Read (that legend isn’t quite accurate, but I digress). Max isn’t Mary Read, so I’m wondering if that’s in the future. In the meantime, I hope the next episode shows us what these three – uh – friends are up to.

So Vane and Rackham gain power and are rewarded with sex. What about Flint? He’s stuck out in the bay under the guns of a hostile fort. And he didn’t get to talk to Miranda. He leaves her the book, and the book says, “I’m sorry.” The title of the book, I believe, refers to the sculptor who created a statue so beautiful he fell in love with it. If I’m right, my bet is that Miranda created Captain Flint, and that he’s now going to stop being quite what she created.

But he didn’t have the guts or the timing to talk to her. So no sex for you, Flint.

TS Rhodes is the author of The Pirate Empire series. She blogs about pirates at 

Read ALL of TS Rhodes’ Black Sails reviews and historical pieces right here!

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4 out of 5