This Black Sails review contains spoilers.
This episode of Black Sails is another good one, showing off everyone’s strengths, and including all our favorite characters without being predictable or feeling like we’re ticking items off a list. Vane gets some deep moments, Miranda gets included in a growing plotline, and the love (okay, not love – sex) between Anne Bonny, Jack Rackham and Max heats up. Eleanor isn’t even annoying.
The pirate’s tactics are, as usual, just a little weak, but not glaringly so. That’s just a problem that this series has. But the conflict – the conflict is great.
You remember where we left them last time. Flint’s got a Spanish warship, Vane’s got the fort, and the previous power player Ned Lowe has his head on a spike after losing in a previous conflict with Vane.
Of course, if they all just started shooting, it would be a pretty boring episode, so there have to be reasons why they don’t. At least not right away. This is the place where we find out that one-quarter of the fort is unarmed, and that Flint, who’s got his ship in really close, is in the only position where he can’t be shelled out of the water. We aren’t filled in on why Vane doesn’t just move some cannons around, but that’s life on TV. It’s a plausible standoff.
And it’s plausible that Flint doesn’t want to batter the fort to rubble, he’s got plans for it in the future. He’s in the position of power, but doesn’t want to use it.
Eleanor is stuck – she’s been plotting with Flint, but after last week we know she’s still got it bad for bad-boy Vane. She sets out to mediate, a tough job between two ambitious men with shaky power-bases and their reputations on the line.
Meantime, Jack is dealing with the aftermath of his night with Max and Anne. He doesn’t seem as pleased as a guy should be after such an adventure, but that’s Jack. I’m watching his wardrobe for the sign that he finally lives up to his potential as a pirate captain. When Vane started wearing a coat like a real captain, he started acting like one as well. Jack Rackham’s still in his wilted linen, though.
Max is scheming for him, though, moving through her employees in the whorehouse to persuade more men to join Jack’s budding crew. Lowe’s crew, already disgruntled and now leaderless, are looking for a new captain.
My favorite thing about the whole episode is Max explaining to her employee how to wrap a client around her little finger. The details of the sex, the secret whispers, the “confession” of entirely fictitious secrets, the confession that, after all the others, THIS man has stolen the professional’s heart.
Jack’s face is a joy. The face of a man who’s never had any idea that women plot like this, and who’s fallen for the same trick a time or two himself. Jack’s smart, but suddenly he’s taking lessons from Max – the mistress of strategy. Bravo!
So we have a new pirate captain coming up, and he’s got the power of Max behind him. But what does Max want? Apparently Anne. She goes so far as to confess to Jack that a week in her bed can change a person’s life.
This is where we get a few more details about Anne and Jack – that they’ve been together since Anne was 13, and a few more details about how she’s taken care of him. It’s been clear al along who’s taking care of who in this relationship. Jack simply keeps Anne from getting the kind of bullying that a single woman would be liable to. And… Something else? Anne seems to “have” Max now, but she doesn’t want Max to “have” her. She wants Jack’s continued protection. I’m watching this relationship unfold with pleasure and anticipation.
So now we have another side – potentially – in the conflict.
And there’s Hornigold. The previous holder of the fort, and collaborator with Eleanor, Hornigold has thrown in with Flint in order to get his holding – and his power – back. Hornigold offers substantial support, and he won’t back down. The fort is the best thing he’s ever had. Hornigold holds Flint to his goal of attack. So that’s another side, potentially, in the conflict.
So we’re up to four sides.
In the meantime, the backstory continues to unfold. We’re back with Flint’s previous incarnation, the navy lieutenant, conspiring with Hamilton, (Miranda’s compliant husband) to bring law and order to the Caribbean.
I’m going to drop a huge spoiler here, so skip on if you don’t want to know. Pardoning the pirates – forgiving them their sins and robberies – was exactly what happened historically. It may seem insane to believe that the British government simply gave up and let the pirates go, but that’s what happened. For those of you who love historic pirates, feel safe in the knowledge that they lived out their lives after their pirating days were done.
This is the final piece of the plot – the “prize” that formed the excuse for Vane to move against Lowe was the kidnapped daughter of lord Ash, who in turn was the main governmental support of pardoning the pirates.
So that’s it… How many sides now?
And then the sun comes up, and Flint looks at his cannons, looks at the fort, and says, “Fire!”