“Fire!” That’s how the last episode of Black Sails ended. With Flint’s irrevocable decision to wage war on Vane and Nassau island’s fortifications.
I love this show.
Black Sails has been showing us twists and turns of plot and character development all season. This is one of the big payoffs… As big, I’d say, as the grand finale last year. Don’t watch this if you haven’t seen the rest of the show. But if you missed an episode or two, get yourself off to the Starz website and catch up. You won’t regret it.
While Flint is bombarding the fort, and Jack Rackham is designing his new pirate flag (“Great art has felled empires…”) and Vane is making plans to pull victory from the rubble of his rapidly disintegrating stronghold and Eleanor is fighting with her father and putting out fires (literally) we get to go back to the situation that brought Flint and Miranda to the pirate isle in the first place.
What’s been going on is manifold. Flint (in his alter-ego as a navy lieutenant) has been consulting with Miranda’s husband on the problem of pirates in Nassau. He’s also been carrying on an affair with Miranda, with the husband’s complete compliance. The plan has been to pardon the pirates, thereby turning them from liabilities to productive citizens.
Historically, this is what happened. But historically this is years away, so we’ve got a lot of playtime left, assuming that Black Sails follows its so-far-excellent convergence with the known world.
One of the many things I like about this process is that it doesn’t happen all at once. There’s politicking to be done, votes to sway and opinions to be changed. All of this takes time. Enough time for Flint to make a roundtrip to the island and back, and assess the situation.
And the situation is not good. The pirates have been… being pirates. They’ve killed the wife and child of the previous governor, and thrown the governor himself off the island. Flint still wants the pirates pardoned. Miranda’s husband still wants the majority of them pardoned. And they have the help of Lord Ash, who sees that this is the best way to clean up the pirate problem.
But then Miranda’s father-in-law makes his presence known. And in spite or Miranda trying to make herself scarce, in spite of all the good work that the group has done, he’s able to stop everything.
Back in port. Flint has the upper hand. He batters the fort to bits, as Vane and his most trustworthy men stay secure in the dungeon with Vane’s captive, Abigail. This is another thing that the series excels at. Instead of giving us the nuts-and-bolts of a bombardment, we see this battle through the eyes of the town’s inhabitants, from a mother fleeing the wreckage carrying the dead body of her child to Jack Rackham, whose main concern seems to be covering his rum when dust sifts down from the rafters.
By watching the reactions of all these people, we not only learn about what’s happening, we see the characters and learn more about them. Eleanor Guthrie’s network of employee loyalties seems to be holding up under the stress, even as her warehouse catches fire. Jack’s calm in this situation, one of the few proofs we have that he’s stronger than he appears. Max and her girls don’t give a damn. Whatever group of men wins the fight, they’ll still want company and have to pay for it.
Miranda alone is taking real action, rushing off to see Flint. In her determination to make a difference in the outcome of this battle, we see her as the noblewoman she once was.
And Miranda has a point. Yes, she alone knows why Flint is here, what drove him to be a pirate. She sees the leverage that’s in town, knows how it can be used to obtain the goal that she and her husband and Flint set out to gain so long ago. And as we watch along with the flashbacks, we slowly see it too.
The question remains. Why did Miranda and Flint end up in Nassau? Why did the navy lieutenant become a pirate? Why is the determination of a frontier city 4,000 miles from London so important that Flint is willing to risk his life, destroy his honor, murder his friends in order to bring about the resolution he holds in his heart?
We see this coming in the last flashback. We see the disaster that Miranda was trying to avoid, we see the outcome. It’s terrible, and it would have been real.
But I’m not going to spoil it. You have to see this for yourself. I’ll just say, as a pirate historian, that all my concern about how badly the “powers that be” responded to the outing of Flint’s affair was not at all justified. What happens at the end of this show is a good example of how things can turn out when you have powerful people on your side, and the ugly truth comes out.
At least, in 1715.
We end on yet another cliffhanger, when Vane lives up to his promise to “cut the head off” the advancing army of pirates. Not a bad idea to go out on a knife fight. It’s just in this case it was anticlimactic.