This Black Sails review contains spoilers.
As the pirates bicker their way toward a vote on leadership, Hornigold or Flint, all of Nassau plots, plans and re-thinks its position, with only the light of candles and torches to show them the way. Flint, in sudden crisis because news has come that the gold is gone, is taken by the Spanish.
Silver is in conflict because loss of the gold means loss of his ties to Flint. Anne Bonny is rising from the horror of her latest murder to decide what will happen to the rest of her life. Eleanor is facing a choice between Vane, with his intense, loyal love for her, and Flint’s ephemeral vision for Nassau.
Vane is forced once and for all to decide between Eleanor and his freedom. Billy Bones is caught between the Navy’s offer of a pardon and loyalty to Flint, who may or may not have let him slip into the water to drown.
It’s a complex, introspective episode, full of beautiful images of flickering candles. Flint sits in his tent, waiting for the voting on whether the pirates of Nassau will vote to follow him or Benjamin Hornigold, former holder of the fort. This is one of the things that Black Sails does most realistically. I’ve never seen anyone properly drag out the role of the vote for captaincy. It involves men who are not great thinkers, men who live their lives governed by their muscles and their emotions. Votes change because one man trash-talked another man’s mother, rather than the merits of the case.
Anne Bonny is adrift. Her double-murder has left her emotionless and drained, drained enough that we hear her story, horrifying to a modern viewer, common enough in the 18th century. Max shows her wisdom in dealing with Anne. Max protects, guiding Anne away from life as a whore. The woman’s clothes Anne wears to replace her own bloody ones don’t fit, a significant detail in this show. I also note Max has retained Anne’s battered old hat. We’ll see that hat later, I’m sure. Max brilliantly and sincerely mediates with her girls on Anne’s behalf. Her plan uses all of Anne’s talents, and for the first time, allies Anne Bonny with women rather than men.
Eleanor’s decision to take Vane’s hostage, Abigail, and escape the fort on her own was made last week, but it is this week that we see the ramifications. She needs Abigail’s trust, and when she encounters the rusty gate in the tunnel, she needs the girl’s help. There are some powerful symbols here: Going into the tunnel (womb) facing a struggle (the gate, which doesn’t open just because one has the key) the need for sacrifice (Eleanor’s injury) and the requirement that Abigail become an active participant in her own rescue.
It’s only after Abigail helps with the gate that Vane confronts them. I rather think that, if Vane had come a minute or two earlier, when Eleanor was the only active force in the escape, that she would have acquiesced to his demands.
Vane is finally facing the chasm between himself and Eleanor. He loves her, pure and simple, and would have defended her to the death. But Vane is a simple man, honestly pursuing the life he wants for himself. In many ways, he’s the epitome of a pirate. What he wants is freedom and respect. He won’t play politics.
However, when Vane realizes that Eleanor will do anything to further her plans for Nassau, he states the situation clearly. He has killed, many times, on her behalf. She may not appreciate this, but Vane’s love for her has moved him to accomplish more than he ever could alone. When he tells Eleanor that this betrayal, which puts him in jeopardy, is the final one, and that he will hold her accountable, we must believe him. Vane has already risen from the dead.
Eleanor leads Abigale through the tunnels and into the world above, straight into the civilized arms of Miranda, Eleanor’s father, and Flint, now going by his given name, to earn the girl’s trust. But the warning is here. Even Charlestown is not a civilized place. Vane knows that you can’t trust civilization. Abigail has repeated this information to Eleanor, but she is yet too innocent to fully understand what it means.
We can expect more betrayals, and not from Vane.
Last week Billy Bones confided to Dufresne that, when the Navy set him free, it was with the promise of pardons for nine men (including Billy) if those men helped bring Flint back for trial. Billy has learned from his run-in with the law. He uses Dufresne to find the men who are willing to turn Flint in. Then he makes his case for loyalty with his fists and his feet. “Until we are all safe, there isn’t one of us who’s safe.” Although Billy still sides with Flint, his sentiments match better with Vane.
And, lastly, Silver. Silver who wants the gold more than liberty. We knew that his loyalty to Flint was broken the minute he realized how fragile Flint’s foundations were, and how little gold mattered to the Captain. How broken, we don’t see until the very end, but when it comes, it shifts everything. And Silver shares it with Max, the only one on the island who has the subtlety he does.
The alliance now stands – Max, Silver and Bonny. They are for the gold, and with Jack’s help, they may even get it. As the book says, the men feared Flint, and Flint feared Silver. Not without cause.
The pirate island lives on. Chaos and death wait just outside the door. We only need to wait for morning.