This Black Sails review contains spoilers.
Black Sails Season 4 Episode 1
Black Sails is back! We begin with the with the deep blue sea, the wreck of ships above. Below, a man struggles, trapped in sinking wreckage.
Cut to Flint and Silver. The alliance of pirates is fragile. Flint hopes it will hold. Silver offers an optimistic fact: He himself hasn’t wanted to murder Flint in months.
Cut to Blackbeard and Rackham, sailing toward New Providence. Rackham is captain, Blackbeard is commodore. They are outfitted for war, and, as Rackham reminds the crew of what they are fighting for – the memory of Charles Vane
But Woodes Rogers has sunk ships in the channel, and before Flint and Silver know what is happening, they are run aground on the underwater wrecks. With the pirate ship immobile, the fort opens up. Flint orders his men to abandon ship.
I hate Flint. In real life, running aground in a battle was not the end of a fight. There are many examples of ships that managed to free themselves from a sand spit or reef. And if they couldn’t they often managed to use their guns effectively, making the most of a more stable platform than a floating ship. Flint doesn’t use his guns. He doesn’t even have the wits to offload his men on the side away from the fort’s fire. It’s just more TV license to make things more exciting.
Somebody has some sense, however. Rogers has secured the wives of his followers in the tunnels under the fort. Since, in real life, pirates were known for attacking from unexpected directions, this is a wise precaution.
Flint, however, would never dream of something less than a frontal assault. Now he’s stranded, with only his longboats and a few men.
Then it’s Blackbeard’s turn to be stupid. Chased by three of Rogers’ ships, he runs, then falls back and allows himself to be boarded. We get a nice fight. Blood, pistols, Rackham in battle for his life. But why didn’t Blackbeard rig stern-chasers (rear-firing guns) and hammer his pursuers? Why didn’t he run until one ship had out-distanced the others, and then turn and fight? It may make better TV, but I’d like a little more logic as well.
Thank goodness Billy Bones has secured all of the island except for the city. That’s a real piratical move. Men like Captain Henry Morgen made their careers by sneaking up on forts from the rear. Flint may be upset that Bones calls the land-bound forces “my men” but he’s enough or a realist to be glad that the cause isn’t entirely lost.
Flint, with the loss of his ship, should be out of the fight, But he holds the location of the chest over Bone’s head. (When did all that treasure condense into one chest?)
Meantime, Rogers’ forces have devolved to torture and mutilation. Rogers bullies Max, demanding financial support, while wondering why he isn’t getting more backing from the town. Rogers seems overwhelmed by his own victory. He needs to try the pirates and hang them, and this brings him up sharp.
One thing they get right it that Woodes Rogers went heavily into debt in order to finance his “cleaning up” of Nassau. This fits exactly with the historical facts (Rogers was terrible with money…though well off, he constantly pursued get-rich-quick schemes, which bankrupted him).
Throughout all of this, Silver has been following his own path. He was the man under the sea. The fact that he is believed lost is one of the main things that forces the issue between Bones and Flint. And it leads Eme to tell the pirates that she knows the whereabouts of Flint’s chest. Does she? I’m sure we’ll find out.
Silver’s journey is the most beautiful part of this episode, and it is truly spectacular. The vastness of the sea, the eerie silence of the sinking ships. The sound of Silver’s own heart, and his sudden emergence to gasping air, are some of the best scenes on TV. And the icing on the cake? A refugee goat, just where you need a laugh.
What were my favorite parts of this episode? Got to love the pillow talk between Madi and Silver, both for the content and the scenery. Yeah, Silver shouldn’t have had that all-over tan (since when does he sit around on the ship butt-naked?) but the view was worth the inaccuracy. I also suspect that the similarity of the skin tones of the lovers in meant to show us their accord.
Also, being a costume geek, I loved the costume Madi wears throughout. She isn’t with the Maroon community any more. She’s with Silver, and she dresses the part of a European, while keeping her own style.
While ladies like Eleanor show off their bosoms, Madi has, in the first place chosen a dress that has a bolder pattern than a Western woman might have, and she has filled in the bodice with calico fabric that a European would never had chosen. It’s a great, meaningful and evocative look.
I’m also pleased that Rogers’ men are torturing and maiming people. Remember, the early 1700s were a long time ago, and “civilization” wasn’t as civilized as it would later be. Just as I like the rough look of Roger’s soldiers, I like their behavior. It was hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys back in the day.
Anne Bonny and Jack Rackham continue to have a relationship that fascinates me, too. He’s still the philosopher, even as he sits in sick bay, having his arm wound stitched. I really want to see how this relationship turns out. The real Anne and Jack were denied their happy ending. I’d love it if they do better in this fictional world.
All-in-all, the season looks like it’s off to a strong start.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this review misidentified Madi as Eme.