Black Sails Season 4 Episode 2 Review: XXX

The latest episode of Black Sails is one of the best in the show's history, and that's saying something!

Black Sails Season 4 Episode 2

This Black Sails review contains spoilers.

Black Sails Season 4 Episode 2

This week’s Black Sails is one of the best episodes in the show’s history, full of revelations and plotting and gunfire and tenderness. As has often happens in this show, the violence is epic, but the best moments come when the characters stand or sit together, by torch or candle light.

We pick up mere moments after we left – Long John Silver, having made it to land alive, has been clonked over the head, and is being dragged through the sand. Cut to Silver chained to a post. Beautiful set here, a home made from pieces of shipwreck.

Silver’s captor produces paper and a carpenter’s pencil, and announces his intention to turn Silver in for the bounty (500£) He kindly adds one more crime to Silver’s accomplishments by killing one of the Governor’s men himself, then demands that Silver write a confession to the crime.

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Pirates are being hanged in Nassau and Max, supporting the Governor, tells her informants that they need to lay low, and stop helping the pirate cause. Meanwhile, Eleanor has the brilliant idea of asking her rich grandfather for cash and support. She plans to use her alignment with Woodes Rogers (who has more social clout) as leverage to gain Grandpa’s support.

Their position is becoming more dire. Blackbeard (in an entirely imaginary, but suitably theatrical move) sends a ship full of hanging corpses drifting to the city. Blackbeard is sitting out in the harbor, daring Rogers to come out and fight, while he sends Rackham and Bonny in by nightfall to kidnap Eleanor, whom he blames for Vane’s death.

Silver’s captor is none other than Israel Hands, Blackbeard’s former first mate. Hands is enraged over his treatment by Blackbeard when Vane rose to power. It seems he’s been living rough on the island for years, and Silver, ever the con man is soon spinning tales of the legend of Long John Silver, and the dead redcoats in the woods. Silver, says Silver, may be worth 500 to the British, but he’s worth far more in the power struggle with the pirates. And he claims to share Hands’ rage at Blackbeard.

Is he telling the truth? Israel Hands is an interesting character here. He is both a part of history and a part of the Treasure Island universe. The real Hands was, indeed Blackbeard’s second. And the fictional Hands appears as an alcoholic former pirate in the crew of the Hispaniola in Robert Louis Stevenson’s book.

Anne Bonny has the best speech in the episode during the raid on the plantation. Blackbeard wants to avenge Vane’s death by killing Eleanor, but Anne has mixed feelings about Max. Anne has felt kinship to Max as they are both women living in a man’s world. She has slept with Max, and may have even loved her a little. But Max tried to separate Anne from Jack, and that is something that Anne can’t forgive.

This is the quiet talk in the dark, a heart revealed. And it’s a messy heart, full of anger and affection and betrayal and lust. Anne blames it on the island.

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Blackbeard is also thoughtful. Jack speaks with him about Vane, about the thought of “only a fool would give his life to earn the admiration of a corpse.” Blackbeard is sentimental here, remembering his relationship with Vane as an almost mythical partnership.  But Vane would never have been as sentimental as Blackbeard. Where Blackbeard saw an omen in a large white bird, Vane saw dinner. Is it really for Vane’s memory that the pirates fight?

We began the episode with Silver helpless – a crippled man without his false leg, captured by a violent man with no reason to show mercy. By the end, he is demanding a meeting with Max, calling in what she owes him in order to support the pirate cause and establish himself as a Pirate Kind in fact as well as reputation.

But this is the Max who is invested in going straight. She arrives at the meeting place with her own muscle to support her. When Silver makes demands, she replies that she will repay him by holding him captive rather than turning him over to the redcoats.

But now Silver has Israel Hands on his side. The fight is short and bloody. Max escapes. Her men die. We close with the look on her face, and on Silver’s.

There’s very little historically wrong with this episode. Pirate trials did happen fast, and many, many pirates died showing no remorse. And while I’m not an expert on the way landholders treated their slaves, militia and the plan to hold the slave’s families hostage against rebellion is entirely plausible.

The details related about Eleanor’s family is close to history. Sets and firelight and guns and motivations are beautiful and believable.

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In fact, the only flaw I can see in the whole thing is that, when Woodes Rogers’ ship is seen coming off of the quay, Blackbeard orders his own ship to “pursue.” With Rogers still closer to land, and Blackbeard holding the mouth of the harbor, the order should have been to “intercept.” Pretty good history for an hour about pirates.

Bravo, Starz! It looks like we’ll this last season will be a high note.

Rating:

5 out of 5