This Black Sails review contains spoilers.
Black Sails Season 4 Episode 4
A pirate story about love. Jack loves Anne. Anne loves freedom. Eleanor loves Max (and Woodes Rogers) Max loves Silver. Silver loves Mattie. Mattie loves Silver back, which is pretty rare around here.
As we understood form previous episodes, the slave owning plantations of Nassau have split up slave families, using the threat that if one plantation faces an uprising, family members on other plantations will suffer. Because of this, the pirates, having taken the Underhill plantation, send messages that the rest of the slaves will not attempt to rise.
But, as often happened in real life, the powers that be underestimate slaves. The rest of the plantations rise. Now there is a powerful military force loose on the island. As a result, chaos reigns in Nassau town. Eleanor takes charge, but what she wants is Max. The problem is, Max is missing.
Billy has Max. Billy, by following his own plans to take the island (and doing what would have worked, had we known that the slave uprising would happen and be successful) is not currently popular with the Flint/Silver contingent. Flint tries to get the marauding pirates back under control, while Silver sets out to deal with Billy.
Meanwhile, at sea, Woodes Rogers has taken control of the Queen Anne’s Revenge. (Heaven only knows how… it seems the only men he has to sail her are Royal Marines, and it is a byword that Marines don’t know how to sail.) When he learns that Nassau is taken by the pirates, Rogers moves to send some of his Marines forward to Port Royal with his original sloop, the pirates chained in the hold. Once out of his control, however, the Marines disobey orders and set up a series of fight-to-the-death with the captive pirates.
I really would have liked to see the pirates be a little more clever here. There is only a lieutenant in charge of the Marines, and apparently, no sailors at all. Many, many times in the history of the sea, a group of captives has re-taken a ship they were confined on.
Instead, we have this series of fights. Yes, I know that the situation needs to be dire. But with the noose hanging over everyone’s head, and Port Royal so very close, the tension could have easily been ratcheted up with a good plan, a few wrong steps, and a save that allows Jack to be the clever one. No such luck.
We know (or we should know) that Anne Bonny will save the day, as soon as we see her chained up next to Jack (really would love to know where Rogers got enough chain for 42 pirates, though). The brutality, stacked on top of the brutality of the keelhauling we just witnessed, is too much.
Back in Nassau, Silver is has really grown into his position of Pirate King. But Billy wants to point something out: namely that Flint is completely crazy, and consumed by his need for a total victory in his war, and that he’ll trample or kill anyone in order to have his way. John Silver’s love, for instance.
It’s amazing that Billy noticed that. It’s only what half the show (okay, maybe more than half) is about.
Deals are struck. But of course, these are pirates, and Flint is still on the loose and crazy as a rat in a tin shithouse. A deal is done to exchange Max for the pirates that Eleanor is keeping in the fort, but a subtext develops between Silver and Billy Bones.
Just to make things more complicated (always got to give the writers credit for this) Eleanor (who loves Max), is pregnant by Rogers, her husband. And they are broke. That’s a great nod to history here as the historical Rogers threw away a fortune and was very broke.
Max talks to Silver, and drops a hint. Silver, of all the people on this show, is subtle and alert. And Silver, learning what she knows, sees a chance to un-crazy Flint. Silver tells Flint, and Flint speaks in platitudes. But Silver, the brains of the outfit, brings up Thomas Hamilton, the man whose death drove Flint into his destructive madness.
Is it possible that Silver can find Thomas and bring him into the fight for Nassau? And what will that do to Flint? Clean up his crazy mind? Drive him farther down the road to crazy-town? Or Break him utterly?
And what can Mattie do for the pirate cause? She is committed to Silver, but maintains loyalty to the slaves as well. Advice from that direction is common-sense. The slaves are angry at the pirates, and will treat them the same way they treat other whites. For Mattie, all they have to say is that sometimes the wise thing is to hide. After all, when you fight the world, the world fights back.
Everyone in this show has lost. Flint lost the love of his life. Blackbeard lost his life. Jack has been driven to the depths of shame and despair. Elanor has lost Max and Max has lost Elanor, and Silver, and has suffered horribly. The list goes on and on.
Eleanor is ready to quit. She offers to bargain with the pirates. Cash – the remains of the Urca gold – for the island. Rogers came to the island as much for money as for honor. Of course, Rogers is crazy now. And sailing the Queen Anne’s Revenge back to Nassau.
Everyone has lost. Can anyone win at this point? We’ll see.