This Black Sails review contains spoilers.
Black Sails Season 4 Episode 7
John Silver isn’t the sort of man that we thought would be moved by deep emotion. Of course that was years ago. It’s a tribute to the show that we believe it now. Love is not what we expect from any of the pirates, and yet they surprise us. Charles Vane died for love. Now love has moved John Silver.
And now, at last, they’re talking about Morgan. Morgan took the Caribbean from the Spanish – most of it. Morgan took Panama city, with a gang of pirates, and leveled it so thoroughly that it was not even re-built in the same spot. And he did it with pirates.
For the first time, the cause of the pirates, no longer confined only to Nassau, seems plausible.
“He’ll have won. Woods Rogers will sit in Nassau and grow old knowing that he was measured against us and proven the better man.”
So says Jack Rackham on the cold streets of Philadelphia. But much of North America has a history of being friendly to pirates.
The New World was far from the old world of Europe. Families made fortunes under the table and on the sly. If the pirates were “on the account” the first families of Boston and Philadelphia operated no less outside the law. They made their own laws, or operated where laws did not exist.
Rackham as he says, is a different sort of pirate. He knows enough to deal, and is humble enough to ask for help from Max. It takes a strong and wise man to know his limitations. Rackham, at last, is proving his mettle. (I still would never again give him control of a ship… Not after losing Blackbeard’s life and surrendering to a sloop one quarter his size. He never gets that again from me, no matter what.)
And Max finally get her say. She won’t hold slaves. She has the sense and morality to see that slaves are a bad business. It’s good to see Max used effectively again – she’s been loitering in the shadows for too long – but bad to see Anne Bonny out of the fight. Amazing, isn’t it, that when the men get hurt – I’m thinking of Van, in particular, (except when he died) they spring back almost at once, but the women have to suffer. One of the greatest flaws in this series is the way it treats its women in this regard.
Madi is in the hands of the ruined Woodes Rogers. I hate to say that I have never liked Rogers, but it’s true. The historic Woodes Rogers beat the pirates, and died in shame, having destroyed his own fortune, family and future. The character’s motivations have never been idealistic in the least. He wanted money. He should, by all rights have gone along with his wife’s plan to sell Nassau and move on. His madness was unexpected, unfounded, and ridiculous.
The show has managed to keep tensions high, though. Madi is key to the resistance. We know – as much as we can know anything on this show, that she will not capitulate. Madi was raised as royalty, and she has the spirit of a queen. If Rogers were to break her, I would give up the series altogether.
I don’t believe Billy. They have given this character too much back story in the resistance. In case you’ve forgotten, he was raised by parents fully committed to the cause for liberty and equality – a cause that got people not only killed in the early 1700s, but publicly tortured to death. I don’t believe that Billy would give up the cause because of human stupidity.
And yes, it was stupid. Silver’s conflict with Billy felt manufactured rather than an organic part of the plot. Unfortunately, since this is the last season, we will never know how much of this sort of thing is planned and how much is a rush to get through plot points in the last year.
But some things are still true, in the way that only the best fiction can. Silver loves Madi. They’ve done a good job of showing that, for all the flaws in the writing. Silver’s got the money, and a plan. Rogers’ heart is broken. He’s quiet now, even sane. I predict that he won’t be at the moment he and Silver meet. Silver will be cold and Rogers will be hot. Madi may sacrifice herself for the cause, but I think she’s too wise to do that. This conflict has legs.
And someone has finally noticed that Flint is a fanatic. It’s thin, of course. I really have no idea why Eleanor’s grandmother would want Flint, in particular, dead. I knew it wouldn’t happen – after all the series is built on Flint and Silver. But don’t forget that Flint still has an out. His long-lost love is probably still alive, or so has been deeply hinted at. One wonders how that will play out. Is this Flint’s ending, when all is said and done?
Going back to the business in Philadelphia – I’d like to take a moment to say how much you can tell about what’s going on by the state of Jack Rackham’s suit. When he arrives in the northern city, Rackham is wearing his wilted linen (I love Rackham’s wilted linen coats.) Not quite as wilted, and with some of the details that mimic the pirate captains like Flint and Blackbeard. His calico neck-cloth is prominent. At the end, he is outfitted in velvet and fur, which isn’t a traditionally piratical look.
This is also the episode where we see the pirates as the world saw them…. Not too far off from the way people imagine them today. When the girl in the red dress repeats the tales she has heard, she speaks for us. For so many of us, who have heard the stories of “no survivors,” of atrocities, of pirates steeped in blood and gore, satanic pirates, determidly evil pirates, Rackham speaks the truth for Black Sails, for his world. I hope, very much, that Black Sails will inspire its viewers to read the real history of the real pirates of Nassau and the Caribbean.