“I come from Nassau.”
Nassau. The island which has brought madness to everyone, from Jack Rackham to Max to Mad Billy to Mad Flint.
Yes, we knew that Thomas was going to be in this episode. It was an inevitability, set up just long enough ago. It’s the thing that kept the folks who love Flint intrigued, just as the mess between Madi and Silver keeps the rest of us intrigued. Toby Stephens has a chance to show off his acting chops – thank the gods he still has them after some of the nonsense earlier this season.
Jack Rackham is again wearing the yellow coat he first put on to sit in council with Blackbeard. Then he was ignored and humiliated. Now, not so much. The coat is worn and dirty, a proper pirate’s coat. Now Flint has to ask permission, to remind Silver about knives in the back.
We get to see the intersections we’ve wanted. Billy versus Flint. Never mind how they got into it – this fight, like most of them, doesn’t make a lot of sense. Their fight in the rigging is a beautiful thing, full of rage, blood, and wide-staring eyes. Good show to the choreographers, who definitely earned their keep this episode!
As for the rage and confusion, Silver goes below decks for the kind of moody dark atmosphere that has been the best part of this show. He meets himself – “I’m just the cook.” He finds his beloved. The golden rays of the penetrating sun are love a gift from angels.
The pirates take Rogers – it’s notable that this is a joint effort between Flint and Rackham. Then the dealing… Who has the chest, who will retrieve the chest, who will carry the chest? Israel Hands watching Flint, Silver watching the mountain.
And Silver turns into a philosopher. Because, for once, the men leading the war are the men dying in the war, and Silver doesn’t want to pay the price.
Flint gets his speech. To find salvation in the darkness, to go into the heart of loss, the place where there is nothing left to lose, and turn it into a glorious cause. Flint does want his own losses to have meaning. But, for the first time, I’m in total sympathy with Flint. Because the folk who have the gold are in fact the ones who tell us not to stray from the path. They’re still telling us. And my sympathy is still with the ones who go into the dark place and find the treasures that the ones with the gold never want us to have.
So that is it. The war – the war that we have worked toward for four seasons – does not happen. The Maroons – the folk who really needed an uprising, and really would have benefited from one – agree to stand down.
Madi has an appropriate rage. But it leads to talk, explanations, and stories. The story of Thomas becomes, not a healing for Flint, but a sell-out. That Flint can give up his dreams in order to have a future with Thomas Hamilton. Flint sells out for a life of relative comfort in what amounts to a country-club prison.
Not exactly what we would have thought of the fearsome pirates. But the close-cropped head that he’s been sporting suddenly makes sense. It’s the shorn head of a prisoner. At least we get to see his reunion with Thomas. I was very afraid, as Flint walked through door after door, that we would be denied even this reunion. Thank god for the last clasp of hands to heads. It was worth something.
But Silver himself is the one who took down the pirate war. And from the look of things, it didn’t even cost him Madi. I don’t think that’s fair. I never knew the man lost his balls, as well as his leg.
There are some satisfactions here. Woodes Rogers, totally humiliated and judged by history. Mr. Featherstone, former pirate, former pirate fence, former whoremaster, as governor of Nassau. Max as the power behind the throne. Yes, the corruption will go on. Corruption makes riches, and it’s almost necessary….backed by the Guthrie family, of course.
We end with Jack Rackham, spinning his stories. Jack always did have an ear for history, an eye for the theatrical. By himself, he could not create a pirate empire, but he could create hell for Rogers, much worse than being dragged under a ship. And he could stay on the account until the bitter end.
He is right. The stories we tell make history. For centuries, the story of pirates has been written by the corporations and insurance companies they robbed, not by the common folk who benefitted from the genuine “trickle down” of gold that pirate robberies caused. The fact that pirates were ahead of the curve on things like workman’s compensation or life insurance, and voted on matters that affected them, and split their plunder in a plan based on fairness rather than hierarchy was lost.
But the world is changing, and the story of the pirates still has meaning. I liked very much that the last episode of Black Sails reminds us of this. Just as it ends with Rackham still sailing, it also ends at the beginning of another story. Mary Read will be found out soon, and then a whole new chapter of pirate history will unfurl.
And yes, the skull and crossed swords was Rackham’s actual flag. Long may it fly.