Black Sails: XXIII review

For the second week in a row, Black Sails delivers a perfect piece of pirate TV. Here's TS Rhodes' review.

This Black Sails review contains spoilers.

Black Sails Season 3 Episode 5

Sometimes the waiting is all there is.

Blackbeard, of course, could not have been a part of the beginning of Black Sails. Beside him, even the power and attitude of Charles Vane becomes almost childlike. In many ways, Vane is the heart of this series’ whole story. He is the rebel, in all things, and it is the spirit of rebellion that drove history’s pirates.

I felt that this week’s episode was a matter of pacing. After attacks, explosions, capture by the Maroons, we needed an episode to pause, reflect and begin the momentum toward the next crisis. This is it – not a rip-roaring adventure, but something necessary for the whole

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Last week Blackbeard, Vane and company escaped from the blockade of Nassau port, this year we see them on the high seas. Blackbeard immediately breaks a tradition (fictional, but plausible) that the pirates don’t attack Spanish vessels, for fear of reprisals against New Providence. For action’s sake we get a good fight and a well-managed suicide. The rest is a rather spun-out reflection of what the Spanish ship was carrying.

Papers detailing British holdings in the Caribbean. What shall we make of this?

If the Spanish were to attack Nassau in sufficient numbers, the English and the pirates might need to join forces to hold them off. There’s historic precedence. Port Royal became “the wickedest city on earth” when England could not afford ships to protect the island of Jamaica from Spanish invasion. The Jamaican governor at the time fixed his problem by opening his city to pirates – as long as the pirates promised to defend the colony.

That deal was only negated by the great earthquake of 1697, which dropped a third of Port Royal into the ocean. The earthquake effectively ended an entire phase of piracy.

Once the situation with Vane is properly set up, we slip back to Nassau to enjoy seeing Max as a mover and shaker in the new society.

Max has made herself a power in her world the hard way, and she doesn’t mind risking her reserves to keep her place at the top. She now has more than enough money buy men far more well-funded than Rogers. And her cleverness in transforming so much of the treasure from gold into gems is complete. She will not buy her future with Spanish gold, but with valuables that dropped mysteriously out of the sky.

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It’s no accident that Rogers had earlier dropped a line about raising his own version of the black flag and going to war against the insurance companies. Nor is Eleanor’s sudden attraction to him mysterious. Rogers has been battered by fate. The historic man clung to his one accomplishment – getting the pirates out of Nassau. This version of Rogers seems far more larcenous.

I’ve always wished that there was a better way to explain how little cash was required to become rich during the early 1700s. Jack Rackham gave us some idea when he spoke of 800 years of carousing off his share of the Urca gold. Today, Woods Rogers points out that Max is offering him five year’s tax revenue. This was a time when a person could carry enough money to make his or her fortune.

The screws are tightening. The revelation of the Spanish spy means Rogers has just been informed that he can’t go straight unless he comes up with double the enormous quantity of valuables already available to him in Nassau. (This is the weakest part of the whole episode, buy the way. The idea that such a lowly spy would know how much money Spain expects is pretty flimsy. Add to that the fact that Spain cannot possibly know exactly how much money was recovered, or that it will expect no less than a 100% recovery, is complete madness.)

These vast amounts of money seem to have tamed Anne Bonny, at least for now. But it hasn’t quite overcome Jack Rackham. Jack has always wanted to make a name for himself, so his desire to go back and “take the pardon” so he can keep his name is logical. “I’ll be back in just a few hours” however, could well be on some famous list of famous last words. When IT, whatever exactly IT is, goes down next week, Jack will be in the middle of it.

And, lastly Flint. Yes, he’s an angst-y and conflicted pirate. But with Silver’s help, Flint polishes up his sliver tongue and goes into battle in the way he does best.

Flint is now talking a full-scale rebellion, a Pirate Nation. This is what we came here for. “What does a colonial power do when the men who power it lay down their shovels, pick up swords and say, “No more?”

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So, the pieces are in place.

This is it. I hope the pirates change history. It won’t happen next week, but it can start next week, and I want this season to end with the skull and crossbones flying over a new nation.


5 out of 5