Black Sails XXIV review

Black Sails Season 3 continues its run of solid episodes with yet another one.

This Black Sails review contains spoilers.

Black Sails Season 3 Episode 6

Gotta say, I was expecting Black Sails to give us a little more action this time around. We’re still dragging along with setup, though I’ll admit the setup is moving along a little more smoothly with this week’s episode.

Nice jump forward in time – we didn’t need to see the hostages being traded between Flint and the Maroons. Cutting straight to the conflicts that arise from this was a smart move.

It was also pleasant to see that the shamanic healing ritual being practiced among the Maroons was treated with intelligence and respect. I did a little poking around, and couldn’t immediately DISprove the ritual being used, though I do think that it might have been more appropriate for the Queen to be doing the ritual for her husband. This ceremony was easy to understand however, and believable, so I’ll give it my approval.

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Silver is still suffering with his leg, also a believable problem. Having a leg removed in the 1700s was only slightly less dangerous than letting the limb rot. Mortalities were somewhere in the 80% range – that’s 80% that didn’t make it. Silver, who has survived a very inexpert amputation, then dehydration and starvation, and all in a world that doesn’t have any idea what a germ is, should certainly be sick. As far as the medical opportunities in the “outside world”… I think I’d take my chances with the Maroons. English doctors were still using leeches, for god’s sake.

Luke Arnold is a good actor, who does his character justice in the role, and the makeup department has made him a suitable shade of sweaty gray. They shouldn’t have let him get on the “bearded pirate bandwagon” for this season though. The scraggly face-hair looks good when he’s being dapper, but gets in the way of his emoting now.

It’s really quite remarkable how much this character has grown as a person. Tricksters like Silver usually stay tricksters. But here’s Silver being all introspective and shit. (Goes well with I-might-be-going-to-die). I’ve always been conscious of the fact that Silver has a half-black wife in the book, and it looks like he’s definitely found her.

I also liked the business of the Maroon not having learned any seamanship yet. Ships of the time were not easy to run, and sailors had a high contempt for newcomers who couldn’t handle the miles of rope involved. We get to see Flint in his determined mode – something he does well. I’m getting tired of Flint being determined, though. Yes, it’s his best point, but the character has always felt one-note.

His conflict with Blackbeard leaves me cold. He shouldn’t be asking Blackbeard for control of the fleet, he should be pontificating about the Pirate Brotherhood and Being Kings of Our Fates and No Man Can Stand Before Us. Instead we get something that feels like two different owners each calling a dog to find out who is loved the best.

Vane has never made a good dog, and his actions here don’t do him justice. It’s just a method of moving the plot forward. For all the well-structured fight, none of it felt authentic.

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Props to Ray Stevenson as Blackbeard, though. His character has never been given the best lines… All that stuff about Vane being the son he never had, and now we find out there’s a convenient piece of shrapnel moving toward his heart. Where’s Iron Man when you need him? It’s just a method of getting the character out of the way whenever they want to do him in, and it feels cheap.

The acting’s good, though. And our little glimpse of Blackbeard’s bare chest looked just right. Not the tattoos – Golden Age pirates didn’t have tattoos. But the build of the man, with the perfect look of someone who’s been fit all his life, and is now taking it a little easier.

Blackbeard’s camp also shines as a piece of design work. Grand tables and upholstered chairs on a beach tell you exactly where you are, and it feels just as rough and exotic as it should.

As for the tale of Jack and Anne – well, we knew this was going to happen. But it’s the best writing of the episode, and feels like authentic pirate action. Henry Avery did set the standard for pirates, and Jack Rackham’s – this Jack Rackham’s desire to risk everything to be the pirate that Nassau needs, is the real spirit of the pirates of old.

It’s a damn good thing we got to see Jack blow a man’s head off with no preamble, or we wouldn’t believe in this resolute man who sets Woodes Rogers up to fail.

The historic Rogers had a terrible time persuading people to work on the fort. Hornigold had inspire the people of Nassau with a stirring speech about how work on the fort directly protected the ill-gotten gains of the people hauling the stones. Then he bought drinks. When Rogers came, the fort became “the government’s problem” and no one wanted to drag rocks up a hill.

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The sudden change in Nassau is a story device, just as Rackham’s and Bonny’s share of the Urca is a story device. The Urca treasure has become a McGuffin – a plot device that has no purpose except to drive the plot. There’s no logical reason why Rogers needs that money – Spain would hardly take offense at England returning so much treasure, especially given how much other treasure England ever returned to Spain (hint: like none).

Since the treasure is the result of a shipwreck, it’s highly unlikely that Spain even had an accurate count, even if the Spanish excavating crew that Rackham defeated had given a report.  

(Check this – if you were collecting gold off a beach for your government, would you actually report all of it? Or would you hold back a little for yourself?)

No matter how much explaining they do, the treasure now serves no real purpose.

But what haunts me from this episode is the sight of Anne Bonny silhouetted against the sky. We know she’ll kill her man. And we’re very pleased at Jack’s way of telling her what she needed to do. They know each other very well, these two.


4 out of 5