This Black Sails review contains spoilers…
Black Sails Season 3 Episode 7
I can’t believe I just sat thought a show that’s supposed to be about pirates, and yet it was nothing but 57 minutes of talking heads. Max talks to Anne. Flint talks to the Maroon Queen. Rogers talks to Rackham. Eleanor talks to Max. Billy Bones talks to Flint, then Silver talks to a whole bunch of people. There is a fight that lasts less than 20 seconds, and then we cut back to Silver talking again.
The most exciting thing in this episode is what doesn’t happen. Max doesn’t betray anyone. Jack Rackham doesn’t get tortured. Woods Rogers doesn’t turn Eleanor’s down offer of sex. Anne Bonny doesn’t get in an epic fight with six soldiers.
They better have something really good coming up.
But this is the best pirate entertainment that we’ve ever had on TV, so we’d better look at the bright side. As with many of the episodes, it’s pretty. Black Sails always has great sets. While we’re listening to the characters blather on, we can watch the candles glow, or admire the imagination that put a whole tree inside a building, or feel by proxy the hot Caribbean sun on our faces.
I love looking at the clothes. Flint’s current coat is much more appropriate that his former black leather number. The bodice of Max’s red dress gives the appearance of opening to reveal a military jacket beneath. And Roger’s shirt is dirty white and made in the real 18th century style hints that his goals may be tarnishing. But when the most enticing thing on the screen is a close-up of the stitching on somebody’s shirt, a show is facing a real problem.
The male viewers, and many of the female ones, will no doubt notice that Eleanor Guthrie looks quite fetching wearing only a pair of eighteenth century stockings. (And OK, I’m a super-geek and I was really pleased that she was wearing time-appropriate underwear.) But I think we’re all disappointed that we got a fade out of what comes next.
Instead we get talking.
And what are they talking about? Flint’s laying forth the same plan he had last week, and getting the same opposition from the same woman. Neither Rogers not Rackham has changed position, and they explain this again. We are clubbed over the head with the fact that there’s going to be an outbreak of sickness among Roger’s men. Anne Bonny says, “What the fuck?” Charles Vane says he wants to attack someone and steal something.
This could have gone so much better. Seeing sickness, instead of being told about it might have offered some urgency. A little scramble over Anne’s treasure might have given us a little movement to look at. Vane might have been given something to actually do. Or he might have taken his shirt off. Silver might have at least walked into more than one bar.
One of the things this episode suffers from – that pirate stories always struggle with – is that “the people” – the townspeople, the crew, the merchant sailors, whatever group of people we’re dealing with, are treated like a monolith. “Everybody” does the same thing, agrees with each other, and feels the same emotions.
We could have had some comedy if we had seen the antics of a pirate who has received a pardon and doesn’t “get” the fact that he’s supposed to stop stealing shit. The whores could be complaining that since there’s no more plunder coming in, no one is spending any money. We could doubt for one minute that Rogers and Eleanor are going to do the deed. Or, you know, there might be a little excitement, since she’s got a lot more experience than he’s used to.
Instead, every single person does exactly what we expect. It’s so bad that Anne does at the end of the episode precisely what Max predicted she would do at the beginning. This does not make good drama, people.
The whole point of pirates is the value of the individual over the traditions of society. But we don’t see that. Flint, Silver, Bones, Rackham and Bonny are all on exactly the same page, agreeing with each other wholeheartedly. They have no inner conflict about fighting to get their island back, no disagreement about how to accomplish it.
I suppose this is the price of a TV show that has a really kick-ass storm near the beginning of the season. But I’m worried about the characters. Definitely – nobody made their Fitbit goal this week.