Black Sails: XXVI Review

Black Sails hits on historical fact and real conflict in its latest episode. Here's our review...

This Black Sails review contains spoilers. 

Black Sails Season 3 Episode 8 

So it looks like we’re going to pretend last week’s episode of Black Sails didn’t happen.

Yes, we start out with more talking, but this week at least the pirates have something to say. I found the opening conversation between Flint and Vane to be very enlightening. And, probably, true to the time period.

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The distinction between rich and poor in 1716 was absolute. A man who lived his life as Vane has lived his life would probably never have been in a place as “normal” as Miranda’s house. A dinner table with china place settings, silverware, and an effort to make the whole attractive would be something he lived his whole life without seeing.

Vane taps the keys of Miranda’s harpsicord. He’s probably never heard that sound before. Remember there is no TV, no photographs. The only way to see or hear these things is to be in the same room with them. People like Vane didn’t get into upper-class living rooms. I like Vane’s positon on the small luxuries represented by Miranda’s house. Yes, this way of life is a trap, at least for men like Vane. Flint was caught years ago. 

I could believe that the Black Sails crew wouldn’t be found, but damn it’s annoying when Billy Bones comes in. This is a neighborhood where no one new has moved in for perhaps a decade. You bet Billy Bones was noticed. (Not plot important, but still…) 

And why is it that Jack Rackham’s conversation with a rat is more interesting than any of the conversations last week? Difficult, but true.

Once again, it’s the stories that aren’t told that are the important ones. The lack of a story about Anne attacking Roger’s guards tells the pirates all that they need to know about the plans that are afoot. Roger’s men are too new to the island to realize what this means. They are also too new to Nassau society to know whom Max and Eleanor “are.” Their loss.

At this point, the New World itself is conspiring against Woods Rogers and his men. They don’t know the players, and they don’t know the field. New World sickness is stalking them. (Including Rogers, but thank god this time we don’t get clubbed over the head with it.)

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I also like Jack Rackham’s statement about how he became a pirate. Jack’s definitely got a pair of pirate balls now. But he’s also got the brains and background to argue with Rogers at Rogers’ own level.

Historical fact – the rise in piracy in the Caribbean was a direct result of a crash in the wages of working-class folks, while the rich suddenly got richer. Jack’s story would have been a standard one, just as Vane’s story—a life of hard labor, relieved only by drink and a few pleasant hours in the bed of a whore was the common reason—is why the men became pirates. 

Silver’s story feels like it was dreamed up just to give Silver something to do. But I don’t mind. This kind of problem in integrating two groups is very believable. It also gives Eme a place to shine. Eme is good – historically believable, well played, and strong. This is where Silver gets a look at royalty. Eme was raised to be a queen, and she acts like one.

The solution to the problem is good Black Sails tradition. Things just slide sideways, but with a twist at the end. They aren’t backing off the slavery card, either. Nobody comes to Nassau baggage-free, and the Maroons are no exception.

This is what makes this show good. Black Sails talks about real conflict, not made-up conflict. Rogers complains to Rackham that the pirates don’t accept the world as it is. But we see, regularly, how open-eyed the pirates really are. Vane understands how the dream of a house (small luxuries, but luxuries a man like him had never seen) is a trap, luring men from dignity and freedom. 

Rackham grasps the economic situation that makes it so easy for the working class to lose everything, and how impossible it is to get it back. Eme knows that every one of her people needs to win an individual fight against the past, when they were enslaved by white men and became non-persons. Because she speaks vividly, we see the size of this struggle. It remains a struggle today. 

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This episode’s set piece, the battle over Roger’s carriage, is just what we’ve been looking for. I realize that it’s a TV show, and the budget gets eaten up by these things. But damn it was good. Kudos for the carriage crash. (And extra credit because the carriage didn’t blow up for absolutely no reason.)

We got lovely dialogue between Vane and Rackham in this episode. And believable action.  It makes a huge difference when people talk if they are doing something relevant to the plot. 

But multiple riders just leaving the scene is Flint’s hallmark: Stupidity. It’s no use at all to take a target if you can’ hold it. As everyone else has said to eloquently, it’s all or nothing. So what does Flint do? He exits the scene before Rackham is secured. A real rookie move, by a character who couldn’t organize a trick-of-treat expedition, let alone a pirate raid.

Thank goodness Billy Bones talks some sense into him. When we found out that Bones is a political pirate, a literate man who was essentially enslaved because his family disagreed with the status quo, he became just the person to sway public opinion. Flint didn’t see this of course, but Billy was kind enough to point it out. 

And the end… We end with Eleanor and Vane looking at each other. So much of Black Sails has been driven by the simple fact that Vane, toughest of the tough, has a soft spot for the upper-class blond girl he’s been screwing. In fact, it’s more the heart of the show than Flint’s absurd machinations. And it comes down to this… Vane, in chains, and Eleanor just barely free and in love with his captor. What happens next? This time we really want to know. 


4 out of 5