Crossbones: A Hole In The Head Review

NBC's Crossbones is finally hitting its stride. Here's our review of this week's episode...

Man, I really wish Crossbones had a better opening. A theme song or something. Of course, the “Last week on Crossbones” segment is useful but a good pirate theme song would take the show a long way.

I am reminded by this week’s section, that the real Blackbeard married a girl of good family after he retired. Apparently he thought that being married and living the life of a rich, but respectable man would be a lot more interesting than it was. The real Blackbeard kept the most loyal of his former crew around, and was going out to sea with them within a couple of months of “going straight.”

Being a pirate is fun, after all.

At least we have an explanation for Nenna keeping her treasure… She’s only been handing over bits of it to Rose. And Rose imagines a relationship, a rather twisted one. The ending of this little episode (we can assume it’s the end, but some pretty odd stuff happens around here) is beautiful, logical, and neat. I knew I liked Nenna for a reason. She acts like a pirate.

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One of the other things I’ve liked about the show from the beginning is the relationship between Blackbeard and Selima. She cares for him, but won’t sleep with him (he does, after all, have three other women for that). He depends on her, but doesn’t quite trust her. Does she love him, or is he the means to some other plan she has? Every line of her face says both.

I think the series may finally have hit its stride. The acting’s always been tight. And, in fact, the main problem the show had was that half of it seemed to be missing. For the first time, I don’t quite feel like what I’m seeing on the screen is some kind out outline or summary. It finally feels like a TV show, possibly even a good one. 

We’ve got plot! And it makes sense! What happened? Did the committee who wrote the first few episodes get tired and go home? Did they run out of mad ideas to throw around? Or were they rushing through a lot of material they thought was unimportant in order to get us here? Whatever the mess was, I’m glad it appears to be over.

The map of Jamaica that convinced Lowe that Blackbeard was going to attack Jamaica was just a map. It never made any sense that a simple map took Lowe from a cave full of gunpowder to an attack on the center of British power in the Caribbean. No explanation of why Lowe was boneheaded enough to assume there really was such a plan, but once again, that’s TV for you.

From this point it moves smoothly. Lowe, after finding that he doesn’t have the stomach to betray the island, has a reasonable plan to save his friends. Yes, giving up Blackbeard should save the colony he has built. But I’m not sure that turning the former pirate over to the Governor of the Carolinas would slow down Jagger’s mad attack on everything Blackbeard ever touched, let alone stop him. Still, it makes far more sense than most of what’s happened on the show so far.

And since Lowe seems to be quite out of his mind over Kate, it’s OK that he spills the beans to her about the whole thing. I’m proud of her reaction… that of a real person, loyal to an ideal, grateful for past favors, and still strangely attached to her crippled husband. A woman acting just like a real person, bravo!

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The physical confrontation between Lowe and Kate makes sense, even to the use of the husband’s own opium to drug her. There’s drama here, but no insanity.

The madness remains in Jagger, a defining part of his character. But for the first time it feels like a madness that might be founded on something. I’ve always wondered about Jagger’s obsession with Blackbeard. After all, in the beginning Blackbeard was supposed to be dead, and Jagger was supposed to have killed him, and was a hero because of it. Why did he want to prove that Blackbeard still lived? Why was he so obsessed?

But as we see him so deeply linked with Blackbeard’s ghost woman Antoinette, we’re starting to get hints.

This is something that has been emerging: the show admitting that some of the things it has told us are poppycock. Yes, it’s contradictory that Blackbeard claims to be running a democracy when he is the de facto king of his island. But that’s human nature. Yes, Lowe’s leap to assume that Blackbeard would attack Jamaica was a baseless leap. So perhaps we’re going to have some logic to Jagger’s madness.

In any event, I like the sick relationship between Jagger and Antoinette, based on torture and cuddling. She claws at her own eyes and seems demented because of the death of Blackbeard’s child.  Her apparent link to her former lover’s (husband’s?) subconscious mind makes more sense than visitations from a ghost.

There’s also another historical tie here. According to stories, the real pirate Blackbeard has a fetish for enacting a wedding night. He would get drunk, pick up a whore, and take her back to his ship, where a member of his crew would “marry” them. Then the newlyweds would retire to the captain’s cabin, do what came naturally, and part in the morning. The girls liked it because it paid well, and Blackbeard must have liked it because he reenacted the scene over and over. According to legend, he racked up 19 “wives” this way.

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But the main drive of this episode is the tale of the trepan and whether or not Lowe will use it to open up Blackbeard’s skull. First there’s the dangerous nature of the operation, then the question of Lowe’s loyalty. Everyone tells Blackbeard not to have the operation. Then Lowe makes his kidnapping attempt and admits that he’s a former British agent. Logic says that Blackbeard should kill him, but Blackbeard’s logic is of a higher order.

Faced with a man who’s done the wrong thing for all the right reasons, who’s sold out his entire life to save the island, Blackbeard makes the decision to have his skull opened up.

I watched the work with some interest. It was fairly accurate, except that Lowe should have first cut a flap of skin off the skull and pulled it back, so he could cover the hole in the skull afterward. But the stick between the teeth, the evident pain from the patient, the straining, the blood, were all true to the time. Loved it.

Loved it more when Lowe admitted that he made up the disease and the cure. That’s the kind of revelation that’s becoming the show’s foundation.

Now let’s find out what happens when Blackbeard attacks the Spanish treasure fleet. There’s logic here. But there’s also submarines. 18th century submarines.

But we can finally hope for the best.

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Three stars and my fingers crossed for next week. 

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3 out of 5