Crossbones seems to have suffered from the fate of so many potentially awesome shows… The early episodes were mangled by some committee at the network, and then just when the show had finally found its feet, it has been canceled, victim of an establishment that is so afraid of anything new, they don’t give it a chance to succeed.
In this last episode, we open with the aftermath of Lowe’s beating, some really graphic scars, leading to Blackbeard’s summoning of him, and the revelation of The Plan.
At last all this complex business comes to fruit. Mysterious barrels of gunpowder, love affairs, hidden histories, passions, maps, chronometers, and, God help us, submarines. At last, not maimed by having half of it cut away, it makes sense.
One of the longest running conflicts has been whether Selima really loves Blackbeard, or is only playing him for power or her own purpose. Her sudden acquiescence to Blackbeard’s proposals (“How many times have you asked?” “A hundred thousand?”) And a little of the passionate poetry of John Donne. Then the sudden requirement that Lowe should stay behind, and Charlie Rider should go along on the expedition.
And the fateful meeting of Jagger and Blackbeard. Hatred and fate coming together.
Blackbeard’s at his best, elegant, devious, bloody, with plans and rage so deep that he’s unstoppable. Charlie’s a classical pirate, all about the crew and the money. His speech (a lovely medley of the speeches of Sam Bellamy, Bartholomew Roberts, and female pirate Mary Read) speaks of the goals of the classic pirate: to live in a society where every man had a vote, where there were no tyrants, where a common person could become rich.
Blackbeard speaks of his own goals, his master plan to enlarge and solidify his own legend, while engaging in the most bloody form of nation building.
Blackbeard puts Charlie in the water, with the cry of “Judas!” and goes on with his attack on Jagger. The Spanish escape. Jagger’s ship is not sunk. (though with those explosives, it’s hard to see why not.) And The Plan, in all its elaborate splendor, is called off.
In the meantime, a perfectly logical result of an 18th century woman having an affair… Kate is pregnant. With the renewal of her relationship with her husband. Kate doesn’t want Lowe’s child. But then there’s the problem of an 18th century woman… No safe way to be rid of the baby. So Kate tries the old fashioned way, or one of them. The art of taking enough poison to kill the baby, but not quite enough to kill the mother. She’s not quite successful.
I’ll give the show this. While Lowe knows every technique that’s been tried everywhere in the world, (an unlikely event) he doesn’t use any that didn’t actually exist in his time. Kate is saved, and now she has Lowe’s blood in her, in addition to a child of dubious origin in her belly.
And when Jagger moves against Blackbeard’s island, Lowe and XX can stand as an odd kind of brothers.
I’m glad to see, Charlie’s ‘death’ does not go un-noticed. Back in port, the pirates confront Blackbeard. It was, after all, murder, and even on a pirate island, murder is not okay. It’s not a violent confrontation, full of “sir” and “you are who you are,” but it’s sincere, and when Blackbeard stands firm, the swords come out. Of course, the great pirate’s composure is not broken. He only points out that whoever touches him first will be the first to lose a hand.
But then the attack from the English comes, and at the most opportune time.
Because, of course, Jagger does find the island. His attack has been inevitable from the first, though there was always the question of when. With the series doomed, I can only be grateful that we get to see it.
Blackbeard’s speech, telling his followers that they are the lowest of the low, thieves, criminals, the dregs of society, and therefore the only people who can win a fight like this is typical and excellent. The following battle is entirely satisfactory, full of explosions, desperation, Blackbeard’s cool insolence, and the timely arrival of Charlie Rider to redeem himself by saving the day.
But even in this extremity, more of the past comes back. Antoinette, Blackbeard’s mad wife, is still alive and still in Jagger’s clutches. She becomes the monster, out for revenge against her husband and Selima. The woman in white that we saw in the first episode, the wraith, stalking like a terminator, is not even defeated by bringing a knife to a gunfight.
This is a madwoman who will walk up the blade of a sword to kiss the lips of her beloved.
But of course, Blackbeard is just as mad, in his way. He may have plotted to bring his people together in a monumental battle that binds them in bonds of brotherhood (and gives even Fletch a chance to be a hero) but he did so by bringing Jagger to the island for a showdown. The man just can’t stop scheming. So it’s Lowe’s job to confront him.
We end with Lowe bringing his mission to an end. Blackbeard’s head to the governor of Jamaica, in the most literal sense. But it’s not as a king’s man. It’s as the ruler of a pirate island, as a man passionate about justice and equality, and willing to fight for it. He leaves with a threat – come after us, and your death will be very, very personal. When he walks out, he leaves us with the assurance that Blackbeard’s island will live on.
And as to the legend? Well, legends never die, do they? And neither, apparently, does a really great pirate coat.
It’s a shame to see what’s been done to this show. If it hadn’t been cut to pieces in the beginning, it might well have been the best thing on television. In this finale, every single piece is tied in, tied up, and done so in a satisfying manner. This was truly great writing, and done in the piratical spirit of melodrama, passion, and violence.
The network could have given us something truly memorable. Instead they chose to be weaklings and cowards, and cut something really special to pieces.
But then, the authorities have never been kind to pirates.