Black Sails S4E1 Review: XXIX

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XXIX

Warning: Spoilers

 

So here we are, everyone; the fourth and final season of Black Sails. It’s been a long wait, and with so much at stake, I can’t deny that I went into this episode with both excitement and trepidation for all of my favorite characters.

We open with an underwater shot, as Flint’s voice is overheard saying, “The Lord said unto Rebekah, two nations are in thy womb.” It is a perfect analogy for what is happening now, within the show–government and pirates, good and evil…there is dichotomy to be found no matter where you look. Soon the sound of a heartbeat can be heard as well, and a body is falling through the water, tangled in rigging. It’s John Silver, who seems to be a victim of a ship sinking in midst of battle. So already, things aren’t looking up for our characters.

We flashback to Silver and Flint speaking to one another, prepping for the battle to retake Nassau. Flint points out that everyone fighting with them has probably wanted to kill one another at one point in time–and probably wanted to kill him, too. This goes for Silver, but he jokes that he hasn’t felt that way in months. Still, the conversation points out how precarious the situation currently is for them. Little else binds all of the pirates together than their desire to retake Nassau and revenge Charles Vane. Madi, head of the ex-slaves, and Silver’s now-lover, doesn’t trust Flint as far as she can throw him; I wouldn’t either.

 

We soon get a shot of all four pirate ships, and again I have to say it feels amazing to have the show back on television again. The amount of work put into the visuals (which are incredibly accurate), is stunning.

We head onto Blackbeard’s ship, where Rackham is starting to look very much like the leader he wants to be. Blackbeard is there too, of course, looking much more measured compared to Rackham’s fire and desperation. Anne Bonny…well. She is silent as ever, but there is a measure of trepidation on her face, as well. These three, out of all of the ships, have the most personal reason to be looking for retribution for Vane, but all three seem to be on different emotional levels regarding it.

 

As the pirate ships reach Nassau, it’s clear that something is wrong; the British sloops (ships) haven’t moved, and their guns aren’t readied–there is no movement at the Nassau fort, either. At first, they think this is fine; Billy Bones had said it would be as such. Quickly Flint and the other pirates realize the have come into a trap: some ships have been sunk in the shallow water, so three of the four pirate ships run aground. The moment this happens the fort opens fire, and the sloops engage: it’s a massacre.

 

The desperation is palpable as Flint tries to come up with a plan to save the ship. There is some impressive work with the sails to raise the ship out of the water enough to give the canons an angle at the fort (and it works!), but Governor Woodes Rogers has an answering volley that takes out the sails and there is no other option but to abandon ship. Honestly, given how Flint has acted in the past, I was a bit surprised he didn’t try to get his crew to go down with the ship, but hey–maybe he’s learning!  

Meanwhile Blackbeard’s crew makes the difficult decision to run; firing their cannons would only hurt the other pirates, and if they can get the sloops to follow, it might give the other pirates a chance to escape. It is a sound idea–but Bonny has the same fear as me: what if the British don’t choose to chase? What they are doing is not cowardly, but a smart, cold, tactical move. In truth–it’s all they can do. Luckily, the order is given for the sloops to give chase. So at least the others have a slightly bigger chance at survival.

 

But as we see…it is only slight. The remaining British ship is picking off any survivor in the water that it can, either through guns or capture. Madi and Flint manage to make it into a longboat, but Silver goes into the water, to return to what we saw in the first shot of the episode.

 

Meanwhile, back in Nassau, all the ‘good’ townsfolk are in a bunker, including Max and Eleanor, who is now married to Rogers. Eleanor admits that she is having to pretend to be a ‘proper’ lady, even if it doesn’t suit her.

Max rightly questions her, stating, “It bothers me that this does not bother you.” Eleanor is still the person we always knew her to be: someone who will survive and twist herself into a situation, regardless of the cost to those around her. At least we see that her relationship with Rogers seems to be positive, and that they love each other. It seems to be on a more equal footing than anything she had before with Vane.

 

We head back to the pirates, where Flint and Madi are watching the last longboat come in, hoping Silver is on it; he isn’t, of course. Zethu Dlomo is doing an amazing job as Madi; her heartbreak is written all over her face at the prospect of losing Silver.

Billy appears, revealing that Mr. Featherstone apparently was the one who didn’t provide the information of the ambush–as Billy attempted to. Billy has a beard now, and is wearing all dark colors; it is clear that there has been a hardening within him–it will be interesting to see how far this goes. Upon learning that Silver is gone, he hardens more, and simply says that debts need to be paid, and there is plenty of time to pay them. This puts a wrench in his ‘pirate king’ scheme, but I doubt he will give up so easily.

 

We then flashback to Madi and Silver in bed, discussing the very ‘Long John Silver: Pirate King’ conundrum. It seems that Silver feels the title is tempting fate, considering things have worked as long as he and Flint are equals–but to be elevated away from Flint means that fate might be tempted. He also questions Billy’s motives, as he has long been trying to disrupt Flint’s control on the pirates. However, I am with Madi on this–it isn’t Billy Silver they should be concerned about: it’s Flint. Being a friend to Flint never ends well, and Silver is very much worthy of the title of ‘Pirate King’.

Back in Nassau we find out that the British soldiers are basically in breach of orders: they had been told to return to England, but refused to do so, wanting to avenge the events at the ex-slave colony. Governor Rogers also demands that all 121 pirate prisoners will be given trials. They’ll be executed at the end, of course, but unlike those uncivilized pirates, at least there will be false trials before death! There are also no people within Nassau willing to provide the authorities any information upon where the other pirates are hiding.

 

Max, meanwhile, is having issues of her own. Rogers has commandeered her tavern as the place for the trails, and is refusing to pay for room and board–basically saying that if she doesn’t accept the situation, she’ll be considered the enemy. It’s definitely a threat, and one that he shouldn’t be making lightly; backing Max into a corner has never worked well for anyone.

It makes more sense after Eleanor and Rogers talk–apparently his ex wife is having her family use their influence to call in the debtors against him, meaning that things in Nassau are more precarious than they seem. Eleanor says she will call in her family to help. As I said before, I am happy that these two love and support each other, if nothing else.

 

Things are tense back at the pirate hideout. It’s haunting and sad to watch Flint wander through Miranda Barlow’s former house, which is nearly unrecognizable now. His former life is well and truly gone, no matter how much he wishes it could be back. We also see real proof of how much more brutal Billy has become in the visage of two strung up corpses: men who were going to betray the cause.

 

Billy had never been the sort of man to resort to such brutal tactics, but for all his heart and warmth, he was bound to start to become a harder creature, eventually. He states that besides the actual town of Nassau, “his” men have the countryside in control. Flint seems really annoyed at the power that Billy is wielding, but given how well things have gone under Flint, I think he should shut up. Madi truly believes the cause to take back Nassau died with Silver; Billy believes there is another way.

 

There are prisoners to save, and Billy, someone who always thinks with his heart, wants to save them–but after they gain more men. There are slaves at the Underhill plantation (over 200), that could be freed, and brought over to the cause as an additional bonus. Flint, of course, says no to this, and just wants to drive into Nassau immediately, guns blazing.  

 

We immediately see some amazing acting from Tom Hopper (Billy Bones), who plays the next part of the scene with such restrained anger and condescension. His men were prepared to follow Silver, not Flint–and if he thinks that power immediately reverts to the latter, he’s a fool. Billy has been working so hard to get Flint, someone who has always shown a disregard for human life, out of power, that  he will be damned if he stopped fighting now. Especially since Billy is the one who recruited them and led them in raids. Flint has value, but not in the way he thinks. Billy is asserting himself in a way he never has before, and I’m so glad to see it. Flint, of course, decides to be a bastard and say he will never give Billy or any of the pirates the location of the treasure to help Nassau, if he is not allowed to be the leader. As usual, it is his way, or no way.

 

Luckily, Madi speaks up, and tells Flint that she knows the location, too: Silver told her. Given her relationship with Flint, I truly doubt she will choose his side, especially when Billy’s side comes with freeing more slaves.

 

Blackbeard ends up facing down the three ships in a way that would bode certain death for anyone but Blackbeard–he decides to allow the ship to be boarded, so they can take down the British that way. It goes well, all things considered–except Rackham, for all his passion, proves yet again he isn’t the best fighter. It troubles him that he isn’t going to be able to prove himself in a way that he feels would have made Vane proud–he blames himself for his death.

Anne, in lovely fashion, says, “Fuck Charles Vane.” They can’t live their lives for a dead man; they have to live the way they always have and not allow this to tear them apart–something she is afraid is already happening. They are headed back to Nassau, with the bodies of their executed British soldiers.

 

But what about our dear Long John Silver? Well he does survive, despite nearly drowning more than a few times (why he thought going into a sinking ship was a wise idea, I’ll never know). Still, he washes up on a beach, where he sees a man with a torch killing survivors. In a panic he starts to drag his body away, but he is quickly caught up in it. The mysterious man turns him over and simply says, “Welcome Home.” So…well. The plot thickens, eh?

 

Overall, I thought this was a really strong first episode; things aren’t going well for anyone, right now. It certainly means that the stakes are higher than ever, and I genuinely can’t wait to see where we go from here.

 

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