Sunday, April 21, 2024

Black Sails Makes Its Characters Choose Sides

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Whew, this episode was a bit of a relief. After the brutality of the past two weeks, Black Sails provided a small respite this week as everyone reacted to the bargain struck between Flint and Eleanor last week. That’s not to say things were uneventful. Long-standing tensions finally boiled over and just about every character was forced to make a choice of what matters to them and who they support.

We’re already halfway through the final season, folks. It’s an exciting, anxious, and sorrowful time. I’m going to miss Black Sails so much.

Spoilers for 4×05 “XXXIII” below


The episode opens with John Silver marching out of the tunnel beneath the fort after Flint’s surrender. Out on the beach, the pirates arm themselves for the coming fight against Woodes Rogers. Silver joins Billy and tells him about the deal Flint made, and that a woman will exit the fort to take the terms to Rogers. He tells Billy to pass the word.

Inside the fort, Mrs. Hudson is revealed as the messenger. She worries about her safety but Eleanor assures her the pirates won’t dare test her on her threats. You’d think not—they have certainly seen Eleanor’s refusal to back down enough times. She makes sure Mrs. Hudson reaffirms that she knows what to say, and also thinks she should tell Rogers about the pregnancy. Eleanor refuses her.

The most Mrs. Hudson gets from the pirates while walking to her waiting boat are a few intimidating looks. Billy questions Silver more and learns that the deal Flint made included handing over the remainder of the Urca treasure. Silver expresses his own reservations, as well as his trust in Flint.

Mrs. Hudson reaches the Man o’ War unharmed, where she delivers the terms of the deal. Woodes Rogers ignores her and continues sailing for Nassau. Eleanor has the fort fire warning shots to dissuade him, but Rogers sails on. Mrs. Hudson continues Eleanor’s message. She relays that Eleanor is not betraying him, but acting out of love, and determined to see this deal through.

Rogers decides to turn the ship away from Nassau. For a brief moment I allowed myself to believe he actually listened and agreed.

Madi arrives back in Nassau while the pirates celebrate Rogers’s withdrawal. Silver tells her about the deal as well. To his dismay, she supports Flint. She doesn’t like it but she believes he was right because of their new circumstances. Madi tells him about the irreparable split Billy’s actions caused with the slaves and her doubt in their ability to defend Nassau because of it.

She also tells him that killing Billy may be the only way to repair the rift with the new slave army, and that eventually Silver must choose between Flint and Billy. He doesn’t see how they can keep order without Billy’s men. Madi assures him they can. Silver tells her she sounds just like Flint.

When he begins to leave, Madi stops him. She understands the difficulty in killing a friend like Billy. She wants him to know she understands that, and is not just throwing out cold-blooded suggestions without understanding. Silver assures her he knows, and asks if he would be enough for Madi if they had to walk away from the war. She cannot answer.

black sails madi after silver
Dude, you just asked a Martell to prioritize her love life over her duty. Surely you understand your mistake?

Back in the fort, Eleanor comes to see Flint in his cell. She tells him a ship was sent to retrieve the treasure. Then she asks about Mr. Scott and learns he is dead. She wants to know if Flint was with him and what really happened. The official story says he betrayed the governor and fled with the pirates, but Eleanor doesn’t believe it. She directly asks how long he worked with the Maroons and Flint tells her what Mr. Scott said.

Then she wants to know why. When she hears that he wanted his wife and daughter safe, Eleanor is surprised, since she thought they died in a Spanish raid, which began Mr. Scott’s double life. She talks about how Mr. Scott made her believe in herself, but now she sees that he just used her ambitions to help his family. She resents how there’s always been a man manipulating her and pushing her aspirations in order to fulfill his own goals.

When she goes to storm off, Flint asks if Woodes Rogers is any different. Eleanor has no answer.

We return to Mrs. Hudson visiting Rogers. He speaks on his concerns of Nassau eventually influencing Eleanor to return to her former self. Mrs. Hudson assures him that’s not the case. Rogers agrees, that love for the pirates is not his concern. Rather he worries she has given Nassau up as a lost cause (which she has).

Rogers does not agree. He has not given up on civilizing Nassau. A crew member tells him they have “arrived” and he and Mrs. Hudson exit his cabin. Rogers says that if the British will not help him, maybe another empire will. A wide shot reveals they are in Havana, and a great number of Spanish warships are at sea.

One soldier questions why the Spanish wouldn’t shoot and Rogers says they won’t because they’re curious why he came there.

They meet with Mrs. Hudson’s Spanish contact and Rogers requests an audience with the governor. He shows them a bag containing Blackbeard’s severed head. He has no interest in the Spanish-British war and just wants help fighting the pirates.

Back in Nassau, the Walrus sits off the coast being repaired. Silver wonders how it still survives. Billy ignores this chance for some fun reminiscing to argue against Flint’s deal. He says they can win since they respect Silver so much, and he is the rational leader they need. Silver calls him out immediately. He knows Billy is no different from Flint and only uses Silver so long as they have the same goal.

Billy does not deny it and keeps trying to convince Silver not to give up the treasure. When Silver brings up the deal with the Maroons, Billy says that is also Flint’s deal, just like the one with Eleanor. He argues the war Flint and Madi want will end in defeat.

Silver tells Billy to slow the repairs of the Walrus, since its repair means the pirates will want to hunt, and Billy agrees. Back in Silver’s “office,” he talks to Israel Hands about his indecision regarding the treasure and his loyalties. Hands smacks him around and tells him to stop being indecisive. Indecisiveness will lose his support from the others.

Can’t blame Silver for his indecisiveness.

We return to Rogers while he meets with the Havana governor. He makes his case about the threat of the pirates and his lack of interest in the war between the Spanish and British. The governor as it turns out, is the older brother of a crew member on the ship Rogers mentioned slaughtering a couple episodes ago. He takes the war much more personally than Woodes Rogers.

He also asks why Rogers does not seek aide from his own country. Rogers says he tried but they don’t care, and tells them about the remaining Urca treasure. The governor questions how his men would decide friend from foe. Rogers tells him his only friends are in the fort. Avoid the fort and burn everything else.

Back in Nassau, a ship containing the treasure is reported approaching. Billy pushes Silver to make a decision on what to do with it and makes his case one more time about the villainy of Flint. He proposes a plan to ambush whoever leaves the fort under guise of safe passage. Silver seemingly agrees. The look on his face suggests otherwise.

When Madi asks what is happening, Silver kisses her on the forehead in an equally ambiguous way.

Inside the fort, Eleanor reads a letter telling her the treasure has arrived, and instructing her on the route to take out of the fort. She shares it with Flint. It differs from the deal but Flint trusts Silver.

However, we next see Billy waiting at what appears to be a passage leading out of the fort. A large number of pirates wait with him, including Silver and Hands. One of Billy’s men approaches Billy to tell him everything is in place. While Flint and Eleanor make their way out through the tunnels, this pirate tells Billy, “This isn’t right.”

When Flint and Eleanor emerge outside, Madi and a few of her men wait for them. John Silver, I love you right now.

Billy’s friend tells him that despite everything Billy did to build their revolution, the pirates all went with Silver’s claim that Billy sabotaged the initial sea invasion. This pirate then refuses to kill Billy as intended. He makes a speech about the rest of them betraying Billy. He storms towards Silver, and Hands quickly kills him. After a brief fight Hands also incapacitates Billy.

Man, this dude might be the best fighter on Black Sails yet.

Silver stops Hands from killing him, though. Instead he orders Billy brought to the Underhill estate.

Eleanor and Flint’s company arrives at the beach to find a group of pirates on the beach. And guess who leads them? Jack Rackham! Jack tells Flint about escaping. We get a shot of Max walking the fort walls before returning to Jack, who has learned about the deal with Eleanor. Flint gives his reasoning, but Jack rejects it. After his experience with Rogers and his men, he does not believe Rogers will agree.

(P.S., not seeing Anne gives me hope that she’s recovering on the ship and will be okay next episode.)

He tells Flint what happened with Blackbeard and says that wherever Rogers went, surrender was not his goal. Which, yeah, we saw that earlier. And guess what Max sees when she looks out to the ocean? A massive Spanish fleet approaching Nassau.

Roll credits on this episode and any chance the pirates had of winning this fight.


Well, the Nassau dream was fun while it lasted.

Goodbye to my fanfic fantasies.

Maybe Black Sails will surprise me here. It wouldn’t be the first time. I can’t see any way they can win this fight, though. I struggle to imagine how they will find a way to even fight it in the first place. They struggled with strategy for one man o’ war, and ultimately decided on giving up all their treasure to avoid the fight entirely. Now an entire fleet bears down on Nassau and they have no chance. Not to mention the fragile alliance with Billy Bones is gone, eliminating their best chance to keep these pirates loyal in the face of the conflict.

The circumstances surrounding the pirates don’t help, either. “XXXIII” forced many decisions on its characters and just about every single one of those decisions worsened their chances in a fight.

This, of course, was most notable with John Silver. He has straddled the line between Flint and Billy to the best of his ability, but a choice eventually needed to be made, especially given Billy’s expected reaction to Flint’s deal. Billy said a lot of good things to bring Silver to his side. He said just about every right thing, in fact. In the end, though, he underestimated Madi’s importance. She decided Silver’s mind and Billy’s mistake eventually dragged him under.

Which…of course she did. Whatever Silver’s disappointment when she sided with Flint regarding the deal with Eleanor, Madi is the most important person in his life. “Long” John Silver only exists because she encouraged him. She has motivated and influenced him to take every single step leading him to become a pirate king. Billy played his part as well, but without her Silver likely squashes the legend Billy started and remains content in his role as Flint’s second.

That’s basically what he did regarding Flint’s deal. He took Flint’s lead, as he often does. When Madi laid out the terms to reconcile with the slaves, I knew Silver would struggle with it. I knew he would take the idea hard. But I also knew it was exactly the push he needed to choose a side. In the end, he took Flint’s side only because Madi took Flint’s side.

If she took Billy’s side, I promise Flint and Eleanor would have emerged from that fort to find Billy Bones waiting for them.

We also wouldn’t have seen this. I think Silver made the right choice.

At his heart, Silver still does not buy fully into the pirate lifestyle, and certainly not into this idea of ruling a pirate kingdom. There’s a reason he asked Madi whether he was enough for her. Deep down he’s still the same guy from seasons 1 and 2 who wanted to cut and run the second it became advantageous for him. If Madi came to him tomorrow and asked to run away, it would be the happiest news he could possibly hear.

That’s not going to happen, though. Madi wants this war. She left her island for it. Even with a massive Spanish fleet ready to bash down Nassau’s door, she will try to stand and fight out of responsibility for her people. The last thing she will want is to leave this newfound slave army to fend alone against the Spanish. Can Silver convince her to flee? Maybe with enough pressure from others. And there will be a lot of pressure.

Jack will want to run. So will Flint. The pirates will never stand before an army of this size. The treasure chest is likely on its way aboard a ship. There’s a time to fight and a time for self-preservation. The best, and probably the only real chance for the rebel alliance to win is if the Spanish are content with burning Nassau town alone, and not the island as a whole. Or if the absence of the promised Urca treasure creates tension breaking apart the Spanish alliance early.

And of course, there’s the army of freed slaves led by Julius. How big is this army? Will it be enough? Will Billy’s removal be enough to restore their faith in the pirates? These freed slaves will not give up Nassau without a fight, no matter the odds. Madi will want to fight with them no matter the odds.

No matter what happens, I can’t imagine a bright short-term for any of our characters. But again, maybe Black Sails surprises me.

Even Eleanor likely faces severe consequences for her actions this episode. She did not simply disagree with Woodes Rogers; she fired on his ship and made deals with the pirates behind his back. Once she realizes what he’s done, she may well sour on him entirely. Flint planted the exact right seed at the right time regarding Rogers in this episode. For all my praise for their relationship throughout this season so far, these recent episodes have shown just how far off the deep end Rogers has jumped.

Going to the Spanish was the last straw. Whatever he may claim, he does not fight this hard for the sake of law and order. This is personal, a war appealing to his basest tendencies. Woodes Rogers is a prideful, violent man who refuses to let pirates win because his superiority is threatened. Rogers will not let them be better. And now he is a traitor to England who handed Spain his seat of power.

History says Woodes Rogers beats the Spanish and controls Nassau. Maybe Black Sails makes that happen. Even so, he has probably ruined his marriage to Eleanor forever. Which makes some of us here at The Fandomentals think of a potential Eleanor x Max reunion. Hey, Eleanor is sick of men, remember? Make it happen, Black Sails.

She seems to stuck in a difficult place between the person she used to be and the person she has become. I think Woodes Rogers is very wrong about Eleanor—Nassau has not brought out the worst in her again, it has forced her to reflect on the person she used to be and how she ended up that way. Her conversation with Max in the previous episode was one giant step towards leaving Nassau behind.

Her conversation with Flint about Mr. Scott was another important step. Rather than letting Nassau bring out the worst in her, she is realizing how it did so previously and how it has done so with her husband. Eleanor has always been a controversial character among the fans but I completely, 100% love the direction her character has taken this season. I just hope it doesn’t end with her suffering for the effect Nassau has on Woodes Rogers. Not now, when Eleanor is so close to leaving it all behind.

Whatever happens, I’m sure Black Sails will impress me. It always does. Just look at how they brought the Spanish back into this mess after everyone thought they’d been written away. Or at least I’ve seen the complaint a few times lately. Some thought the importance of the Urca gold and the Spanish search for it had been forgotten. I admit I wondered as well.

Yet just like that, here they are. And what’s best is how they did it; with Woodes Rogers appealing to the same wounded pride driving Rogers himself. Much like the loss of Nassau struck directly at his sense of superiority over the pirates, the loss of the Urca gold had the same effect on the Spanish. At this point I doubt they care that recovering the entirety of the treasure is impossible. Recovering whatever they can is a matter of pride.

So now they chose a side, just like everyone else. Black Sails may hesitate to draw clear lines between its characters, and I’m sure the current alliances will fracture later, but this was a moment of truth. Eleanor had to choose whether to risk further loss or bargain. Flint had to the same. Silver and Madi had to choose between him or Billy. Rogers had to choose between his debts and his pride.

This won’t be the last time these characters make life-altering choices. For example, they’ll have to make them in the next episode. I’m sure when they do, it will be just as amazing as it was here. Black Sails is kind of amazing like that.

So what do you think of the episode? Are you happy with the final season so far? Let us know in the comments, and continue the conversation in our forum.

Images Courtesy of Starz

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