The emotion is heavy and the end promises to be a portentous waiting game as Black Sails: XXXV took us from frigid Philadelphia to the balmy islands in a bid for Nassau’s future.
We delighted in seeing that Madi did, in fact, survive, but now she serves as a bargaining chip and a wedge while Woodes Rogers is counseled by the embittered Billy Bones on how to destroy the alliance between Captain Flint and Silver, and gain the money he needs to rid himself of his debts.
Oh, but not so simple now. Eleanor’s grandparents — notably her Lady Macbeth of a grandmother Marion has listened and agreed to act with Captain Jack Rackham and Max in a bid to end the endless cycle of violence and rage that has consumed the island and taken the life of Eleanor.
There were quiet and meaningful moments as we watched Flint and Silver make the case stronger with Julius to stay united.
But this tenuous collaborative effort is undermined by an unexpected defector from their ranks, Billy Bones, who makes Rogers aware he is actually holding the cards (Madi as a prisoner) and can effectively blow up the resistance.
Grief and the heaviness of it colored the episode, as an enraged Woodes Rogers is practically mid-throttle with a conniving (toldja!) Mrs. Hudson who is spared his full wrath as Rogers learns that Eleanor was with child, further gutting him.
The assumed death of Madi was the axis of grief for John Silver and her mother, as they resolved to do what Madi would have wanted which is to fight.
Then there is Julius. He is a realist with very little time to be sentimental nor foolish in his alliances. His end game is greatly different than the pirates’, at the core of it and rightly so — his men and women have the most to lose in this whole arc of misery.
So the foreshadowing is on the wall as towards the end of this episode, Israel Hands’ manipulative conversation (the only kind he knows how to have) with Silver further underscores the engineered rift that Rogers hopes to effect thanks to Bones’ treachery.
It seems everyone wants Captain Flint dead including Eleanor’s grandmother who made that a mandatory condition of throwing her support to Rackham.
As altruistic and noble as the resistance army is in Flint’s mind, there is too much greed, money and innate prejudices and distrust amongst the men to really see it hold.
Slaves that have only known cruelty from their masters are unlikely to want to leave their island idyll and follow them back to where the worst of the slavery still exists in the new world, at the very least ice cold Boston where the militias and organized powers that be would likely slaughter them all.
This utopian ideal of what could be will die a death for sure.
And in a moment of stunning clarity and superb writing, a scene where Jack Rackham is awaiting an audience with grandfather Guthrie, he is queried by a heaving bosomy girl who sees he’s a pirate.
She breathily queries him about all the reported on “alternative facts” in tainted newspapers influenced by the power barons and owners who want the readers to fear and loathe the pirates as public enemy number one.
She asks him about Edward Teach and the notorious “cannibal” Charles Vane who reportedly made human stew.
We see little much has changed in the human condition of not reading between the lines, checking sources and demanding facts, not hearsay. Rackham’s response to her was one of the best moments in the episode.
Power and money always circle the wagons and keep it very safe while making the little people pay dearly for any proximity and safety.
These new robber barons of the colonies were the beginnings of the what one would call the old money and “owners” of America, and slaves and pirates uniting are but a trifling annoyance in the face of this deep-pocketed absolute power.
Well, watching this episode one felt the futility of it all profoundly, as Anne was tenderly ministered to by Jack.
Her remarks to him pretty much summed up (and always did) the entire picture. Leave it to the female characters of this series to strip away the b.s. and call it for what it all is. She doesn’t have many knock-down, drag-out fights left in her.
Despite a tender moment between Silver and Flint on the shared burdens of each other’s heartache from loss of a lover, Silver will be later swayed to defy Flint for his love of Madi.
Flint will be enraged that he is this close to securing Nassau and then ultimately sabotaged. That you can look forward to.
Rackham and Anne will continue to hold on tightly and hope that they make it out alive and with their Urqa gold, and Max, well, she will likely make another fortune another day on the island.
Black Sails XXXV: Final thoughts
- Hands down, Jack Rackham’s trip to Philly was the highlight of this story. Actor Toby Schmidt has owned this season for his perfectly framed reactions and turns of dialogue so eloquently delivered. He was, and is, the pirate of all pirates as far as we are concerned. A true survivor with panache and pluck.
- Especially, this is demonstrated by his negotiations with Eleanor’s grandmother Marion (brilliantly subtle and edgy performance by Harriet Walter), along with Max, as they drew from her anecdote about the tomcat, the nature of men and the cruelty of life and how kindness almost always backfires, as it is dished up and served. They all got each other and it was a beautiful chunk of storytelling.
- Another fantastic scene was the surreal exchange between a grieving Rogers with Eleanor’s body. Anger and regret, guilt and bad luck. This show is one of the finest stretches of smallscreen storytelling and it’s a sin that it has to end, and so very soon.
Black Sails airs Sundays at 9pm ET/PT on STARZ.