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Black Sails recap: The resistance rises up in Nassau on XXXI

Toby Stephens as Captain Flint and Luke Arnold as John Silver in Black Sails XXXI
Toby Stephens as Captain Flint and Luke Arnold as John Silver in Black Sails XXXI

The expected war between England and the outlaw pirate classes of Nassau has arrived on Black Sails — and in the process it will take many lives on both sides of the divide.

The opening scene of last night’s episode sees a rare show of tenderness and emotion from our season’s baddie Berringer who cries over his wife and child’s picture.

He has a tender exchange with Woodes Rogers about the emotion of the coming storm, then gets back to business.

Eleanor’s trip to Philadelphia is interrupted, yet before she finds this out Eleanor’s maid pointedly asks her to be released from her service to return to London. Eleanor agrees, but now she and her handmaid are back in Nassau awaiting her Philadelphia trip.

We then confirm what we knew from last week, that Berringer had a spy follow Max the night before. He knows she met with Silver.

Read more: Exclusive interview with Chris Larkin, who plays Captain Berringer

While lounging naked in bed with an unknown female lover, Max is arrested and brought to Berringer. He has Mr. Harris testify about the Long John Silver meeting.

Berringer draws charges of treason against her. He then tries to strike a deal with her for information so that she can avoid death by hanging.

On the other side of the island, Flint and Madi are cooking up an alliance. “Billy and his men are our enemies but these men are not,” says Madi as she tips her hand and the slaves’ loyalty towards Flint.

Of their newly formed collaboration, and if England will take notice of their combined strengths and insurrections, Flint confides to Madi: “If we are able to take Nassau, if we are able to expose the illusion that England is not inevitable, if we are able to incite a revolt that spreads across the New World, then yes, I imagine people are going to notice.”

Meanwhile Teach, Anne Bonny and Jack Rackham are being chased out at sea.

“This ain’t ever gonna end for us, is it?” says Bonny to Rackam. She wants Rackham to peel away from the “giants” like Vane and now Teach, who is trying to get Rackham to take more responsibilities.

A pragmatic sort of pirate, Bonny has no use for any of these legendary outlaws of the open ocean anymore, but Rackham’s ego demands that some stories must written about him.

In a rare happy twist, Madi learns that Long John Silver is alive. And, of course, is a wanted man. Flint and Silver reunite, and John is overcome when he spies Madi.

Back in Nassau, Berringer tries to verbally beat Max out of a confession when Eleanor steps in. In a private chat, Max tells her about her Long John Silver meeting. Eleanor is exasperated that Max will not help herself.

Their meeting is ended by the news that the pirate resistance headed by Long John Silver is afoot. Berringer taunts the Nassau hoi polloi to join the pirates or step up to aid him. “You f****** cowards,” he sneers.

It seems as though Israel Hands and Long John Silver have formed a working relationship as John is no longer in shackles. But their respite is short-lived at the wreckage hideaway of Hands, as the red coats suddenly arrive with search dogs at their camp.

Luckily they escape to some dunes but the red coats find them there.

Out of nowhere, Flint saves the day for them both as they kill two soldiers as Silver tells naysayer Hands: “That’s how we are gonna take Nassau.”

Back at sea, Teach discovers that the ship following them appears to be full of dead bodies.

Of course, this is a ruse as Woodes Rogers pops up with the others. Teach is now Rogers’ prisoner. Rackham watches from afar as Bonny and Teach are now under the gun and Rackham is on a ship that is unfurling the white flag.

Back on dry land, Flint is catching John up on his falling out with Billy Bones. But Israel Hands’ presence weighs on Flint.

Then, a great moment happens as Madi sees John and they kiss.

After the happy reunion, Madi catches John and Flint up on Berringer’s plans to hang many pirate men in Nassau.

Eleanor admonishes Berringer to lay off the horrific public theater of the hangings in hopes by doing as such he will lure Silver to Nassau. Eleanor gives him a note purportedly from Max about the resistance’s routes into the island and begs him to quietly go about his hangings.

Out to sea, Teach and company board Rogers’ ship, and of course are ambushed in a bloody skirmish and are now defeated.

Rackham, Bonny and Teach are taken as prisoners. But things for Teach are going south very fast as Rogers has some plans for him.

In a flashback scene, we are tipped that it will be ugly for Edward Teach.

In that scene, Woodes Rogers tells Berringer about the tragic loss of his brother killed in action. Then he tells him what he did to the men responsible and how he painstakingly tortured and killed the 73 out of the 74 men responsible for that crime. the last one he saved to tell others of his brutality.

Rogers tells Berringer: “I will show them what the consequences are for threatening that what I hold most dear. I will leave no doubt about it.”

Now we see Rogers doesn’t play as Teach is strung by his heels, sack over his head and is keelhauled while Anne and Jack look on.

In the most realistically filmed footage ever of a man being dragged under a ship covered with razor sharp barnacles, Teach miraculously remains alive after the first pass, but he is so bloodied and scraped from the underside of the ship, you just wish Rogers would shoot him.

The second pass sees Teach apparently dead now, as his entire body is flayed. Not so. Teach coughs up sea water. He is alive after this second brutal drag.

“Again,” says Rogers, as Rackham and everyone looks on. Teach’s body is hamburger at this point after the third dragging. Still alive. Finally, he is shot point blank in the head by Rogers who seems tired by the whole event.

This seems to have cooled the vengeance streak in Rogers as the next in line Jack Rackham is spared this keelhauling fate too.

We return to downtown Nassau which is vibing like a scene from the classic western High Noon.

Hanging ropes are dangling. Men await their doomed fate. Berringer ignores Eleanor’s counsel and allows Silver and company to enter Nassau unimpeded. Berringer sits and waits as Eleanor watches in horror as the men are hanged in public as a lesson to all in Nassau.

Inspired by Silver, Nassau slaves and civilians revolt as Nassau is in jeopardy to fall to pirates. Meanwhile, Eleanor saw those tea leaves and has fled. Enter John atop a horse flanked by Flint and Hands. It’s time for the red coats and the pirates to wage war.

“Make ready” commands Berringer, as the soldiers take aim. Uh oh. The slaves and townspeople are now part of the resistance.

In the nick of time, Billy arrives to save Flint and Silver in the square. They fire at each other and in a bloody skirmish, as Billy and his men seem to be at peace with the others as they save the day by firing upon the upper positioned flanks of the red coats who had Flint and Silver in their sites.

Then in a gruesome display of revenge, Berringer is killed by Hands who slits his throat. We end the scene with his beloved locket of photos of his wife and child, falling out of his hand.

Some parting thoughts…

  • The cinematic camera-work continues to excel for this series. The gruesome keelhauling scene and the POV we were served as Teach was raked under the ship has never been seen by me in anything in film or TV. This is fantastic work and it truly gives us a harrowing look at what this horrible torture was.
    History tells us that on the larger ships, victims were keelhauled port to starboard while on smaller vessels they had to endure being keelhauled from bow to stern (front to back). the bigger ships that had been at sea always had razor-sharp barnacles and marine growths which were so bad that it could even cause decapitation.
  • Do we think Eleanor will survive this final season? I got a vibe that her handmaiden might be pushed to do something bad, as her smelling like a rose act may come to an abrupt end.
  • Madi and Long John Silver, will they sail off into the sunset? Or will their idyllic love affair come crashing to a halt like everyone else’s on this series?

Black Sails airs Sundays at 9pm ET/PT on STARZ.

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April is an accredited entertainment writer, interviewer and television critic. She is a current member of the Television Critics Association (TCA), Gay and Lesbian Entertainment... read more
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