Black Sails XXIX. Review
Unlike the sixth season premiere of Homeland, Starz‘s Black Sails: Season 4, Episode 1: XXIX. began with a kinetic battle of strategizing wits, captaining, canon blasts, screams, and most importantly, the wholly unexpected. It was a tall order to top the tempest scene in XX. but the producers of Black Sails did so with XXIX.
The opening battle in XXIX. was large, involving many, but it came down to two individuals, their decisions, and their counter-decisions. Governor Woodes Rogers (Luke Roberts) was one of those two men and Captain James Flint (Toby Stephens) was the other. After battle was joined, both men saw the entire battlefield and all its variables and made command decisions in rapid succession. It was very impressive.
Also impressive was the battle’s scale and what happened at its conclusion. If I hadn’t seen the trailers for Season 4 of Black Sails, I would have initially thought that a particular person was a dead man. Like Rogers and Flint, this person also had to make life or death decisions on the fly. Unlike Rogers and Flint, this person was underwater and surrounded by an ocean. As the clocked ticked, this person’s keen mind never wavered, though his quickly chosen location of respite, though a completely understandable choice considering the circumstances, was in the end dubious.
It was clear during the battle that Governor Rogers and the mutineers wanted revenge for what happened at the end of Season 3. They got it in XXIX. and on a battlefield of Rogers choosing this time.
Billy Bones (Tom Hopper) showed growth in XXIX.: how he saw himself, how others saw him, and how he saw Captain Flint. The follower was gone. The viewer saw this process beginning in Season 3. That process had completed itself by the time Billy Bones showed up in XXIX. Once the pirates reached their operations center in Nassau, it was evident, especially to Captain Flint e.g. “Your men?,” that Billy Bones was no longer his subordinate.
TV show like Showtime’s Shameless stunt their characters’ organic growth to keep those characters on their shows for as long as possible. That played out to detrimental narrative effect during the last two seasons of Shameless. Black Sails is a beast of an entirely different color. Black Sails is not trying to save any character. It never was. It’s not playing favorites. Black Sails is trying to tell the best, most compelling story possible through narrative and character evolution. That was exemplified in Billy Bones. Bones may not have had his own ship but he certainly had a crew whose respect he had earned, just like Captain Flint.
Captain Flint should have recognized this but sometimes the Captain gets in his own way. That happened in XXIX. Quartermaster John Silver (Luke Arnold)’s presence was sorely missed during those moments. Silver was right: the two of them were much better together, working toward their goals than they were apart working separately on them. Luckily for Flint, the observant Madi (Zethu Dlomo) was a mirror reflection of steady and thoughtful John Silver. Her intervention forced Flint to examine himself, Billy Bones, and their situation. It was a leadership moment. Flint failed it. Madi saved it.
Woodes Rogers wanting a divorce from his wife was inevitable. I thought and hoped for a sticky situation between his wife, when she came to Nassau to be with Rogers, and Eleanor Guthrie (Hannah New). Roger and Guthrie’s chemistry would have been obvious and awkward for Roger’s wife. That situation, however, was not to be. More’s the pity.
The chase and battle in XXIX. involving Blackbeard (Ray Stevenson), Captain Jack Rackham (Toby Schmitz), and Anne Bonny (Clara Paget) was an extended show of mourning for Captain Charles Vane. Captain Rackham took full advantage of those moments, thinking that Captain Vane somehow saw his bloody show of affection. Unfortunately for Rackham, his early education included books and proper diction, not swordsmanship.
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