TV Show Review

TV Review: BLACK SAILS: Season 4, Episode 2: XXX. [Starz]

Hannah New Luke Roberts Chris Larkin Black Sails XXX

Black Sails XXX. Review

Starz‘s Black Sails: Season 4, Episode 2: XXX. featured something that is rarely seen in an antagonist / protagonist narrative. The bad guy out-thought the good guy numerous times. It began with the Nassau slaves and it ended with the governor of that island and his new bride.

The slave masters made a brilliant strategic move by splitting up slave families amongst their estates. It was an instance of thinking three moves ahead of your opponent. Their move was so unforeseen that William “Billy Bones” Manderly (Tom Hopper) and Captain James Flint (Toby Stephens)’s men were bewildered and stunned by it. It complicated a straight-forward emancipation operation and made it into something completely different. In that moment Bones and Flint switched personas. Billy became cold-blooded and Flint showed compassion.

The confrontation between Captain Flint and Billy Bones was inevitable. Flint killed Billy’s mentor, Quartermaster Hal Gates, and then tried to kill Billy. Billy had been disillusioned and angry with Flint for sometime because of those two events. It finally boiled over in XXX. Billy wasn’t stupid. He waited until he had a crew of his own and for Flint to do or say something egregious before he acted. Their fight featured the unexpected though it shouldn’t have for the loyal Black Sails viewer. Billy was visibly stronger than Flint but Flint had training, experience, and brutality on his side. Flint had been in three or four times as many swords fights as Billy. That plus Flint’s other gifts made all the difference. When a veteran fights an average opponent, there can only be one outcome.

The Governor Woodes Rogers (Luke Roberts) / Eleanor Guthrie (Hannah New) combination is not equal to the Captain Flint and Quartermaster “Long” John Silver (Luke Arnold) team. Not even close. Ninety-five percent of the time, Woodes and Gutherie think inside the box. Silver has the ability to think outside the box nearly seventy-five percent of the time. He sees things that others would miss. That gives the Flint / Silver union an edge. All that being said, Woodes and Guthrie’s duel gambit in XXX. was inspired. Each insured some measure of success towards their shared goal. If one or both of them ever returns, it will be the narrative of the final season that benefits.

Israel Hands (David Wilmot) didn’t just add an exciting new character to XXX., he enriched the background of current and deceased characters in the series as well. Israel is going to be a powerful ally to Silver, and thus, to Captain Flint. Watching John Silver instantly: survey, plan, and manipulate Israel illustrated why Silver is the most compelling character on Black Sails.

Max (Jessica Parker Kennedy)’s betrayal and proposed imprisonment of Quartermaster Silver will not go unanswered. Max was forced by Governor Woodes to come out of the shadows and choose a side. That choice will potentially have brutal consequences. Max already felt the consequences of betraying pirates during Season 1. It would be unfortunate if that punishment were levied again on her.  Since Max betrayed Silver, someone creative who can think on his feet, his retribution may be terrifying, fear-inspiring, something that teaches a lesson while keeping others up all night. Max betrayed the worst pirate she could have possibly betrayed.

The Captain Charles Vane discussions in XXX. showed that Anne Bonny (Clara Paget), Blackbeard (Ray Stevenson), and Captain Jack Rackham (Toby Schmitz) really knew Captain Vane’s mentality, so much so that they could project what he would say and think in a given situation. The road of revenge versus winning the war diverged during that scene. Blackbeard and Captain Rackham realized they weren’t fighting for Charles Vane. They were fighting to make themselves feel better and that isn’t what Vane would have wanted.

Anne Bonny showed a lot a self-control by not jumping at the opportunity to go ashore to seek revenge against Max (even-though the real reason – the Eleanor Guthrie mission – seemed nearly suicidal). Anne’s lingering feelings for Max provided her character with an internal conflict reflective of, but dissimilar to, Captain Rackham’s Nassau liberation mission versus revenge for Charles Vane conflict. In Anne’s case, love and seeking vengeance for betrayal were battling for supremacy. Like with Blackbeard and Rackham, the mind’s argument was the victor over the heart.

Moments of introspection like in those two scenes raise Black Sails above standard action TV shows.

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About the author

Rollo Tomasi

A Political Science and MBA grad who started FilmBook during an eCommerce B-School course in 2008. Cinema and TV addict. Former writer at Empire Movies, Blogcritics, and Alternative Film Guide. In addition to writing for FilmBook, he also edits the copy published on the website, manages its writing staff, manages the back-end operations, site finances, its social network accounts, and works with publicists, actors, and companies on press coverage and promotions. He has also created ProMovieBlogger.com and Trending Awards.com.

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