Black Sails XXXIV. Review
Starz‘s Black Sails: Season 4, Episode 6: XXXIV. was an episode of war, revenge, alliance, and death. Its narrative was consistently compelling, watching characters whose motivations were known, characters that had been built up over four years, face shades of challenges that were now incomparable and insurmountable. More than a few characters on Black Sails had been crushed when they met those challenges. In XXXIV., one of those individuals was Eleanor Guthrie (Hannah New).
It was riveting watching Eleanor fight back against death’s agent, vainly using every means at her disposal to do so. Over the years, Eleanor Guthrie had ordered the deaths of numerous people that did not see her point-of-view or whose death was greedily advantageous to her. In the end, she was killed one month pregnant by one of the men her husband brought to Nassau to liberate her. Eleanor was undone by her husband doing what she had done for over a decade – whatever it took to win. The irony was as thick as the smoke that eventually bellowed from Miranda Barlow’s home.
When the viewer saw Eleanor’s side get cut open by the Spanish soldier’s cutlass, they knew her pregnancy would not survive but they thought she would. They thought a lot of things would happen during that particular confrontation. They never thought Eleanor would lose the confrontation and thus her life. Technically she didn’t. Eleanor Guthrie was the last person standing (she’d beaten a stronger, trained soldier in hand-to-hand combat) but she was mortally wounded.
The Madi (Zethu Dlomo) moment at the conclusion of the Eleanor Guthrie / Spanish soldier fight made the scene even better. Was Madi still alive when Eleanor got to her at the end of the fight? Was Madi left in the house to burn or suffocate-to-death because Eleanor was in no condition to drag or carry her out? There is no way to know but it, in-part, seemed like the latter. It literally looked like Eleanor had dragged herself, bleeding as she went, all the way out of the house on her stomach (or she walked out, leaving a blood trail behind her).
The Captain James Flint (Toby Stephens) / Eleanor Guthrie scene right before Eleanor’s death was touching. Captain Flint got to do for Eleanor what he couldn’t do for Ms. Barlow – hold her as she died. Flint and Guthrie understood each other, respected each other, even-though they were now on opposing sides. They had once called each other, if not friend, then close ally. That former closeness was all that was left between them as Flint lied to give Eleanor peace-of-mind before she died. Flint preserved the image of Governor Woodes Rogers (Luke Roberts) in Guthrie’s eyes as she passed away. That was something one friend would do for another, not bitter enemies.
William “Billy Bones” Manderly (Tom Hopper)’s omen about Captain Flint and Madi came home to roost in a big way during XXXIV. and landed squarely between Quartermaster “Long” John Silver (Luke Arnold)’s eyes. When Silver told Flint that Madi’s death was not Flint’s fault, he meant it. It wasn’t. It was Silver’s fault. Silver’s choice led to Madi’s death. Billy Bones warned him and Silver had Flint’s past as his compass to guide him yet he admirably chose friendship and loyalty over common sense, gnawing logic, and self-preservation. Having paid such a high price because he ignored his own instincts, I doubt Quartermaster Silver will make the same mistake again.
When Madi told Eleanor that her father didn’t trust any of them (Eleanor’s entire class), it was a subliminal slap in the face to Eleanor. Like James Bond at the end of Casino Royale, Mr. Scott had learned his lesson well. He didn’t trust anyone from that moment in his past (the fake deaths of his wife and child) on, except his own people. Even at their closest, Mr. Scott never breathed a word to Eleanor about his wife and daughter. That said a lot about what Mr. Scott truly thought of Eleanor and their relationship.
Governor Woodes Rogers’ deal with Governor Raja (Ilay Kurelovic) made Rogers look imbecilic. Rogers handed a do-anything-you-want, get-out-of-jail free card to every Spanish soldier that set foot on Nassau during the invasion. Didn’t Rogers know what that would mean for the women on the island? Rogers’ thirst for victory completely overrided his conscience and in an objective person’s eyes, his moral authority to govern. No matter how bad the pirates had been, there had been order. Governor Rogers brought wholesale: chaos, rape, murder, and mass property destruction to the island. Some of those forms of violence already existed, on a small scale, on Nassau. Rogers unleashed it on a scale never before seen by the pirates or the civilian population.
Because of that deleterious move, Rogers slipped off the mantle of hero and placed onto his shoulders the robes of grey area villain. When Rogers was dealt his comeuppance for his governor-to-governor arrangement, like Quartermaster Silver, he had only himself to blame.
Max (Jessica Parker Kennedy)’s revenge plan and what led up to it was the second best part of XXXIV.‘s ending. What Max said about destroying a society from the inside-out and not the outside-in was historically accurate. Well-educated Captain Jack Rackham (Toby Schmitz) should have been fully cognizant of those points. My guess is that he was but thought the Captain Rackham / Blackbeard / Captain Flint / Quartermaster Silver / Madi endeavor would be different.
Captain Rackham was the only person on the Walrus that Max could have made that argument to without being strangled to death. Captain Rackham was right, in part. Max’s betrayal was one of the main factors that got them all exiled from Nassau.
As Max spoke about her indigent state, the viewer couldn’t help but ask themselves questions. Was Max, one of the smartest people on the island, short-sighted enough not to bury some of the legitimate revenue from her businesses somewhere secret on Nassau? Why didn’t Max transport some of her legitimate wealth off the island into a bank somewhere? An even better question: why did Max stay in Nassau after getting her share of the Urca de Lima gold? She could have left Nassau, opened up or bought into local businesses with her wealth and done very well for herself with her business-oriented mind. Instead, she decided to stay and rule over whores, secrets, and the familiar. At the end of XXXIV., all Max had left were her wits, the will, and the need for revenge.
Regarding the next episode, I look forward to watching Max entreat Eleanor Guthrie’s grandfather to take action on behalf of his now-dead granddaughter.
The Maroon island and the slave / pirate gathering was the best part of XXXIV.‘s ending. Initially, the viewer thought the island was surrounded by a fleet of some kind, a fleet that the two pirate ships couldn’t possibly fight through. It turned out to be one of Captain Flint’s schemes realized. The question is, will Flint be smart about its usage? Will Flint wait until the Spanish fleet goes back to Spain then sail for Nassau with his new armada or will he risk revenge and charge into the breach for an epic clash?
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