Black Sails XXXVI. Review
Starz‘s Black Sails: Season 4, Episode 8: XXXVI. saw the end of a key relationship in the television show. During the course of the series, the viewer saw Quartermaster “Long” John Silver (Luke Arnold) built from the ground floor up. Through Miranda Barlow and the use of flashbacks, the viewer was also shown how Captain James Flint (Toby Stephens) was created.
The motivations for Quartermaster Silver and Captain Flint were laid bare over Black Sails‘ four seasons. The viewer and the upper echelon characters knew why each person on the series acted in the way that they did.
Long John Silver should have been the character that was playing the closest attention to other people’s motives and for a time, it seemed as though he was. In the end, it was William “Billy Bones” Manderly (Tom Hopper) who was playing the closest attention. It was his keen observations that proved to be the Achilles’ heel to the leadership team of Captain Flint and Quartermaster Silver.
There was a moment towards the beginning of XXXVI. where Silver and Flint thought they were sneaking up on Nassau then Governor Woodes Rogers (Luke Roberts) and Billy Bones appeared. That should have set off warning bells in Flint and Silver’s minds – Woodes and Bones knew what Flint and Silver would do once that message was delivered and they had been waiting for them – but it didn’t.
That surprise ambush led to one of the best moments in XXXVI. When Flint gave an order and Silver overruled him then told Flint, his Captain, not to give the order again and Flint stopped himself from giving the order again, there was a dramatic power shift between the two of them. It was obvious with whom the power on that ship resided from that point on. It was made abundantly clear later in the episode when Flint could only rely on one person on the ship to aid him in absconding with the Urca de Lima treasure.
What was dumbfounding was that Quartermaster Silver only placed one guard on the Urca de Lima treasure. He should have placed ten. Silver saw firsthand how determined Captain Flint was to see his dream realized. Silver saw first hand what Flint had done to make it happen (or had heard about it second or third-hand). Silver should have been cautious and shrewd, as always. Silver should have been able to anticipate that Flint would make a move for the gold and his dream over Silver’s objection and Madi (Zethu Dlomo)’s life. Quartermaster Silver should have protected Captain Flint from Captain Flint and placed ten men on guard duty on the Urca treasure. Instead, Silver took Flint at his word, which was worthless when in opposition to his dream, and placed only one guard on the treasure door. Like Silver’s dream of having Madi restored to his side, Sliver should have known that Flint would do whatever was necessary to secure his dream i.e. past was prologue. I don’t know whether Silver was blinded by the hope that Flint saw his point-of-view or by the friendship that he thought they shared. Perhaps it was both.
For four seasons of Black Sails, the pirate crew of the Walrus had been led by two blind men: one blinded by his need to rout the civilized world and the other blinded by his need to get the woman he loved back. Flint had endangered his crew numerous times to see his dream realized and Silver in XXXVI. did exactly the same thing. The two of them had sailed into Rogers’ trap and instead of attempting to extract themselves, they ventured deeper into it, to the battlefield Rogers had chosen, just like when Flint had drawn the British forces onto Maroon island.
The mystique built around Skull Island – through visuals and voice-over – was brilliant. It turned an ordinary exchange into something more by having it take place in such a ominous locale.
Israel Hands (David Wilmot) made a clever decision during the third act of XXXVI. By doing nothing, he got exactly what he wanted – the veil lifted from Quartermaster Silver’s eyes in regards to Captain Flint.
The conversation that Long John Silver and Israel Hands had in the second act of XXXVI. necessitated such a move. Silver had shrouded Flint in a cloak of protection so complete that Hands couldn’t even dream of touching Flint. Flint then gave Hands exactly what Hands needed, betrayal. What was astonishing was when Hands let Flint go free, Flint never stopped to ask why? Why was Hands letting him go when Hands was so fiercely loyal to Silver and his agenda? Flint should have asked himself those questions. If Flint had not been so blinded by his dream, he would have.
Long John Silver sending only six men to hunt down and kill Captain Flint was a joke, far bigger than the joke of only having one man guard the Urca de Lima treasure. Like Flint said last season, he had already faced: numerous one-on-one combat scenarios, the royal navy, an army landing on the Maroon beach, a tempest, mutineers, assassins, etc. After having faced all of that, some of which Silver was there for, did Silver really think that it would only take six men to kill Flint? That was absolute lunacy. Flint would have already anticipated that Silver would send men after him. Flint is a tactician. When those men do come for him, Flint will be ready. The hunting party can’t track Flint at night. They aren’t General Zaroff. Flint will use that to his advantage along with the environment of the island.
Once the treasure is buried, only two people on the island will know of its location. If Flint kills his compatriot, only Flint will know. If Flint is captured, Hands and the hunting party can’t kill him. If they do, they will never find the buried treasure. If Captain Jack Rackham (Toby Schmitz) and Featherstone (Craig Jackson) get to Flint first, they will kill Flint then leave Skull Island as quietly as they landed. Rackham will have approached his mission – kill Flint and keep the treasure out of Woodes Rogers hands. A clock will be ticking during all of XXXVII. Who will get to Captain Flint first?
Max (Jessica Parker Kennedy) choosing Anne Bonny (Clara Paget) over being the-power-behind-the-throne of Nassau was unforeseen. Like Eleanor Guthrie, Max had worked long and hard for that throne and had momentarily achieved it. With the new deal in place, if she had accepted, she would have had even more power, backed by Massachusetts money, through the pulled strings of her puppet husband.
Instead, she choose Anne Bonny, not knowing if Anne would accept her. It was a risky, desperate, foolish gambit but also a romantic and sincere one. The question that begs to be answered now is what is the state of the Grandmother Guthrie (Harriet Walter) / Captain Jack Rackham arrangement? If Rackham is successful in killing Captain Flint, to what will Rackham be returning? An agreement in ruins or an altered agreement? Rackham certainly will not be expecting what he returns to regarding Max and Anne.
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