Black Sails XXXVII. Review
Starz‘s Black Sails: Season 4, Episode 9: XXXVII. was a reflective episode, one of friendship, hard truths, and betrayal. As the penultimate episode for the series, it was the most poignant of any Black Sails episode. XXXVII. really drove home the type of friendship broken up by William “Billy Bones” Manderly (Tom Hopper) and Governor Woodes Rogers (Luke Roberts) in the previous episode.
Billy Bones’ advice to Governor Woodes Rogers about who would be the victor between Captain James Flint (Toby Stephens) and Quartermaster “Long” John Silver (Luke Arnold) was a seminal moment in XXVII. The viewer had no idea how seminal that advice was until the third act of the episode.
Watching Bones, after giving that advice, go about the Governor’s business in a long boat was the completion of Bones’ journey from the pirate realm to the Governor’s pocket i.e. the civilized world. As Bones looked upon a former compatriot, the only thing that saved that pirate’s life was that pirate’s previous magnanimity toward Bones. The betrayed (Bones) might have become a traitor but Bones still retained a sense of honor to those that showed him loyalty and kindness when he needed them the most.
What Bones didn’t realize when he gave the aforementioned advice to Governor Rogers was that he was in effect reunifying Flint and Silver i.e. the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Rogers played his betrayal hand too soon. Rogers should have waited until either Silver or Flint returned to the pirate ship.
Bones and Rogers strove for and broke apart a pirate juggernaut and brain-trust that could surmount almost any obstacle in its path. By betraying Silver, Bones and Rogers drove Silver right back into Flint’s: open, happy, grateful, and familiar arms.
Now Rogers will have to send a hunting party into the island to hunt down and kill Silver and Flint. Rogers will want to cut the head off the snake before leaving Skeleton Island. If Woodes Rogers sends his men into the interior of the island to find and kill Flint and Silver, his men will meet the same fate as the assassins Silver sent to kill Flint.
As the catastrophe occurred and the former leadership team of Flint’s ship looked upon it, their quarrel was over. They needed each other again. Once Flint and Silver were dead, Madi (Zethu Dlomo) would have absolutely no value to Governor Rogers and he would kill her. Silver will know that. It’s obvious. If he doesn’t, Flint will make sure that he does. The only way Madi lives is if Flint and Silver work together and stay alive
The meeting between Governor Woodes Rogers and Madi in XXXVII. could have easily ended in Madi’s death, especially when she told the Governor the truth of Eleanor Guthrie’s death to his face. On some level, through his anger, through his grief, he knew Madi was right. Rogers invited, brought to Nassau, and set loss the man that murdered his beloved wife.
Murder played a key role in XXXVII. Flint’s trap at the beginning of XXXVII. was predictable but never-the-less, it was entertaining to watch it unfold. Captain Flint was a tactician. The men Silver sent to kill him, unwitting pawns, completely underestimated Flint and the situation they clumsily crept up upon.
The Joji (Winston Chong) / Captain Flint battle was good. Joji was one of Flint’s original crew members yet like 99% of Flint’s crew, was doing the bidding of Quartermaster Silver without question. The crewmen makeup of the hunting party showed how deep into the marrow Silver’s influence sank with those that would be his thralls.
It was remarkable watching a crewman that never spoke (Joji), that had taken Captain Flint’s orders for years, do battle with his former Captain. Joji was a good swordman, using his feet and legs in ways Flint never imagined. That combat dexterity narrowed to a sliver the gap between victory and death.
When Captain Flint shot Dooley (Laudo Liebenberg) to save Quartermaster Silver, it was a shocking moment. Dooley was in complete disbelief as he fell backwards and Flint was awash with sorrow and regret. The person that Flint had shot had shown Flint tremendous loyalty, and if I am correct, had been part of Flint’s crew since the beginning of the series.
Silver meant more to Flint than Dooley’s loyalty and his life.
Like the loyal viewer of Black Sails knew, Captain James Flint was cold-blooded and deliberate when it came to getting something that he wanted. In that moment, he wanted Silver to live. Everyone else was regretfully expendable.
Not since Season 2 have flashbacks been used as they were in XXXVII. Because flashbacks were used so sparingly in the series, when they were used, they served a great narrative purpose. They did so in XXXVII. The flashbacks in XXXVII. were affecting and offered some of the best dialogue and slow burn dramatic moments of the episode. The viewer was quietly shown how Flint and Silver’s friendship had matured and grown into mutual admiration. They needed each other, sought to better each other to make their alliance long-lasting and strong. The segmentation of those past moments throughout the present day moments in XXXVII. were brilliant. The back-and-forth showed how hard it was, for the both of them, to now be at each other’s throat.
The frustrating part of the flashbacks was, like Flint, the viewer wanted to know what made Silver tick besides Madi, i.e. his past. The viewer never got those answers. Silver’s reply to Flint’s query was thoughtful and intelligent but an evasion.
Like the setting for the flashbacks, there was a beautifully captured moment (reminiscent of high-end cinema) in XXXVII. when Silver surmised Flint’s maneuver and Silver and Israel Hands (David Wilmot) watched between two hills (looking down on them in a gully below) as Flint and Dooley moved with the chest. It was a fantastic shot and it showed that director Steve Boyum cared about everything in that insightful moment, including the environment. It was a wise use of screen time as the environment played a key role in XXXVII.
The most hilarious moment of XXXVII. came when Captain Jack Rackham (Toby Schmitz) and Featherstone (Craig Jackson) were talking about their possible new beginnings, how they were on the cusp of something good, real, and permanent. They were both basking in the pure, virginal light of that future when the knock came. The result of that knock showed just how funny fate could be.
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