As with every season, Black Sails plays out like a game of chess. Never are the truths revealed all at once and the assumed truths are often only a pit stop to the final journey. When many thought the war for Nassau had ended without a shot, we learn that war is indeed on its way, only coming from a different direction than we had anticipated. There is another player in the game and though it was expected, their reveal was most certainly a surprise.
As this week’s episode opens, Flint is still speaking with Miranda and death, seemingly still searching for a reason to live. Still trying to make peace with who and what he is. When he awakens, he meets the king of the maroons…Mr. Scott! At the end of last weeks episode, Mr. Scott was shot by colonial regulars while helping slaves escape and has been brought home. Just in time I might add since the maroon queen is debating killing our Walrus crew. Mr. Scott arranges a meeting between Flint and the Queen (yes, like any house, the woman rules) to offer a partnership in exchange for their lives.
Flint of course has a contingency plan, but this will put his life in danger. This choice presents one of the most surprising reactions from John Silver. He finds that he actually cares for Flint. It is a fascinating moment that yet again redefines the nature of their relationship. It is a powerful revelation and though that powerful revelation is Silver’s, the scenes involving the maroon camp belong to Flint. Toby Stephens has been phenomenal this season, redefining Flint from a ruthless and selfish leader to an angel of death. It’s as if every season, Toby Stephens gets to reintroduce the character and does so with a power and fury we haven’t seen before. Flint delivers a speech that though we have seen it in the preview trailers for months, holds real power. A speech that sent a chill down my spine. But in its basic form it is a plea to live. Simply amazing.
On Nassau, as Woodes Rogers begins taking stock of the situation, Eleanor enters the tavern and comes face to face with Max! There are a lot of tension filled scenes this season, but none so far as anticipated as this. Eleanor comes in swinging with her usual attitude and presumption but Max quickly shuts her down. In this scene, you really see the difference between the two. Eleanor is excellent at making the most of opportunities when they present themselves. If you give her a window, she will walk through it.
In contrast, Max is a survivor, plain and simple. Where Eleanor takes advantage of opportunities to their fullest, Max creates her own opportunities. Plain and simple. She has taken Nassau as her own and where Eleanor was respected out of necessity and fear, Max is respected in all honesty because she understands the flies/honey rule, it’s easier to catch flies with honey than it is with vinegar.
In her most powerful moment to date, Max meets with Rogers and Eleanor and offers him one black pearl as a hint of the fortune she is willing to hand over in exchange for legitimacy and more importantly, securing her future.
On Blackbeard’s ship, Vane is tested. Blackbeard surely wants to believe that Vane holds no regrets but he also is smart enough to know better. This is a great moment between them both as Blackbeard explains to Vane that a woman leaves her mark. That long after she’s gone, you still may curtail your actions to her expectations. It is a very human conversation that instead of diminishing Blackbeard’s power, it makes him ever the more wise. But just as we understand a bit more of Edward Teach the man, they spot a Spanish ship and pursue. This is the first time we have seen Blackbeard and Vane fight on deck and it is truly a dance of violence. They of course take the ship, but while Vane shares a drink with a fallen but brave adversary, he learns that they were protecting a precious cargo…intelligence.
At the same moment in Nassau, the chambermaid who has been serving Rogers and Eleanor comes clean. She is in fact, a spy for Spain. They are aware of the gold and that not all of it is accounted for! Spain is coming for their gold and the war we anticipated my not be with England as much as it is with civilization as a whole. Now all the players are revealed and things just got uglier!
Cut to Jack and Anne, walking the road. A chest of pearls in the cart with them. They are about to be home free when Jack has a moment of weakness. Having skipped Nassau without accepting the pardon, they are targets. Jack realizes that he does not want to live like that. It’s not the looking over his shoulder, it’s the becoming nobody again. This is evident. He has been there and been pissed on and does not want to revisit that state. I believe that his need to leave a legacy will be the reason for his undoing. It is a sad moment when jack makes that choice on a couple of levels. Him leaving Anne on the road alone can’t help but tug at your heart, but the echoes of the future are just as sad. A man whose fate will ultimately be chosen by his ego and own insecurities. A man who just wants a life worth living.
We are now at the half way point of this season and the surprises keep coming. The pirates face England and Spain. Flint will undoubtedly face Blackbeard for control of Charles Vane’s soul, Jack and Anne will face Jack’s insecurities. Max and Eleanor will go heads again. It is interesting that of all the rivalries going on, Woodes Rogers is the one that seems to be the good guy caught in the middle. Who saw that coming?
This is the virtue of Black Sails. It never takes the easy way out. Nothing is black and white, only shades of gray. Lies are told, blood is spilt, but in the end, this is a story of people. Thieves and murderers , but people. It it’s their reactions to life that keep us enthralled. This episode may be the best example of that. A world where people just want to live.