We began to see the new world last week on BLACK SAILS as Jack and Max visited the Guthrie house in Philadelphia to attempt to win him as a partner. Though that didn’t go as planned, they found a partner in his wife. As far a s Flint and Silver go, they were on their way to rescue Madi from Governor Rogers in Nassau. With three episodes to go, there is a tension unlike anything we have felt on the show before.
Episode XXXVI opens with a dark rider returning to the Barlow house and finding the hidden entrance to the cellar. The rider soon reveals himself as Rogers, who grabs a book and heads back to the mansion. What was he doing there? Billy sent him to solidify their deal. The book in question is a journal from the legendary Henry Avery. These belonged to Mr. Gates and he trusted Flint enough to entrust them to him. A sad reminder that they were the closest of friends before Flint put him into the sea. No two people are so close that nothing can separate them. Billy seems confidant. It happened with Flint and Gates, it will happen with Flint and Silver. Billy’s plan is for them to lead Flint to an uncharted island known as Skeleton Island, and make the deal there. Secure the cache for Rogers. Drive a wedge between Flint and Silver.
And that wedge is already taking shape as Flint goes to see Silver in the Captain’s cabin. Silver has been wrestling with the idea that Flint’s war against civilization won’t be a new beginning but an end. That nothing lies beyond it but horror. Flint believes that there is more and once again, swings Silver to his way of thinking. It’s an interesting speech by Flint. He says that they will have the right people in place to see them through the darkness. When Silver says “You think so much of what you and I can accomplish? Flint responds”You and Madi”.
It could be the truth and Flint says it with all sincerity, but it also feels like a placation. The perfect thing to say to win John Silver over once again. It is a beautifully quiet scene that is as powerful as any we have seen before. For it is the first time when watching these two together that Flint seems like the lessor of the two, desperately trying to gain the approval of the war-weary Silver. In this moment, their roles are switched…permanently.
On Nassau, Rogers receives word that the council is losing faith in him. He is losing his grip on Nassau and it is due to his obsession with destroying piracy. In this moment he mirrors Flint in his single minded goal. Two sides of the same Urca coin. The next morning he proves the point. With the Walrus in range, Rogers executes the men Flint sent ashore, then puts Madi into position. All this with Billy present. It is yet another example of his ruthlessness. What could Silver do? He tells Israel to bring it up, much to Flint’s bewilderment. It isn’t until the chest makes its way up that Flint learns the truth. It is an explosive moment that is done without yelling or violence, simply the look on their faces. It isn’t one of betrayal but helplessness. A complete loss of power over Silver and with that, the ship and most of its crew. Rogers then weighs anchor and sets sail with the Walrus in pursuit.
With so much madness going on, Mrs. Hudson has been up to a little thievery of her own. Having found a journal of Eleanor’s, she heads to the brothel to speak with Ms. Mapleton. She offers her information from inside the Governor’s mansion in exchange for passage back to London. Information that she feels could help Mapleton get back her seat on the council and restore some semblance of order. Mapleton does indeed take some information and goes to her office. And who is waiting there? Captain Jack Rackham! He now knows where Rogers, and in turn, Flint, is heading…Skeleton Island.
In Philly, Anne has been struggling with Max trying to rekindle their love. She asks Idelle to get her a list of ships that will be accepting passengers so she can leave. With Anne in such a compromised state, Idelle takes a moment to unburden her soul. It’s another fallen friend that is the topic of conversation, Charlotte. She wants Anne to know that she killed a friend for no good reason and that the reason men didn’t kill Anne in return is because Max loves her. And yet, she will trow that away. It’s a great moment for Idelle who has been very quiet this season.
Max in the meantime is out with Mrs. Guthrie and waiting for this partnership to become a real thing. The good news is that it has. Mrs. Guthrie sees the woman before her as one to be reckoned with. However, there is a catch, civilization is run by men. Max must marry someone. Someone easily manipulated with little ambition, but a man from society none the less. Max rejects the deal for fear that it will ruin her chances of repairing her relationship with Anne. Where does this leave things? Unknown as of yet but damn!
On The Walrus, during dinner, Israel Hands talks with Silver and insists that Flint must die. That he is untrustworthy and will betray him. John won’t listen. It just so happens that at the other end of the room, Flint is talking to Dooley about John Silver’s sanity and talking the treasure. It appears that Dooley is the last of Flint’s loyalists. Israel may be psycho but he isn’t wrong. Soon Flint and Dooley nearly kill a man and steal the chest. In a shocking twist, Israel catches them but lets them go in order to prove his point to Silver and get the kill order he so desperately wants.
The episode ends with Silver coming face to face with Rogers on Rogers ship! With Billy in tow! He informs Rogers that he has sent 6 men (including Joji and Hands) to retrieve the cache and kill Flint. If you know your Treasure Island history you should be afraid of next week!
AMAZING! This episode was simply amazing! In an instant the show became a pirate movie in the classic sense. Skeleton Island is caked in mist and mystery. There are shipwrecks and a shady history. The vibe was next level and yet done in the perfectly realistic Black Sails style!
Performance-wise, this episode belongs to Luke Arnold and Toby Stephens! Their confrontation in the second half had all the echos of the great Al Pachino and Robert De Niro scenes. I could easily see those two in these roles. Just two acting titans unleashed at each others throats. Everything from the script to the lighting is top-notch and is the payoff of four years of turmoil. If there was still any lingering doubt that these two were powerhouse performers, this scene alone should clear that up.
Shout out to Lise Slabber this week for her great scene with Clara Paget. Idelle was strong and dignified and it was welcome. It’s hard to hold your ground in any scene featuring Paget but Lise pulls it off. It was also nice to revisit Charlotte from season 2 and clear up those loose ends.
The final shout out this week goes to Jessica Parker Kennedy. She has been awe-inspiring since day one but this week she walk the tightrope like never before. She was strong, powerful and an equal with the high society and yet there was a quiet vulnerability about her performance in the later scene. A sadness and maybe a moment of honesty with ones self. Brilliant.
With only two episodes left for the series, I expect our hearts broken a few more times, but until next week, I rest knowing one thing. That Black Sails manages to prove itself the best drama on television. What will we do without it?