Since Black Sails entered into its second year, the show has made it a point to be bigger and better than the previous season. That has remained true today as it commences its fourth and final season. “XXIX” starts right out the gate with the invasion of Nassau. It was a complete and utter catastrophe.
Season Three gave Captain Flint a few big wins. He and his men stole back the Urca gold from the English, and then he decimated Rogers’ forces on Maroon Island. On top of that, Bones crafted a propaganda campaign aimed at the wavering pirates still residing on Nassau that gave birth to the terrifying image of Long John Silver, furthering their cause. Their one major loss was Captain Charles Vane, but even that death gave our pirates an edge. Vane not only became a martyr to those who, only minutes earlier, condemned him as a traitor, but the act lit a fire in the resistance. And in Blackbeard….
What was supposed to be a show of intimidating force and cunning only ended in disaster. Woodes continues to show us that he is Flint’s intellectual equal. Before the pirates approach Nassau, Woodes made sure to set a trap by intentionally sinking ships and using them as a hidden blockade. Most of Flint’s fleet are suddenly stuck and within range of Nassau’s canons. The only ship not caught is Blackbeard’s (where Jack and Anne are also on board). They make a tactical retreat to draw fire away from the survivors.
Things aren’t looking so good. Approximately 200 of Flint’s men are unaccounted for. John Silver, their harbinger of revenge, is presumed dead. Flint’s position as leader of the resistance is called into question yet again. It’s safe to say that Flint is no longer riding the high that was given to him by his previous victories.
The only two things left going for Flint and crew now are the location of the hidden Urca gold (known only to Blackbeard, Flint, Silver, and Madi) and the carefully crafted image of “Long John Silver.” To regain any ground after their huge and embarrassing loss, they’re going to have to work hard and smart to keep the “Long John Silver” narrative going. They need to make him more than just a scary bedtime story pirates tell to each other. Easier said than done, especially since the real Silver is missing.
While abandoning ship, Silver is blown away and pulled underwater. Flint prepares to go in after him but is forced to stay with Madi when those under Woodes’ command who did not pursue Blackbeard’s ship began picking off the survivors still scrambling to get away on lifeboats. Silver barely survives by breaking free from his entanglements and seeking refuge inside a sinking ship still half full of air. Later in the episode, we see him washed up on the beach. There he comes face-to-face with a pirate who recognizes him. Whether he truly friend or foe remains to be seen.
Silver is in a precarious position right now. It took every bit of pride within Flint and himself to form a friendly alliance with one another — both acknowledging that they are in need of the other around to do the impossible. But that “friendship” is put in danger when Billy Bones elevates Silver’s image as the future Pirate King. The whole idea is unsettling to him; the delicate balance between Flint and him are tipping once again. Indeed, the intent was to scare the pirates of Nassau straight, but Billy’s no fool. The guy still has it out for Flint and aims to set him aside once the dust clears. Silver, and later Flint, is all too aware of Bones’ intent, but he plays along anyway; it’s one of the too few tactics the Resistance has left.
And while Silver is uncomfortable with the idea of being used to Bones’ Pirate King narrative, sooner or later he’s going to realize that he alone has been able to do the impossible…without Flint. The schism has already begun before anyone even knew it was coming. Once Silver gets over being as humble as he currently is, there’s no doubt that he’ll embrace the “Long John Silver” name more than he already has.
Back on Nassau, Woodes in a bit more trouble than he let on. Last season, he disclosed to Eleanor that he’s in massive debt with the Spanish empire, among other creditors who funded his operation to retake Nassau. The situation has become more urgent when he confesses that his soon-to-be-ex-wife pushed up the due date on all of his payments out of spite. If the retaking of Nassau doesn’t start bringing in a profit almost immediately, then he’ll default, and he truly will be up shit’s creek.
Desperation is a powerful motivator, and both sides are feeling it.
The most notable event to happen in the episode, though small, is the revelation that Madi knows where the Urca gold is. Madi and Silver are now lovers, giving Madi access to some (if not all) of Silver’s knowledge and insight. With Silver now gone from her side, she’s taking a long hard look at her involvement in this war. She doesn’t trust Flint, but Silver does. If she wanted, she could side with Bones to keep Flint at arms’ length and out of power. Or, she could take over by using her own men and the gold’s location as bargaining chips.
- Poor Jack is struggling a little bit with his self-confidence. He wants to become worthy in Blackbeard’s eyes as Charles Vane was, but that almost gets him killed. Anne sets him straight by reminding him that he can still honor Vane’s sacrifice while doing things his own way. But in doing so, Blackbeard will most likely never regard Jack the way he wants him to.
- Woodes’ new right hand man, Captain Berringer, is played by Toby Stephens‘ real-life brother Chris Larkin. Other fun facts: Dame Maggie Smith is their mother, and Anna-Louise Plowman, who plays Eleanor’s handmaiden, is Toby’s wife!
- In preparing for the long underwater scene, Luke Arnold (John Silver) got his diver’s certification so he can feel more comfortable being underwater for a long period of time.
- Hold on to your butts, Black Sails fans. This is going to be one wild ride.