The third episode in Black Sails‘ final season builds up to some major turning points in the story. Captain Berringer suspends Eleanor’s crucial trip to Philadelphia, John Silver and Captain Flint reunite, an epic fight breaks out in town, and the pirates retake Nassau. But the biggest moment in the episode comes when Blackbeard and crew catch up to Woodes Rogers’ ship.
Executive producer Jonathan Steinberg sat down with us to talk about the events of this week’s episode, specifically the one major scene concerning Blackbeard and Rogers’ deadly confrontation, and where the series may go from here.
WARNING: This interview contains major spoilers for Black Sails, episode 403, “XXX.” We’d hate to ruin anything for you. Make sure you’ve watched the episode first before reading this.
This week we see the brutal end of Captain Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard. When his crew finally catch up to Rogers’ ship, they were unprepared for the surprise ambush that sprung from below decks. Anne Bonny and Blackbeard were subdued in the fight, and Jack was forced to make a split decision to strike their colors and wave the white flag. Blackbeard is the first to taste Rogers’ particular brand of brutality before finally meeting his end.
Legion of Leia: I just watched episode 403….Why? Why you gotta do that to my boy?!
Jonathan Steinberg: [laughs] Yeah, it’s pretty gross.
LL: I had to look up what “keelhaul” meant. The textual context didn’t exactly register until I actually saw it done on the show. Brutal, man.
JS: Yeah [laughs]. We vaguely kinda knew what it was, but we of course have never seen it. When we were looking for a reference, there really wasn’t any. There were a few period sketches, but nothing remotely helpful to help give us an idea of what it really looked like. So we had to kind of reverse engineer it based on the descriptions. We have two consultants on the show — one who helps us with shoot-related stuff, he actually captains tall ships, and another who is our pirate historian. Between the two of them, they were enough to give us a good idea of what [keelhauling] could be. And, uh, it’s pretty awful. [Keelhauling] is one of those things where a reasonable enough people have heard of it, but there’s no screen version of it. It felt like a fun challenge to tackle on the show.
But yeah. It was an ordeal for everyone, specifically the prosthetics department and for [Ray Stevenson]. He spent hours in the chair getting all those pieces applied. I imagine it’s nothing compared to getting dragged underneath a boat, but if you ask [Ray], he’d probably say something different.
LL: What do you think about Blackbeard dying in this fashion? Has Ray ever said anything to you about his death scene?
JS: Obviously it’s a hero’s death. It’s gross, but it’s also a big statement about his strength and his importance to that world. Considering what we know from Season 3, [Blackbeard] has a sense that he is sick, and that he is probably not long for this world anyway. This is a much more meaningful death than dying in his bed. All of that was compelling to Ray and definitely to us. It felt like the right way to send that character out.
LL: With Blackbeard dead now, what will that mean for the resistance on Nassau?
SJ: Edward Teach was explicitly talked about having been the first “king” in Nassau. In a way, he needed to die in order for John Silver to claim that mantle. [Blackbeard] had to go away for Long John Silver to be what we needed him to be. Also his death will be more fuel for the fire the same way Charles Vane was in the last season. It reinforces everyone’s motive for revenge and not surrender at any cost. But, I think, mostly it was to clear out a space for Silver, and taking that next step in his ascent.
LL: We see at the end of the episode that Billy and his men show up to help Silver and Flint retake Nassau. After what happened in episode 402, will there be anymore in-fighting even though Silver is back taking the lead?
JS: It is something that will need to be addressed. Billy tried to kill [Silver’s] best friend and girlfriend. It’s really interesting that the one person who wasn’t there for episode 402 is the one who is the most angry. That conflict between all four of them isn’t going to be easy to sort out.
LL: How violent will things get from here on out? We’re only on the third episode, we haven’t seen the last of all the fighting?
JS: No, no you have not. Things will get really bad soon enough. We didn’t want to leave anything off the table. We had a sense that this would be the end for us, and we didn’t want to leave anything behind. Yeah… It’s just a great big mess going forward.
Black Sails is available on STARZ, which is available through your cable network or your preferred streaming device using their app where you can subscribe to STARZ directly for $8.99/month. Catch new episodes Sundays at 9:00 PM ET.