Black Sails Ep. 409 Recap & Review – ‘XXXVII’
In this week’s episode of Black Sails, Silver and his men hunt for Flint on Skeleton Island, Madi is made an offer, Rogers struggles to hear Eleanor, and Billy casts his lot.
After four seasons of character building and excellent storylines, it’s easy to grow attached to certain characters in Black Sails, namely John Silver and Flint. Most of Season 3 and 4 have built up a camaraderie between the two, raising them up to be an unstoppable force when they work together. Their level of friendship could not have been spelled out more than in a series of flashbacks throughout “XXXVII” where Flint teaches Silver how to fight with a sword in one hand, and a crutch in the other. The first scene tugs at our heartstrings, but then twists the knife already embedded into our chests when we’re transported back to the present where Silver and his men are furiously hunting for Flint before he buries the cache.
In the flashbacks, the two men spend some time having a heart to heart while Silver is learning to fight. While providing a teaching moment during their swordplay, Flint realizes that he doesn’t really know Silver’s past. Since Flint and the Walrus crew accepted him into their group, Flint’s heard stories here and there about Silver being born in Whitechapel, never knowing his mother, and being raised in a home for boys. His history is wholly unremarkable, except none of what he’s said may actually be true. For as close and as committed as they are to each other’s futures, it bothers Flint that Silver continues to tell him that story even now.
Flint’s concerns are valid. Silver knows his story, his tragic past concerning Thomas and Miranda. He’s even insinuated himself into the story of Flint’s ill-fated partners, implying he’d be the next to go should something between them happen. But should something happen between them, Flint confesses that he is more likely to hesitate than pull the trigger outright. So in a way, Flint feels that Silver has all the advantage.
The truth as John sees it is that his past may not have been wholly unremarkable, but it is just enough for it not to be relevant. As John sees it, his life began the day he came to Nassau. But is this, his friendship, and his loyalty enough for Flint? Flint doesn’t answer right away.
The way these flashbacks juxtapose themselves to what’s happening to them in the present, we’re given some perspective to how their friendship worked. Most of what has been holding them together is a sense of duty to uphold their promises of freedom from the British Empire. Since the shark incident last season, they not only achieved mutual understanding, but also respect for each other’s convictions. There is indeed some genuine friendship going on between them, but when one is still willing to hide from the other, loyalty and friendship can only so far before something snaps and explodes into a fight.
On Skeleton Island, present day, Flint and Dooley have been on the run from Silver’s hunting party. Hands and Silver themselves hang back while the rest of the group split off. Flint manages to kill every single one of them until only Hands and Silver are left. He leaves Dooley to bury the treasure while Flint heads them off. Hands shows up first and the two fight. Before Flint can dispatch him, Silver catches up and stops it.
After all that’s happened, Flint is still willing to talk reasonably with Silver. Flint still believes, as he indicates to Dooley earlier in the episode, that they can still work together. Every moment they waste fighting each other, they waste precious time they could be using to save Madi. Silver scoffs at Flint’s statement, saying that their partnership existed only insofar as doing whatever Flint ordered at any given moment. That it didn’t really matter to him if they retrieved Madi alive or dead, so long as they have a symbol (an influential leader or a martyr) to continue the war. As long as everything only happens Flint’s way, and on his terms.
The way Silver delivers these lines, it’s as though he’s airing out some frustrations about Flint’s habit of micromanaging everything and not telling anyone his full plan as he gives the orders. These are also frustrations that have been eating at him since Billy and Hands planted seeds of doubt into his mind. Now that things have finally come to a head, he’s finally bold enough to tell Flint what’s wrong.
But it’s a bit more complicated that, isn’t it? Sure, wanting to see his ultimate plans to the end no matter what can make Flint look a little crazy, but he and Silver both started something that’s much bigger than they are now. Other escaped slaves and pirates from as far as Boston want this peace of freedom Flint’s been fighting for in Nassau. That includes Madi.
Earlier in the episode, Rogers tries to make a deal with Madi — Rogers will withdraw his men and let Silver live. But Madi sees herself as someone responsible for the multitudes of lives that have been stolen, sold, bought, and degraded over the centuries. The safety of one man, even the one she cares for the most, will not sway her from fighting for her people’s freedom.
Flint is aware of Madi’s convictions as well and says this Silver. Silver knows he’s right. Madi herself has indicated that he is not enough for her if they stepped away from this war right now. He knows that she has an obligation and will not step away from it.
So far we’ve gotten three different points of view from three different women concerning duty versus love. For the longest time, Eleanor thought it was her obligation to keep Nassau a successful enterprise. With or without the pirates, she was committed to seeing that happen again when she teamed up with Rogers. Eventually see saw how fruitless those endeavors will be, that Nassau will just go back to its chaotic state no matter how hard anyone tried. She chose the love of her husband and would-be family, but outside forces killed her for it.
We see it again in Max when she was given the opportunity to make a strike a more permanent business partnership with Madam Guthrie by marrying into money. This plan, one that has been used by ambitious women for years, did not suit Max’s sensibilities. Not only did she want the freedom to run Nassau her way, unencumbered by a husband, but she also did not want to give up any chance of repairing her relationship with Anne.
Now we’ve come to another scenario with Madi, and by extension Flint and Silver. Madi will not give up the war if it means eventually freeing her people. Flint will not give up the war if it means freedom from the British Empire. Silver has at least once entertained the thought of leaving all of this behind with Madi. She is what matters most to him. But walking away means costing her a war, and he would lose her anyway.
Flint and Silver exchange blows, more so Silver than Flint, until they hear an explosion.
Back at the Walrus, Rogers proceeds with his plan to rid himself of the pirates. He never intended letting the pirates live with or without the cache. The cache is just a bonus , as well as a way for him to complete Eleanor’s mission. Under the cover of the island’s thick fog over the waters, Rogers’ men set fire to the Walrus’ hold. This crew is forced to abandon ship before it explodes. The redcoats and Billy are already on top of them, killing everyone in the water. The only pirate Billy spares is Gunn.
Flint, Silver, and Hands witness the slaughter from afar. The show plays another flashback which shows Silver talking to Madi. He tells her that he has gained Flint’s true friendship and trust. Together, there’s no telling what they can’t accomplish.
- Joji (Winston Chong), the samurai always seen hanging out with the Walrus crew, finally gets his day in the sun with a stellar sword fight against Flint. Flint eventually does prevail, but not before Joji gives him a run for his money first.
- Luke Arnold (who plays John Silver) has been posting some sweet, behind-the-scenes pictures on Instagram of the cast and crew on the set of Black Sails. You should check them out.
- Poor Jack cannot catch a break. His crew is being led to Skeleton Island by Captain Avery’s only known living crew member. Jack delivers an almost weepy monologue about true freedom to Featherstone. All that optimism vanishes when the old man suddenly dies. It’s a rare comical scene we don’t often get from Black Sails. When we do get morbidly light moments such as these, they almost always have to do with Jack.
- Bye, Dooley.