Black Sails Series Finale Recap & Review – ‘XXXVIII’
This is it, folks. The end of a four-season long epic journey between two men, and the people whose lives they affected greatly. In the final episode of Black Sails, Flint makes one last push to topple England. Silver seals his fate. Rackham confronts Rogers. Nassau is changed forever.
WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT
As we draw to a close, we realize that Black Sails hasn’t just been about pirates saving their paradise, or finding treasure, or even fighting massive battle after massive battle between opposing factions. It’s a story about two men who’ve become legends in their own right, and their opposing views that became their bond as well as their unmaking. Black Sails is about Captain Flint (Toby Stephens) and Long John Silver (Luke Arnold). But who would they be without an amazing ensemble cast, as well?
Black Sails ended on a surprisingly high note, but more on that a little later. “XXXVIII” begins with Tom Morgan (another Treasure Island character) locating the prison plantation Silver had heard about earlier in the season. That’s right. Silver found Flint’s long-lost lover, Thomas.
On Skeleton Island, Silver and Flint scramble to save as many of the Walrus’ men as they can while the red coats and Billy continue shooting them from their launches. Then, Woodes gets word that there’s another ship entering the island. It’s Jack! He found Skeleton Island after all. But has he come to help Flint, or kill him? We all know he’s far too clever to start sh*t while they’re currently standing in a fresh pile already. He holds off on carrying out his agreement with Mrs. Guthrie for the moment, but he does manage to appraise Silver of his plans while Flint isn’t around.
Last week, we saw Flint and Silver hash it out. Their opposing views of the world that once kept the other in check finally boiled over and became poison to their friendship. While they may have come to a truce because of the immediate threat that is Woodes Rogers, they still need to talk about a few things. But first, save Madi.
Rogers and his crew managed to slip away before Flint, Silver, Rackham could regroup and assess the situation. They still have Madi, but Woodes is committed to taking down the pirates and retrieving the treasure. They wait for Rackham’s ship to exit the same way it came in and then ram the hell out of it. The red coats and pirates are locked in a deadly battle. Flint and Billy clash on the highest parts of Rogers’ ship, Silver goes belowdeck in search of Madi, and Jack, and later Flint, face off against Rogers. This was the epic battle the series has been building up toward, and the whole chaotic scene was well worth the wait. The pirates overtake the ship, Woodes is outmatched, and Madi is still alive and reunited with Silver.
As for Billy, he fell from the ship and is now marooned on Skeleton Island. Next stop, the Admiral Benbow Inn.
With Madi safe and sound and on her way back to the camp, the trio make their way back to the island to get the treasure. Only…Flint won’t take them to it until he can clear the air with Silver one more time. This time, Silver has something to say. Silver is tired of fighting. He doesn’t see an end that doesn’t include major loss and regret. He and Flint have such opposing world views because Flint was born out of a tragedy from which he’s never been able to pull himself out. As a result, he’s unknowingly evolved into something that just wants to see the world burn. Silver knows that feeling all too well when he thought Madi was dead. When he got her back, Silver’s darkness lifted and, according to him, no longer has a hunger for destruction.
Flint bites back, saying this war is their only chance at showing the rest of the world that there can be a life of freedom without England. If Silver took him out now, all of what they’ve been fighting for will have been for nothing. The histories of the good men who fought beside them will be distorted to fit the winning side’s narrative — all that will be left of them are the stories of monsters people tell their children.
Then Flint hits Silver with something of a prophecy. Silver’s life with Madi will eventually prove to be a small comfort for him. Sooner or later, Silver will want proof that he mattered, but he won’t because he gave it all away in this moment. Anyone unfamiliar with Treasure Island will likely look at this scene as Flint’s last ditch effort to convince Silver that they still need this war. But in a way, this is a foreshadowing on what happens to Silver during the events of Louis Robert Stevenson’s novel. Furthermore, Silver’s motivations for finding the pirate treasure on Skeleton Island suddenly has more weight. Suddenly, he’s not only motivated by greed but out of the desperation that he once mattered.
Last week, Silver said that his life before Nassau wasn’t relevant. Maybe his life takes a turn for the uneventful between now and then, and he wants to revisit the height of his relevance. But Silver is resolute in his stance. No more Captain Flint. No more war. The scene cuts to a distant shot of the other members of their search party reacting to something.
We learn of Flint’s fate through Jack and then Silver.
Jack returns to Philadelphia to bring word that Flint is no longer a concern to them. He’s not dead, but retired. Mrs. Guthrie isn’t exactly pleased with such an outcome, but she is assured Flint is no longer a problem. As for who will run Nassau, Max nominates Mr. Featherstone to be the new governor. This way, Max has someone whom she can fully trust running the facade while she remains the real power behind Nassau’s economy. Before the final deal is struck between Max and Mrs. Guthrie, Jack requests to be involved in the writing of an affidavit against Woodes Rogers.
Jack has always been the one so concerned about legacy. He wants to make sure the world remembers Rogers isn’t seen as a tragic hero who was bested by pirates. He wants everyone to see a disgraced governor whose cruel and despicable actions are what led to his downfall.
Back on Nassau, Jack and Anne continue their sea-faring antics under the guise of privateers. Jack, so concerned with keeping a legacy, designs a pirate flag that will be remembered long after their gone. That, of course, is the classic Jolly Roger skull and crossbones (which the real Calico Jack did design). “What’s it all for if it goes unremembered?” Rackham says to a Mark Read, who joins Jack and Anne’s crew. “It’s the art that leaves the mark but to leave it, it must transcend, it must speak for itself, it must be true.”
Quick note: Yes, Mark Read is actually Mary Read, the second most infamous female pirate this side of the Bahamas. Anne Bonny is the first, of course.
The true climax of this episode is the war of words Flint and Silver have on Skeleton Island. The only reason why Silver wins this time is because he had a trump card up his sleeve this whole time. In his conversation with a very angry Madi — the maroons entered into a treaty with Nassau, maintaining their freedom without further conflict — Silver reveals that Flint was sent away to a prison plantation in Savannah. It’s the same one we heard about in an earlier episode where wealthy families in England send people they want forgotten. True, Silver does send his friend (Yes, they’re still considered friends. It’s complicated.) to spend a life sentence working on a plantation, but it’s a life sentence with the long-lost love of his life, Thomas.
Like I said, Black Sails ended on a high note despite everything. It left us with a sense of hope that our heroes get to lives they wanted, with a few compromises. One need only Google search the actual fates of Jack, Ann, and Mary, but the show didn’t always adhere to history, so why should our imaginations?
Over the course of 38 episodes, I have never felt more attached to a cast of characters as I do for Black Sails‘. That’s not an easy feat. The entire series has been an excellent and phenomenal ride. As a tie-in to a classic novel, the series gives us a new outlook on how we read Treasure Island from now on. The ending alone gives more weight to the fates of our surviving pirates. I could not recommend this series more.
You can catch up anytime if you have a subscription to STARZ. If you don’t, the first three seasons are available on Hulu right now. Hopefully, Season 4 won’t be far behind.
- Madi is supremely angry with Silver for cancelling the war. She wanted it as much as Flint did. She wanted him to leave her, but Silver stayed at the camp. We see that she at least begins to come around by the end of the episode.
- In case you’re wondering where Silver found the time to search for Thomas and confirm his whereabouts, Silver confesses to Madi that he found him sometime before the Spanish invaded. So one can only assume that Silver immediately started looking for this prison as soon as he heard about it. It also explains why Silver first asked what would Flint do if Thomas were still alive.
- Ann totally pegged Mark Read the moment she saw her.
- I’m going to miss Luke Arnold live tweeting the show.
- Oh man… I can’t believe this is the end. I’m gonna need a minute.