Thereâ€™s good TV, and then thereâ€™s TV that provides a sort of vindication and relief you didnâ€™t even think you needed. Black Sails â€œXXVâ€ is the latter, and is the best episode of the season to date. While the entire hour is worth your time once or twice over, here are five moments of goodness from â€œXXV.â€
#5 â€“ Featherstone Finds Some Gumption
Long have we watched as Featherstone takes what is being doled out, so long as he doesnâ€™t have to take any risks himself. Sure he vouched for Jack last season in order to secure a ship, but never have I seen a weaker Quartermaster. Iâ€™ve often wondered what real purpose heâ€™s ever served other than being useless, so I am happy to see some initiative.
Heâ€™s never been stupid, just cowardly. He can see that something foul is afoot, but doesnâ€™t really see a way to stop it until he is encouraged by Charles Vane to do something about it. He coordinates Idelle, Bonny, and Vane to change Flintâ€™s plan in the hopes that they will be able to both rescue Jack and secure the cache. I hope his defiant streak holds, because this is just the beginning.
#4 â€“ Jack Defines Rodgers’ Role
I canâ€™t help wondering how long Rodgersâ€™ â€œboy next doorâ€ faÃ§ade is going to last. While he is holding Jack against his will, there is no torture, which leads Rodgers to believe that if â€œno one is harmed,â€ then he wonâ€™t lose his modicum of credibility and there will be no change in the way the island sees him. But Jack explains, “We’re all villains in Nassau. Don’t think because you’re new you’re any different.â€
It is a short scene, at just under three minutes, but it is a powerful one that shows just how in-tune Jack is to the underhanded dealings that take place to persuade people to a cause. And it also shows that while Rodgers can play the game well for a new-comer, he shouldnâ€™t let himself think that heâ€™s doing things with the best of intentions. The Governor is being attacked from all sides as he tries to makes waves without causing a stir. Heâ€™s holding up well so far, but heâ€™s more fragile than heâ€™s letting on. However, Nassau is quick to prey on weakness, and Rodgers must be careful how much of his true self he reveals.
#3 â€“ Max Learns to Bear Her Crown
â€œOne day when all is settled here, we should burn that fucking chair.â€ Max has certainly had her fair share of hard lessons learned; but carrying the burden of power is a new responsibility that she still struggles with. Forced to lie to Anne about what is happening with Jack, Max is devastated that Spain has changed the terms, making her word null and void. Sheâ€™s doing everything she can to look out for her best interest yet is thwarted at every turn by another player. Knowing how industrious Max is, however, I have a feeling if things keep stacking up against her, sheâ€™ll find a way to circumvent everyone else to secure her best future. Her speech to the girls at the brothel was a great testament to her wielding her new power, and putting Ms. Mapleton back in charge was a bold (and potentially dangerous and desperate) move.
Sheâ€™s already started by planting the seed of dissent into Eleanorâ€™s head. They arenâ€™t so different like Max once they thought they were, but there is one glaring difference. Eleanor was always masterful and drawing people to her side by coercion; and Max is incredibly adept at creating opportunities and manipulating the situation to suit her needs. Both qualities make them better allies than foes.
#2 â€“ Rodgers and Flint Act as Reasonable Men
Governor Woodes Rodgers plays the game as well as anyone, yet Nassau is slowly chipping away at his calm demeanor. Not only are his men coming down with Yellow Fever, but after the ultimatum that was given in the tavern, heâ€™s got to make a stand against Flint. Instead of using a show of force, or threatening the people already on the island, he faces Flint man to man.
I had underestimated Rodgers, because I never imagined heâ€™d be brazen enough to set up a tent and wait for Captain Flint on the beach himself. Flint immediately calls him on his tactic, â€œSo that’s what this is? We’re all reasonable men, we all want the same things….”
Even more surprising was Rodgers kept bringing up Miranda and Thomas. He made the same argument I made about what it would be feel like to finish what Flint had started. â€œAll I have done here is finish what you began.” Playing the I wouldn’t be here without you card in the hopes of appealing to Flint’s sense of honor is a noble gesture, but it’s misplaced entirely. Having lost Thomas and Miranda has pushed Flint past the point of no return. After the conversation turns firm, I believe Rodgers finally sees a glimmer of the Flint that England fears.
I was worried Flint wouldnâ€™t be able to keep his cool had Rodgers kept throwing Miranda and Thomasâ€™ names at him like that. It would not have been a shock to see Flint take on Rodgers and his two guards; but Iâ€™m glad he didnâ€™t. This is going to be a battle of will, and Iâ€™m here for it. Tactician vs tactician â€“ and weâ€™ve only scratched the surface. I canâ€™t wait to see these two do everything in their power to tear the other one down.
#1 â€“ Long John Silver, the Legend, is Born
I despise Dufrense. I have hated him since he turned against Flint in the first season. From the moment we saw the Urca gold and realized that Flint had been right all along, I’ve wanted nothing more than to watch Flint wrap his hands around Dufrense’s neck and wring the life right out of him. Part of me wants to be disappointed that Silver dealt the death-blow instead of Flint, but how could I be?
The tavern scene was perfect! A culmination of all the things we’ve invested our time in came to fruition. Silver, ever the master manipulator, finally becomes the legend we’ve been waiting for. That speech, his delivery, and that exit? As a fan of Black Sails, what more could we have asked for? And of course Dufrense, the sniveling sycophant, opens his mouth when he thinks he’s got the advantage; so high and mighty, feeling untouchable as he taunts Silver, calling him no more than a witless puppet full of lies. How appropriate that Dufrense is brought down by the man he is trying so hard to emulate. As violent and sudden as it was, my only wish would have been for him to suffer longer. Good riddance.
Luke Arnold has taken Silver to an entirely new level in Black Sails. The change in demeanor, the new-found swagger, the confidence to walk into hostile territory and literally make a name for yourself — it’s a whole new ballgame! While other characters have matured, no one else seems to have come as far as Silver. What a treat itâ€™s been to watch him shed his old skin and blossom into a force to be reckoned with.
“XXV” left me beside myself by the end. The players have made their stands and things are not going according to anyone’s plan. How much longer will the alliance between Flint and the Maroons hold? Whose side is Eleanor really on? Now that they’ve felt each other out, how will this all play out between Flint and Rodgers?
Three episodes remain, so we’re running out of time to get answers to all of our questions. Keep watching as Black Sails returns next Saturday at 9/8c on Starz.
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