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Decisions are Made for Better or Worse in Black Sails “XXXIII” 

Decisions are Made for Better or Worse in Black Sails “XXXIII”
Photo Credit: Starz

Poor John Silver — try as he might, he just can’t quite find anyone willing to leave the mess they’ve started provided the opportunity presented itself. Or is it that Silver is destined to be surrounded by people that are infinitely his greater?

Black Sails Season 4 Episode 5 Long John Silver and Winston
Photo Credit: Starz

That is not meant as a slight to the progress that his character has made, but given his beginnings, it is a valid question. With no Flint and an uncomfortable tension between he and Billy, as stakes rise, does the great Long John Silver’s fight or flight response revert back to its cowardly beginnings? Flint has already lost the two most important people in his life to this war. Aside from the cache and the potential for a life lived on the island, what has the Captain got to lose? Madi has spent much of her life training to be a diplomat and leader. Given the importance of both stopping a slave revolt and making room for those former slaves to join her cause, has she truly passed a point of no return?

Billy, Madi, and Flint are all in with ending this war no matter the cost. And while they won’t all agree on the journey, certainly they feel their collective end justifies their individual means. And Silver? He is the hinge pin that keeps their rebellion together. However, everything that he’d done to get to this point was borne of his selfish desire to be wealthy and comfortable.

Last week, he asked Flint if he would exchange this war to have Thomas Hamilton back; to which the Captain replied no. This week, he asked Madi would he be enough for her if this war were over and hadn’t turned out in their favor. Her hesitation and non-reply were answer enough. Silver has got to determine for himself what he’s fighting for. Not who makes a better partner or which alliance is more feasible.

And who, of all people, is the one to provide his wake-up call? Israel Hands. He literally slaps some sense into Silver right when the “legend” is at his lowest point. Trying to find a moment alone to think things through, he’s interrupted by Hands. Talking more to himself than to the newcomer, Silver admits to not knowing which path to choose. The sequence that follows was unexpected yet appropriate given what’s on the line. Having survived a gunshot to the face and being tossed aside by Teach, Hands has zero patients for indecision. He gives a rousing speech after slapping Silver twice across the face gets the man up on his one good leg.

“You don’t know? Why should I follow you if you don’t know? Why would anyone? I don’t give a s— what goes on [in your head]. F— Flint, don’t f— Flint. F— Billy, don’t f— Billy. I don’t give a s— what you choose, but f—ing choose! Don’t make me suffer the thinking. Worry ain’t a good look for a king, not in a kingdom like this where loyalty is in short supply.”

Billy Bones and Garret Black Sails
Photo Credit: Starz

The push worked. Taking Madi’s advice in hopes of restoring their chances of reconciliation with the slave communities, Silver makes a move against Billy. His right hand man, Garrett, tells him that though people didn’t fully believe what was being said, Silver just opened his mouth and the men followed. Confirmation of the same sentiment that Billy imparted to Silver when the men raised the Walrus from the sea. What a terrible feeling it must when the devil you created comes to collect its due.

Billy’s practicality proved to be his undoing as the legend he built cuts his legs from under him. With no crew behind him and ally at his side, the plan is now to return the wounded Billy to the Underhill plantation and perhaps turn him over to Julius as a peace offering? Unbeknownst to Silver et al., there are more pressing matters to be attended to in the bay.

Eleanor and Flint
Photo Credit: Starz

“For so long, I thought I knew what I was. A daughter who usurped her father. A woman who had taken control of a wild place; Scott was proof of that. The one who saw me that way too, who substantiated it. And all that time, all he saw was a girl that was so ambitious she would never doubt his story. So she would continue to play the part and draw everyone’s attention away from himself.

You did do all those things.

I know I did. But always with a man behind me doing his damnedest to bend it all to his benefit. My father, Scott, Charles, you. So many goddamned men here. Too many goddamned men here.

Woodes Rogers? He’s really so different from the rest of us?”

Eleanor has done some awful things in Black Sails’ four seasons. She’s ruled with an iron hand, lied, stolen, instigated revolts, fought for peace, fallen in and out of love 3 times; yet each time she was faced with opposition, even death at the hands of the British once, she’s managed to get out of it. While I do not like what appears to be another betrayal (this time to stay with her new husband and see their child raised), I could never bring myself to root for her demise. I admire her ambition, and I make no apologies for it. It is smart to stay in her good graces because she’s adaptable.

Her speech made it abundantly clear why she and Max were once so drawn to one another. Despite having orchestrated so much, and having been a major player in getting Nassau to this point, Eleanor still finds herself in the shadow of yet another powerful man. The fact that she had no response when Flint pointed out Rogers’ role is telling as well. Last week, Eleanor confided in Mrs. Hudson that she feels like she’s right back where she started when her father was still in control of the island.

Black Sails Season 4 Episode 5 Jack Rackham Captain Flint
Photo Credit: Starz

Uncertainty has hit several of the major players, and with the surprise return of Jack Rackham and the remaining members of Teach’s crew, things are not looking good in Nassau Town. Keelhauling, his crew’s brutality, and his singular vision are all moments in Roger’s story that viewers have experienced first hand. However, those who remain on land were not privy to the extent of the Governor’s mean streak. He and Jack have always seen deeper into each other, with Jack having been a prisoner to Rogers at the beginning of his tenure and more recently once things stopped going according to plan. The transition from man to monster was gradual, but it’s clear there’s no redemption arc on the way for the Governor.

The story and tension were standouts in “XXXIII,” but nothing was more phenomenal than the parting shot. Rackham’s voice as he’s promising Flint that Woodes Rogers and his insatiable bloodlust were no where near done with the island are combined with a dark and dramatic instrumental as the camera continues to pan backward out of the bay. Just before the camera cuts to black, no fewer than 10 Spanish ships can be seen heading into the bay.

Black Sails Season 4 Episode 5 Spanish Ships
Photo Credit: Starz

All the effort, all the dealing, all the sacrifice that our pirates have put into taking Nassau, and the possibility of victory has been erased in an instant. How can a fractured group with no ships (other than a resurrected Walrus) defeat both Spain and the British?

The Black Sails saga continues with “XXXIV” on Sunday, March 5, at 9/8c on Starz.

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