Nassau is still working to put out fires that last week’s surprise Spanish invasion caused. While Rogers would like some time to lick his wounds, time waits for no man on this tumultuous island. With barely a moment to himself to mourn the loss of his wife (and child), the Governor is quickly back on the offensive when a familiar face lands on his doorstep. “XXXV” is a brieft timeout before another major offensive from both sides.
One thing that has becoming glaringly apparent about Woodes Rogers is that he is far more effective with someone at his side — a partner if you will, like Eleanor. Not only was she intelligent and cunning, but she was familiar with the nuances of Nassau and knew when to push and when to give when it came to Rogers. Without that balance, he has lost some panache.
This can be seen when he blames Mrs. Hudson for putting thoughts into Eleanor’s head. Either he’s too distressed over her death that he isn’t thinking clearly, or he never knew his wife at all. Of all the dealings that Eleanor had a hand in on this island, never once was she a puppet while someone else pulled her strings. Her collaborations with Flint were well planned and mutually beneficial; her betrayal of Vane was also in her best interest despite protests from Max. The idea that Rogers doesn’t think Eleanor was capable of making a deal and firing upon his ship to see it through is jarring. If Rogers was so thick to have believed Eleanor was ever remotely second fiddle, then it leaves room for hope that he can be outsmarted by the pirates after all.
That is, until Billy shows up to betray every man he’s ever held dear. Billy, who fought so fiercely to make sure that the Walrus crew’s best interest was always first; the same man who worked so hard for Silver to step in and remove Flint from power; the man who was finally destroyed under the weight of his own ambition. What a character arc.
This betrayal hurts to watch. The fact that Billy couldn’t accept that his plan to win the island failed, so he seceded to Rogers is cringe worthy. How could he? Is he so tired, so defeated, that this is his only course of action? His hatred from Flint burns so brightly that he would tear his own legacy apart just to see the man to ruin? Where it was easy to be upset at Billy for his actions earlier in the season, the feeling has given way to utter distaste and ire. However, wrong as Billy is to turn on his people, he couldn’t be more right about how to tear this rebellion apart.
He and Julius have understood that from the moment they learned of the partnership between Flint and Silver. To be fair, even Flint and Silver know they are weaker apart. Introducing pivotal characters late in the final season seemed like a waste upon first meetings, but Julius brings something so raw and fierce to the table. He and his men have endured unimaginable horrors at the hand of those in power. Now that they have secured passage off the island, why would they go back to continue fighting a battle that has no foreseeable end? He poses an excellent question, but Silver is far too emotional about Madi (who is still alive, thankfully!) and Flint is far too grandiose in his desires. He’s moved on from Nassau to sending ships up to Boston?
Julius is honest, determined, and calculating; refreshing to see a new frenemy on the playing field. He cares about freedom above all else, and if it can be had for him and his men in a place that is not Nassau, that is fine too. He has no ties to this island, and isn’t afraid to say so. The Maroon Queen tries to convince him that this is a fight worth having, but he is too big a realist to be swayed.
Queen: “No one has ever been this close, this near a chance to change the world.”
Julius: “No one changes the world. Not like this, not all at once. The world is too strong for that.”
In the perpetual string of events that do no go according to plan, Rackham has no luck in even getting Eleanor’s grandfather to entertain the idea that Nassau is worth investment. Just as the trip to a frigid Philadelphia seems barren, Black Sails gives viewers what it always has — a defiant, powerful woman to step in and save the day.
Eleanor’s grandmother, though her moments were brief in “XXXV,” has made quite the impression without any pomp or circumstance. She informs Jack that behind every legitimate empire is some dirty business that requires just as much time and attention. She and Max connect in such a way that the women undoubtedly see themselves in the other.
This is a partnership that, no matter how short-lived, will hopefully be quite fruitful. Another new face introduced late in the season that could have a big impact in turning the tides against the Governor. But is her price too great? Even Ann is hesitant when Jack tells her that the terms include Flint’s death.
Is that any different than what Billy was asking of Silver? Is it any different than Vane not wanting to be saved? Will the pirates, British or otherwise ever get to a point where one realm can coexist with the other?
New relationships, new chess pieces on the board, new alliances in play, Black Sails once again flips assumptions on their heads as the final season flies toward an unpredictable end. How big a part will Julius and Eleanor’s Grandmother play before it’s all said and done? I don’t know, but I’m very much looking forward to more of them.
Black Sails is down to just three remaining episodes, with “XXXVI” airing next Sunday, March 19th, at 9/8c on Starz.
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