“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13
How does one tame a beast? The series finale of Black Sails deftly tackles that cliche in unique ways for all the fiends and monsters we’ve grown to enjoy over four seasons. In Rogers’ case, they came after his pride; In Flint’s case, they found his love; In Billy’s case, they let him destroy himself; and in Silver’s case, well, it’s a far more complicated than that.
In case it needs to be said, there be spoilers ahead! Series ending spoilers!
Billy Bones Alone with his Demons
“O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Romans 7:24
It finally took the killing of his own brothers — those to whom he’d sworn an oath — before Billy realized how deplorable he’d become. Warped at the loss of everything he’d worked so hard to achieve, Billy forgot all that he stood for. The child of activist parents who himself was shanghaied into servitude before being set free by the very man he’d come to despise.
When Gates still had some semblance of control over Captain Flint, Billy was observant enough to know even then that the only person who could control Flint was Flint. When Gates was forcibly removed from service, and after Billy returned from the dead (did Flint really push him off the ship?), the young, and now jaded, pirate stepped up and put himself between Flint and the crew. Billy has always been willing to put himself in the way as a buffer, but eventually his ambitions outpaced his capabilities.
Outmatched and outwitted at every turn, Billy had every opportunity to fall back in line and chose not to. When the desire to dethrone Flint won out above all else, that was the moment the audience began to know more about what would transpire than Billy. For much of the third season, Billy had been a step ahead of everyone, including Flint. A “man’s got to know his limitations,” as Dirty Harry taught us, and Billy never got the memo.
In the end, much like Rogers’ demise, Billy’s pride refused to let him see that he was fighting a losing battle. However, after the awful things he’d done, he deserved a far worse punishment than washing ashore a deserted island. Though it does serve to set him up as the character we’re familiar with from Treasure Island: an incorrigible drunkard, constantly keeping watch for a man with one leg and treasure. How is it that the rage driving Billy was somehow less significant than that same emotion that was driving Flint? Short answer? Love.
Woodes Rogers and His Humiliating Defeat
“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18
The moment we met Governor Woodes Rogers, he was a different type of person entirely. Different in the sense that before him, people had been easily categorized on Black Sails as either hero or villain. Rogers broke that mold because he was cunning and charismatic and seemed open to several different possibilities for the future of Nassau. Admittedly, it was easy to be lulled into a false sense of “he’s on our side,” because, at first, he did not rule with a heavy hand.
But Nassau is a cruel mistress, and the longer Rogers stayed, the deeper he became involved with its inhabitants and their corrupt politics. So much so that he became less and less concerned with what England wanted and more concerned about what he wanted. And then he fell in love. That, above all else, was his undoing. As Madi pointed out in “XXXVII,” Eleanor’s death is on his hands at letting the Spanish overrun the island.
Much like Flint, loss of love drove him to do irrational things. When facing a duo as formidable as Flint and Silver, you’d have to be extraordinarily talented to best their collective mind. He believed that he could, with Billy’s help, but Rogers made a bad bet and paid dearly. In the end, yes, he was outplayed by Flint and Silver; but Jack Rackham was the pirate Rogers most underestimated. Their conversation in the wagon from season three, “XXVI,” revealed a great deal about how much the ambitious Governor cared about his image. Seeing the disgraced Governor in chains, with nary a penny to his name, laid bare for the world to see gave me great satisfaction. Of all the story lines wrapped up in this series finale, Rogers’ was the most appropriate.
Long John Silver Perpetually in Limbo
“For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.” Habakkuk 2:3
Silver has never wanted this war. It has always been in his best interest to look out for his own best interest. Yet somehow, some way, Silver waded into a war that was not his making, but promised to stick around so long as the war and his interests were aligned. Well, he stayed true to his word and to his nature. Silver may spend a great deal of his time talking, but he spends equal time listening. And when Max spoke of people who spirit away rich Brits, he set his own plan in motion.
He has always been the type to know several different answers to the same question. It is an instinct that kept him alive through regime changes, betrayals, and everything in between. Though he and Flint understand each other more than either would care to admit, it’s a wonder that Silver can be so blind to what Madi wants. There’s no doubt that he loves her and he wants to spend the rest of his life with her, but he’s not given any thought to what she actually wants.
Madi bought into Flint’s war and was prepared to see it through with her dying breath. But Silver was blinded by his love and selfishly assumed her desires were his own. He guessed wrong in that regard, but while it took some time, eventually she forgave him. He may not have the treasure, but Silver looks to be the only man who came out of this getting the thing he wanted most: no war.
Captain Flint Lives
“Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.” Proverbs 29:11
O Captain! My Captain! Flint won me over ten minutes into the series premiere, and I’ve been with him ever since. He was mysterious, brooding, smart, and most of all, angry. What could have caused a man so much pain that he’s chomping at the bit to bring down an entire country? His story has been the most skillfully crafted arc of the entire series, and rightfully so. Though Black Sails in an ensemble cast, this series is Flint’s story before we knew him in Treasure Island.
This is how they survive. You must know this. You’re too smart not to know this. They paint the world full of shadows and then tell their children to stay close to the light. Their light, their reason, their judgements, because in the darkness there be dragons. But it isn’t true. We can prove that it isn’t true. In the dark there is discovery, there is possibility, there is freedom in the dark when someone has illuminated it. And who has been so close as we are right now?
But Silver calls a spade a spade and knows that Flint’s rage would set the entire world ablaze. And frankly, Silver was not ready to live a life of sacrifice and loss — not for Flint, not for anyone.
We would have been for nothing. Defined by their histories. Distorted to fit into their narrative. Until all that is left of us is the monsters in the stories they tell their children.
Flint’s story has always been an “us vs them” tale of individuals triumphing over institutions. It’s as ifÂ he’s reliving his entire story arc in this one conversation with Silver; giving viewers the chance to remember why they were drawn to his cause in the first place. It is emotional, poignant, and it feels like the moment is veering more and more into uncompromising territory. Then Black Sails took a turn in a direction I did not expect. It seems Silver knew the great and fearsome Captain a little too well. In all his research and conniving, Silver found a solution that would give everyone the ending they deserved. Though I did not believe it possible, Thomas Hamilton is still alive. His cruel father had that one kindness in him, and for that, I am grateful.
So to the question I posited at the beginning of this review? How do you tame a beast? Give it the one thing it desires above all else. Silver’s recounting of Flint’s demeanor change as he got closer to that hidden away place was a beautiful thing. And while we knew what was happening, seeing Flint and Thomas reunited after so much time, tragedy, and distance made my heart grow three sizes.
I fully expected the series to send Flint out in a fit of rage, sword in hand, having taken down ten men before ten more rallied against him. Instead, what we got was something so much more raw and wonderful than I could have imagined. In a series stacked on death, loss, and massively well orchestrated stunt choreography, Black Sails ended with love conquering all. By some measure, however undeserved, we fans were gifted with Flint finally getting a happy ending.
As for Nassau, Max remains its unofficial queen while Featherstone sits atop the island as its new Governor. Jack Rackham and Anne Bonny continue to build their legend under a new flag; with both the Governor, and England’s, blessing. The official treaty may say that piracy is dead in Nassau, the Black Sails writers cheekily introduced another famous pirate just before the credits roll. Mark Read, who is really Mary Read, rivals Anne Bonny as one of the most famous female pirates in history.
Black Sails ended on a high note without the cliche of parrots upon shoulders or eye patches and “pirate speak.” The series served to elevate the genre from the tongue-in-cheek genre into a compelling, adult action-adventure filled with spectacular writing and a balance of history and fiction. Produced by Michael Bay, created by Jonathan Steinberg and Robert Levine, Black Sails debuted January 25th, 2015 and concluded after 38 episodes and four seasons.
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