Black Sails Review by John Keegan

Black Sails 2.05: XIII.

Black Sails 2.05: XIII.

Written By:
Aaron Helbing and Todd Helbing
Directed By:
Alik Sakharov

This episode began with a threesome in the traditional sense, and ended with the heartbreaking revelation of another threesome of very different character.  In the process, Black Sails did what is often so difficult to achieve: reframed the entire series to date by revealing motivations that only make sense in retrospect.

Before digging into that, there were the usual considerations of melding the historical with the fictional.  Part of the fun of Black Sails has been playing “spot the historical reference”, even as the show takes liberty with both accurate portrayal of pirating and the historical record.  In this episode, there’s the Rackham subplot and his creation of the infamous Jolly Roger, mixed with the navigation of a growing relationship with Max.  Beyond turning into one of the most envied men ever, Rackham has a bit of work to do to keep things from getting deadly.

After the seeming deviation from Treasure Island last season, the survival of Billy Bones is giving Silver something to do while Flint and Vane deal with their own conflict (mostly off-screen).  We all know Billy has to survive into the future, so the real question is what he will be doing in the meantime.  Allying with Silver, perhaps, as there is a long history between the men by the time of the literary classic.

The scenes between Eleanor and her father are a stark reminder that Eleanor is a stand-in of sorts for how Nassau was one of the few places where more egalitarian notions of equality ruled the day in the early 1700s.  It wouldn’t have been a young woman running the show, per se, but what passed for “equality” in those days would seem unremarkable to our modern sensibilities; Eleanor’s character progression is the best way for us to understand the potentials that Nassau represented for those outside European society’s power structure.

And thus the love between Flint and Thomas Hamilton does much to explain Flint’s bitter and cruel side, never mind why he wound up fleeing to Nassau and taking up this life with Miranda under his protection.  Flint is locked in a cycle of self-loathing, among other things, fueled by Thomas’ death in an insane asylum.  But even as Flint begins to see a different path, the inevitable failure of the bid to use Ashe’s daughter to secure a future and Vane’s desire for control make it impossible.  This season seems to come down to how many chances the characters have had to take a different path, to legitimize the society of Nassau, and yet they continually feed into the destruction of everything they value.

Truthfully, the highlight of the episode is how all of the flashbacks to Flint’s days in England finally come together in one of the more tragic and lovely depictions of a homosexual relationship in quite some time.  In certain respects, I’m reminded of the Torchwood episode “Captain Jack Harkness”, though this turned out far more damaging for the involved characters in the long run.  Not only that, but there’s the realization that even the more liberal Nassau might treat Flint differently if the truth were fully revealed.  It’s a courageous turn for such a prominent character, and a decision to be applauded.

Our Grade:
The Good:
  • The flashbacks of Flint’s past culminate in stunning fashion
  • The sense of self-destruction among the residents of Nassau is palpable
The Bad:
  • I can only imagine the ignorant response to these revelations

John Keegan aka "criticalmyth", is one of the hosts of the "Critical Myth" podcast heard here on VOG Network's radio feed Monday, Wednesday & Friday. You can follow him on twitter at @criticalmyth

Black Sails by - 2/23/2015 10:47 AM295 views

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