Season 4, Episode 3
Air Date: Sunday, February 12, 2017 at 9PM E/P on Starz
After several battles fought both on land and sea, prepare yourself for an explosive episode where the first major losses and victories occur. With only 10 episodes scheduled for the final season of Black Sails, I appreciate how quickly the major story lines are moving while still giving viewers a back story, albeit too subtle at times. “XXXI” is close enough to the halfway mark of the season so I wasn’t surprised at some of the twists. What does maintain my interest is the way the suspense builds from the start of the episode until the very end.
It appears that while Woodes Rodgers (Luke Roberts) is away from Nassau, Captain Berringer (Chris Larkin) is running New Providence the way he sees fit—no matter who gets in his way. I’ve never been a fan of the surly British captain who acts with civility towards Eleanor (Hannah New) and Woodes but shows his true colors when interacting with Max (Jessica Parker Kennedy). Surprisingly, I did not expect the way Berringer’s character is humanized in “XXXI.” There is a pivotal scene where Berringer reflects on his family. He carries with him a locket with a portrait of his son and wife. Larkin does an excellent job of showing a vulnerable side to his character without any dialogue. It’s clear Berringer is not a complete monster, and that maybe he is a product of the violence he encounters daily. Or maybe he’s hoping that if he makes a big enough impression in squashing the rebellion, he will be allowed home. Either way, I still didn’t find Berringer a relatable character until that very moment. Having seen another side of Berringer’s tragic story line created mixed emotions for me. I’m happy he pays the price for his actions, but now I wish I’d known more about him beforehand.
Don’t get me wrong, I still think he’s a dangerous man to cross. Max knows this all too well, and when Berringer calls her loyalties into question, Eleanor arrives on the scene—fortunately for Max, Eleanor’s departure for Philadelphia is delayed. I love how Eleanor continues to help Max despite their rocky past. That said, Eleanor doesn’t have many scenes in “XXXI” but when she does appear, it’s at a critical stage of the episode.
Blood and Sand
Long John Silver (Luke Arnold) and Captain Flint (Toby Stephens) are finally reunited and it’s a huge relief. I adore these two working together, but the rise of Silver’s reputation as a pirate to reckon with may just be the thing to cause them to splinter into their own groups, much like what happened with Billy (Tom Hopper) in “XXX.”
What I enjoyed the most is the group dynamic and the natural chemistry all the actors have together on screen. Stephens’ and Arnold’s performances add more dynamic to their characters when they’re together. In a way, Silver’s presence adds a magnetism on screen that I haven’t felt since seeing Charles Vane (Zach MacGowan), Anne Bonny (Clara Paget), and Jack Rackham (Toby Schmitz) invade Nassau in season one. What is essential about the Silver story line is showing how quickly alliances fall apart and are repaired, especially with Billy showing up to help Silver in the end. Billy has grown as a character but this new rugged ‘devil may care’ attitude makes me question if whether he will be as cruel as Flint.
When Legends Die
If there is one problem with Edward Teach’s (Ray Stevenson) story line, it is that it never reaches a critical boiling point. While there were a few intense moments in season three, Stevenson’s portrayal brings a more subdued aspect to the infamous pirate also known as Blackbeard. It’s Blackbeard’s historical reputation that made me expect more madness and violence. Also, when Teach decides to board Woodes’ ship, I believe he underestimates the former pirate. Woodes has a reputation himself, so I’m surprised Teach doesn’t expect more. If I boarded a ship, I would make sure no one was hiding below deck, but pride comes before the fall and I wish Teach valued Rackham’s advice more.
Teach’s story line frustrated me, not because it was written badly but because I expected him to interact with more characters like Flint and Israel Hands (David Wilmot). Then again, this is Black Sails and each time I thought a story line would go one way, it didn’t as most of “XXXI” is filled with twists and turns. Writers Jonathan E. Steinberg and Brad Caleb Kane do not waste time in showing how fast the tides turn in each character’s favor. There are many moments and scenes that stand out to me. Silver’s reunion with Madi (Zethu Dlomo) is the happiest moment in the entire episode. In front of everyone, they kiss and it is well worth it considering how much they sacrificed for one another. Hell, even Flint smiles a bit at how happy they looked. Director Roel Reine has a great eye for setting up a scene for premium emotional impact. The shot of Silver and Madi seeing each other from afar has a dramatic effect and for a second, I thought they may might run to each other. I enjoyed the lighter moments in “XXXI” and although they are few and far between, the excellent writing, wonderful performances, and amazing cinematography make it all worthwhile.
Tune in to the final episodes of Black Sails, Sundays at 9PM E/P, only on Starz.
For more on the show, go to http://www.starz.com/originals/blacksails/
Follow Black Sails on its official twitter: @BlkSails_Starz, and don’t forget the cast and crew: @BlkSailsCreatrs (Black Sails Creators), @TobyStephensInV (Toby Stephens / Captain James Flint) @LongLukeArnold (Luke Arnold/John Silver), @ClaraPaget (Clara Paget/Anne Bonny), @hannahnewuk (Hannah New/Eleanor Guthrie), @JParkerK (Jessica P Kennedy/Max), @fallofasparrow (Toby Schmitz/Jack Rackham), and @luke_j_roberts (Luke Roberts/Woodes Rogers).
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© 2017, Connie Allen. All rights reserved.
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