Feb 14 2015

Black Sails – “XII” Retrospective. War Games


Season 2, Episode 4

Airdate: Saturday, February 14, 2015, 9/8c on Starz



***WARNING: Major Spoilers Ahead***


To attack or not to attack? Flint considers his options.

To attack or not to attack? Flint considers his options.

In the aftermath of Captain James Flint’s (Toby Stephens) return to Nassau, “XII” explores the imminent danger Flint poses for everyone in New Providence as Captain Charles Vane (Zach McGowan) refuses to relinquish power. “XII” is a major game changing episode with severe consequences for the actions that unfold; it is the kind of episode where the fate of the core characters is on the line.

With treasure from the Urca de Lima within Flint’s grasp, I knew he would reach some new level of madness but I did not anticipate how far he would go to obtain it. “XII” provides a closer look into Flint’s haunting past, and Vane’s newfound alliance with Eleanor Guthrie (Hannah New). The line in the proverbial sand has been drawn, and none of the lives in Nassau will ever be the same.

The Bluffing Game

There are a lot of little nuances and details in the plot points in “XII,” but the focus remains steady and true on Flint and Vane’s rising conflict. When Eleanor and Vane see Flint’s ship in the bay, shock and panic moves quickly among the people on the island. I particularly like Vane’s and Eleanor’s scenes when they realize Flint is aiming the ship’s guns at the fort. What surprised me isn’t Vane’s immediate suspicions about Eleanor, but his belief in her when she claims she had no part in it. Despite Eleanor’s previous dealings with Flint, her decision to aid Vane speaks volumes about the shift in her character. Call me crazy, but their peculiar partnership puts a slight spin on things, especially when someone from Eleanor’s past arrives in Nassau.

There are many great moments in “XII,” and aside from Flint and Vane’s scenes, Eleanor’s role in easing tensions is noteworthy. After Flint sends a messenger giving Vane the choice between leaving the fort or being smashed to smithereens, it is Eleanor who attempts to maintain the peace between the two men. When Vane refuses to accept defeat, Flint’s agenda doesn’t go as planned. Or maybe, in some underhanded way, this was Flint’s strategy all along. Perhaps Flint believes the only way to ensure loyalty and respect among the pirates in Nassau is to have Vane surrender to him. There’s a moment when John Silver (Luke Arnold) comments about Flint caring too much about the opinions of the people in New Providence. Silver’s remarks are a reminder of the life Flint once lived in England, a painful subject that subtly cracks his usual stoic expression. Stephens does a remarkable performance of showing a flicker of emotions in Flint’s eyes. I love seeing the evolution of Flint’s character as the season progresses when people like Eleanor act not only as a challenge to his authority, but a trigger unleashing his dark side.

Eleanor goes to great lengths to keep her dreams alive, but at what cost?

Eleanor goes to great lengths to keep her dreams alive, but at what cost?

Speaking of Eleanor, when her attempts to reason with Flint prove futile, I was surprised by her decision to ultimately side with Vane. Did Mr. Gates’ (Mark Ryan) murder disturb Eleanor so greatly she’s willing to overlook her sordid past with Vane? Or is she just acting out of a survival instinct. After all, if Flint is willing to kill a man he loved like a brother for treasure, what stands in his way of doing the same to her? At least with Vane, she has an emotional, although dysfunctional, connection. Ironically, that same connection, which protects her, may pose a problem. If it appears Vane’s feelings for Eleanor, and not fortune, are dictating his actions, he will show weakness. Vane already stood up for her when some of his men questioned her loyalty. It’s a fine line between love and greed. Vane better watch out; Eleanor might be his undoing as much as Flint.


It is refreshing to see some familiar faces again. For those wondering about Billy (Tom Hopper), who made a surprise return in episode “X,” he makes an appearance, this time in Nassau. I can’t wait to see the impact his return will have on Flint once everyone on the island knows he’s alive. But Billy isn’t the only surprise you’ll find in “XII.”

When the last scenes of the episode reach their critical point, and it appears Flint and Vane are at an impasse, Eleanor’s dreams for Nassau seem broken in two. But in a traditional Black Sails plot twist, Eleanor’s father, Richard Guthrie (Sean Cameron Michael), makes a last minute appearance. It may, however, not be for the reasons one would expect from him.

Finally, what would Black Sails be without the presence of Captain Jack Rackham (Toby Schmitz), Max (Jessica Parker Kennedy), and Anne Bonny (Clara Plaget)? The troublesome trio is really turning into quite a team. Rackham’s plans to become captain are still a main focus but it’s interesting to see how much history he and Anne have together.

Final Thoughts

Could Flint's actions lead to all out war?

Could Flint’s actions lead to all out war?

Alexander the Great is often attributed to the phrase, “An army of sheep led by a lion is better than an army of lions led by a sheep.” I think this perfectly sums up where Black Sails is going in season two. The question is—who will be the lion and who will be the sheep? For as much violence as Vane reigns down on his crew, he battles his demons and wins. I can’t help wondering whether those demons are a big part of how he has survived so long. Meanwhile, Flint continues to struggle with his own demons, using the ghosts of his past to fuel him on his journey.

What fascinates me throughout the whole exposition and look into Flint’s past is his choice to embrace his dark side while maintaining a shred of humanity. Even after locating the Urca de Lima, the obsession Flint has for the treasure appears boundless. How far is he willing to go to achieve his goal? How many people will he destroy to prove his worth? These questions are loaded as Flint meets with his crew to deliver his final course of action. It’s a moment that is simple and surprising. Who will prevail— the Flint of yesteryear or the cutthroat pirate he is today?

Black Sails isn’t merely an historical drama; it’s also a thriller with the way it maneuvers every character into a precarious position. ”XII” pulls out all the stops, and moves some very hard truths about the characters to the forefront.

As the second season of Black Sails progresses, I am enjoying the bold choices the series’ writers and producers make by expanding character development, adding moral grey areas to their individual stories. I don’t know what the producers and writers are planning for the remainder of the second season of Black Sails but they are making it extremely difficult to find flaws in the season so far. Clark Johnson’s direction of “XII” shows his skills in capturing the perfect amount of suspense and drama. Expect the unexpected when watching Black Sails because the suspense in “XII” keeps you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.

What did you think of “XII?” Post your comment below or on Twitter @conallen.

Follow the series on its official sites: http://www.starz.com/originals/blacksails/, where you can also watch videos and clips of the episodes.

Follow Black Sails on its official twitter: @BlkSails_Starz, and don’t forget the cast and crew:

@BlkSailsCreatrs, @mfernandezLA@ScrambledLuke (Luke Arnold/John Silver), @ClaraPaget (Clara Paget/Anne Bonny), @hannahnewuk (Hannah New/Eleanor Guthrie), @JParkerK (Jessica P Kenned/Max), @Zach_McGowan (Zach McGowan/Captain Vane), @fallofasparrow (Toby Schmitz/Jack Rackham), @seancmichael (Sean Cameron Michael/Richard Guthrie), and @hakeemkaekazim (Hakeem Kae-Kazim/Mr. Scott).

Like Black Sails on Facebook.

Photos: ©2015 STARZ Network. All Rights Reserved.


© 2015, Connie Allen. All rights reserved.

Connie Allen

I'm a writer, cinephile, avid reader, and pop culture enthusiast. I love historical dramas, and fantasy/sci-fi series. Currently living in SoCal.


  1. I’m probably way off, but during the Hamilton flashbacks I could feel Flint’s wheels turning. Join the pirates, start a life with Miranda at my side on Nassau. I’m in!

    Didn’t Flint kill Thomas Hamilton at Miranda’s request? Those turn of events are going to be tough to watch now that I like Thomas so much. It might make me dislike him once and for all. I want to see more!

    1. Great insight, Hank! I agree, this season is about digging up those skeletons (pun kinda intended, lol.) from Flint’s past. I guess after seeing how obsessed he was in S1 for the Urca’s treasure, it only made sense to explore it in S2. I mean, I really feel like they took all the feedback from fans and critiques then took a step back to see what they could do better. Or, hell. I don’t know maybe TPTB had this whole thing outlined and we were too impatient, lol.

      Flint is a great anti-hero is as easy to admire as much as hate, I think. With so much going on between Vane and Flint, my bet is on Rackham. He’s extremely clever, and may find himself in more of an advantage down the line b/c Flint and Vane will be distract with killing one another, lol.

      I can’t wait to see what happens next!

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