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Mar 21 2015

Black Sails – “XVII” Retrospective. You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet!

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John Silver is once again pushing his luck as his plans begin to unravel.

John Silver is once again pushing his luck when his plans begin to unravel.

Season 2, Episode 9

Airdate: Saturday, March 21, 2015, 9/8c on Starz

Rating:

I am emotionally spent after watching the latest installment of Black Sails. I can barely find the right words to describe my feelings, but one thing is sure—“XVII” blows you away. You need to view it twice just to wrap your head around all the intense events that take place. As the penultimate episode of the season, “XVII” sets the stage for plenty of riveting moments and unforgettable action sequences that leave you in awe. As Captain Flint (Toby Stephens) and Miranda (Louise Barnes) negotiate the terms for Nassau’s future with Lord Ashe (Nick Boraine), Captain Vane (Zach McGowan) lies in wait with his crew in Charles Town, seeking the right opportunity to wreak havoc. Meanwhile, far away in New Providence, Eleanor (Hannah New) comes to terms with the death of her father, Richard Guthrie (Sean Michael Cameron), and the responsibility she now faces alone. As all the pieces of the main story lines come together— from the newfound dangers John Silver (Luke Arnold) faces to what Flint decides about Ashe—death finds its way into the story again; indeed, some even redefine the series as a whole.

It Ain’t Easy Being a Guthrie

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Eleanor takes care of business by hook or by crook.

The opening sequence of “XVII” is a rather somber one as the camera pans over Richard’s corpse as it is being prepared for his wake. Maybe it’s because we never see the kind of torture Richard endured before his death, but everything from his capture to the discovery of his body has been in some ways quiet, making his final words to Eleanor even more impactful. And maybe that was the intent because when we see Eleanor, she is dressed in black. I appreciate the attention to detail with Eleanor’s wardrobe, with its change in design while staying true to the style of her usual cream colored shirts. Although she doesn’t mourn her father outright with endearing words, the look on her face and the cold tone in her voice speak volumes. As people offer their condolences, Eleanor’s expression indicates her lack of interest. But when Max (Jessica Parker Kennedy) arrives with a basket of fruit from the girls in the brothel, Eleanor explains her theory about the overwhelming number of visitors to the bar. I love New’s performance in this scene; she speaks with such confidence that is wrapped in bitterness. Max’s reaction, the subtle fear in her eyes, is something I haven’t seen her show Eleanor before. When Max leaves, she runs into Jack Rackham (Toby Stephens) and just when you think they may get away with their plans to retrieve the Urca de Lima’s gold, the camera cuts to a great shot of Eleanor’s deadpan stare at them from the view of her office.

Eleanor is probably one of the tougher characters in Black Sails but even she shouldn’t underestimate any enemies, past or present, especially when several pirates from her past try to change the course of her best laid plans.

Pirates and Pardons

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Flint lays everything on the line with Miranda by his side. Will the gain be worth the risk?

The dream Flint aspires to fulfill is one wrought with so much pain and sacrifice. Other than Eleanor, I don’t think many other characters in Black Sails have been as obsessed as Flint. There’s a great tension throughout the scenes Flint and Miranda share with Ashe. Despite the civil interaction the trio share, I can’t help but feel it’s a ruse of some kind, especially when Ashe’s right hand man Colonel Rhett (Lars Arentz-Hansen) remains in close proximity. Trust me, Rhett is trouble.

I particularly love the way director Lukas Ettlin crafts the scenes in the Ashe household, particularly the cool dim lighting and his choice of wide angle camera shots. Music is largely absent, making the viewer hang onto every word, soaking in the background sounds while Flint and Miranda discuss their past—a poignant scene that makes the latter events in “XVII” tragic.

When it seems there is almost an impasse in deciding how to convince England to pardon the pirates in Nassau, Ashe recommends Flint not only reveal his true identity but his relationship with Thomas Hamilton (Rupert Penry-Jones) as well. The news shocks Miranda, but what I didn’t expect is Flint’s agreement—at first. As Flint shakes Ashe’s hand, Miranda recalls vital information from the past, due to something Ashe has in his possession. What transpires next escalates so quickly with angry words that it ends in disaster.

You’re Not in Nassau Anymore                                                         

There has been a lot of action in the second season of Black Sails, but nothing really compares to the moment when Vane raids the Spanish Man O’War with all of Flint’s men on board. While many lives are lost, it’s the final confrontation between Billy Bones (Tom Hopper) and Vane that grabs your attention. Hopper and McGowan are amazing as they battle brutally toe-to-toe with equal force, making it impossible to figure out the outcome. We also finally see Silver at his best, scheming his way as a means of survival but if there is any testimony to his ingenuity, it’s when he gains the upper hand on the person you’d least expect.

Surprisingly, it’s not the action in “XVII” that makes the story lines between Flint, Silver, and Billy so critical; it’s Billy’s ability to reason with Vane, making the point that despite their mutual hatred for Flint, the British Navy is the real enemy. Vane contemplates the idea, taking Billy’s words to heart even if his actions suggest otherwise. Writers Brad Caleb Kane, who worked on the teleplay, and Dan Shotz, who created the story, are masterful in shaping the story to match the action sequences for full emotional impact.

Final Thoughts

Black Sails pulls out the big guns this week with “XVII” using unflinching violence and story lines that leave you in total suspense. The “judgment” Flint speaks of in “XVI” comes to fruition in “XVII” showing the price Eleanor pays for her ruthlessness. The episode’s continuity is strong and amid all the action, “XVII” still manages to touch on the state of Anne Bonny (Clara Plaget) who was absent in last week’s episode.

Overall, I am nervous to see how the season concludes, not because I have any doubts about the quality, but because I am expecting a blood bath. It’s hard to say goodbye to certain characters, but it’s even more nerve wracking to see the kind of chaos left in the wake of their departure. For sure, the season two finale of Black Sails will be epic.

Tune in to the season finale of Black Sails Saturday, March 28 at 9/8c, only on Starz.

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

Follow the series on its official site: 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,  @TobyStephensInV (Captain James Flint/Toby Stephens), @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). @youngmeganne_(Meganne Young/ Abigail Ashe).

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.
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About the author

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.

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