Season 4, Episode 10
Air Date: Sunday, April 2, 2017 at 9PM E/P on Starz
The series finale of Black Sails, “XXXVIII,” is a brilliant masterpiece that leaves its fans a lot to ponder afterwards. I don’t think there are enough positive superlatives to describe how satisfying this episode is to watch from start to finish. In terms of finales, I couldn’t be happier with the route show creators Jonathan E. Steinberg and Robert Levine take in bringing the series to a close. I’m impressed that there are no dragged out moments within the story lines; the pacing is perfect, pairing with the action scenes flawlessly. Considering that Steinberg and Levine also wrote the episode with Steinburg directing, I’m not surprised how focused and tightly the script translates onscreen.
The Beginning of the End
One of the strengths about Black Sails is the stylistic way it tells a story. The opening sequence of “XXXVIII” shows Tom Morgan (Anton Dekker), whose name some may recognize from “Treasure Island,” seeking answers from a man who owns a plantation. When Morgan informs him he needs confirmation concerning the whereabouts of a prisoner, the scene takes a drastic turn. When the man is reluctant to give an answer, Morgan tells him he’s from Nassau and is there on behalf of “Long” John Silver (Luke Arnold). The fear in the man’s eyes shows us the true extent of Silver’s notorious reputation. Until the end of the episode, you’re left to wonder the identity of the prisoner. Is it Captain James Flint (Toby Stephens) or some other unfortunate soul?
What I appreciate the most about “XXXVIII” is that Steinberg and Levine don’t dramatically change the tone of the show or the personalities of the characters. The emphasis on character development and the way all the partnerships shift finally are addressed. Jack Rackham (Toby Schmitz) has become much more confident over the past several episodes, and “XXXVIII” shows how wise he is now. His leadership amid all the chaos happening on Skeleton Island is refreshing.
Speaking of Skeleton Island, out of all the battles that have occurred in Black Sails, nothing compares to the showdown that transpires among Captain Woodes Rogers (Luke Roberts), Rackham, and Flint. I almost jumped from my seat at the intensity of what I was watching. Steinberg’s direction of the fight scenes, which are intricate and very dynamic, reminds me of the kind of action you would find on a big movie blockbuster. I can’t imagine what the special effects and production budget was for the season, but I wonder if most of it was spent on this episode.
In direct contrast to the violence, the discord between Flint and Silver is put aside as they work to rescue Madi (Zethu Dlomo), secure the treasure, and defeat Rogers. In addition, there’s unfinished business between Billy (Tom Hopper) and Flint; Flint can’t catch a break as everyone, it seems, wants him dead. That said, I love how no matter the circumstance, Flint refuses to be intimidated by anyone, even in the face of danger. Passion and self-conviction are traits that define Flint; it’s partly why so many characters are influenced by him. When Silver and Flint reach an impasse, Flint’s response to Silver had me tearing up. Stephens’ portrayal of Flint is so raw, I couldn’t help feeling mesmerized and sympathetic for him. If you had told me two years ago I’d feel bad for Flint, I’d say you were delusional; I had a tough time getting over his betrayal of Gates (Mark Ryan).
The Legacy…and the Legend
What I find different, yet good, is the way the focus of “XXXVIII” leans heavier on the resolution of the character development more so than the basic plot itself. At the start of Stevenson’s “Treasure Island,” Flint is already out of the picture. How he dies remains vague, and it’s the ambiguity of Flint’s demise that Steinberg and Levine use to their advantage in wrapping up all the loose ends of the series.
Over the seasons, Black Sails focused on Flint’s journey; in “XXXVIII,” it ends with the rise of Silver. Silver is a complex character whose past is shrouded with half-truths that we know based on his conversations with Flint. So, imagine my doubt when it appears Silver’s solution to extracting Flint from Nassau is to reunite him with his lost love, Thomas Hamilton (Rupert Penry-Jones). Mind you, we never see Flint murdered. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Black Sails, it’s that unless you see the actual death of a character (i.e. hung, shot, decapitated) anything is possible. The problem with that conjecture is that we learn of Flint’s fate from Silver’s account. Often in a series when a character dies, we see it from the third person perspective. So I’m left to wonder whether we can trust Silver’s narrative. Adding to my theory that Silver is probably responsible for Flint’s death is the fact that he doesn’t want to lose Madi again. Flint tells Silver Madi believes in the cause, and won’t forgive Silver if he betrays Flint. I love how strong Madi is and that she’s no fool. When Silver insists he did not kill Flint, but merely sent him away, Madi’s reaction is priceless; she clearly doesn’t believe him. For a moment, I am willing to take Silver’s side until he says to Madi, “You may think what you want of me. I will draw comfort in the knowledge you’re alive to think it. I am not the villain you fear I am. I’m not him.” It’s Silver’s gift of telling tall tales that makes him a dubious character. The more Silver attempts to convince Madi of his version of events, the less I believe him. Reflecting on the scene even more, Rackham says it best, “A story is true. A story is untrue. As time extends, it matters less and less.” Whatever happened to Flint matters less as much as the legend he leaves is as an infamous pirate.
Make no mistake about it, Black Sails has set an extremely high standard for the next program that attempts to tackle the subject of pirates. What sets Black Sails apart from other series is that it is not merely about buried treasure and swashbucklers. It is an historical drama that dealt with a very unforgiving and cruel world. Black Sails is one of the most progressive shows in that it includes strong female characters and open romantic relationships. Aside from the wonderful way Black Sails ends on a high note with Rackham’s own way of forging his legacy, the performances are what seal the deal. The entire cast is in a class by themselves. Overall, I will truly miss this series that brought to life iconic literary characters while paving a way of its own.
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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Photos ©2017 Starz Media, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
© 2017, Connie Allen. All rights reserved.
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