“Everyone is a monster to someone. Since you’re so convinced that I am yours, I will be it.”
Warning: Here be spoilers
Captain James Flint is just one of many monsters who have come into their prime in the second season of Black Sails, but he is by far the most compelling. The completely unexpected reveal of his homosexual love affair was not a gimmick, but a moment that brought glaring clarity to every action he has taken. The reserved, tortured, and seemingly one-dimensional villain of season one retroactively became interesting, and this facet of Flint’s character must have always been part of the plan. I applaud the restraint of the writers for not revealing it immediately. There have been perhaps too many Treasure Island prequel novels detailing Flint’s exploits, but Toby Stephens’ interpretation has become, in my eyes, the definitive version of this character.
There are so many big moments this episode, so much fan service, I’m going to have to watch it again very soon to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Seeing Charles Vane fight alongside Flint was thrilling. This version of Vane is more of a dark force of nature than a character, and I’m fine with that. Vane is the quintessential pirate, with no regrets and an insatiable appetite for death and destruction. He’s a fitting contrast for the nuanced Flint. I’m not sure how long they can last as partners, but they now have a common goal. It’s an understatement to say Jack Rackham and his gang are going to have a difficult time keeping their freshly-acquired treasure. And of course we know they can’t.
The gradual transition of John Silver from inspiring spinster to feared man who accidentally commands murder with nothing more than a dark glance has been fascinating to watch. In Treasure Island, Long John Silver was the only man Flint feared, and as of “XVIII” we see Silver closer than ever to becoming that man, even in his diminished state. While Vane is in Charleston attempting to free Flint, Silver’s dealings with the latest ambitious-but-thick-witted pirate to sit in the captain’s chair reveal a far more confident man who is falling into his new role, and maybe enjoying it more than he realizes. And then things go awry, and he’s literally hacked back into reality, bringing us that dreaded moment we all knew was coming. I’m surprised it came so soon, but relieved they didn’t draw it out like the Crispin Glover gag in Hot Tub Time Machine.
The attack on Charleston is glorious and horrific, with quick glimpses of what a cannon ball does to a human’s body. The effects are movie-quality, a marked improvement over the somewhat flawed CGI of season one. Sound design is top notch as well, with constant pistol and musket shot whizzing past, swords clanging, and the poor townsfolk screaming in terror. The slaves helping Flint kill one of their captors was a great detail, and a reminder of why so many became pirates when given the opportunity. The framing of Miranda’s coffin in the background of another big scene was perfect; Flint’s last tie to civilization forever lost as the structures of Charleston crumble around him. Black Sails can be a bit too talky, but this was visual poetry at its finest.
Jack Rackham and Anne Bonny basically bookend this episode, with nothing inbetween, but their journey is crucial, setting high stakes for season 3. One of my few complaints this season was the treatment of Anne Bonny, who spent most of it moping around feeling sorry for herself. But it was great to see her killing Jack’s attackers in the previous episode, and even better to see her finally where she truly belongs, on the deck of a ship, and I’m curious where she goes from here. I’d be fine with Black Sails recreating her capture and trial, but given the sudden death of Ned Low, it seems anything can happen.
No sign of Eleanor this episode, but I have a feeling her trial in London will be key. When pressed for information, she could be a valuable asset in undoing the pirates of Nassau.
The second season of Black Sails has improved on the first in nearly every way (characters, writing, and production in general). The only problem Starz faces now is topping this season. Casting Ray Stevenson as Blackbeard is certainly a step in the right direction. The wait is going to be painful.