Black Sails is a show full of scheming, reversals of fortune, and general skullduggery. Each week, we’ll break down the conniving, betraying, ass-kicking, and unexpected alliances as they emerge. Let’s dive into Season 3, Episode 7: “XXV.”
Who is top dog?
This episode is about mirrored identities: Max confesses to Eleanor that she used to hate her, but now she is her; Rogers and Flint acknowledge their similarities; Madi contemplates her rivalry with Eleanor, despite their past as childhood playmates; and Silver channels Season 2 Vane when he says, “those men will hear from us again.”
Remember Season 1, when we wondered if Silver was either miscast or the show didn’t grasp the character? That 18th century boyband-esque smirker was supposedly the hardcore motherfucker who eventually made Flint shake in his boots? This guy?
Our doubting days were funny, weren’t they? Luke Arnold did tell Inverse this episode was a big one for Silver, but even that was an understatement.
We’ve seen the wily Silver grow more confident in the pirate world, but now he’s exploiting another side of piracy: violence. In this case, using his peg-leg to curb stomp slimy traitor Dufresne. This sequence invites us into his mind, but simultaneously keeps Silver at an enigmatic distance. The close focus on his face betrays his hesitation — and his realization that he will lose the room if he doesn’t act.
But during the act, he’s also inscrutable and foreign to us. By the time he says, “My name is John Silver. And I’ve got a long fucking memory,” he’s just as magnetic as Flint has ever been during his speeches. Now that’s how to do character development.
Who is utterly screwed?
Despite Rackham’s ingenious move last episode, he hasn’t really planned his escape from Roger’s clutches. Still, his Hannibal Lecter scene, once again, fulfills a need we didn’t know we wanted — until we got it. I don’t think anyone would complain if there were an entire episode in which Rackham snarkily psychoanalyzes every character from the a prison cell. That could be it, and it would still be great.
Pirate-Gangster is the new Buddy-Cop
Just as we’d laugh in Season 1 if somebody told us, “Silver will be hardcore in just two seasons,” it would sound similarly preposterous to say: “Anne and Vane’s devious plan is great.” Watching these two conspire is as delightful as watching Rackham discuss books with Rogers. First, because it’s surprising, since both are too straightforward for conspiring. Everyone else is a schemer; Anne and Vane tell it like it is. Neither has the temperament or the inclination for trickery, which is why they’re two of the most compelling characters: They might not be the most eloquent, but they bring something to the table nobody else — not even Flint —brings. They’re the pure pirate ids.
That brings us to the second merit of their short — arguably the episode’s best —scene: They’re birds of a feather, but we haven’t seem them talk much. In fact, this is first time we’ve really seen Anne interact with anyone other than Rackham or Max.
Her trickery works on the viewers (and British officers) precisely because it’s unexpected. It’s convincing when she seemingly loses her grasp of the situation, as she’s not someone who ever really has control in the first place. The Anne on Black Sails has been vicious, and her quieter Season 2 arc was lovely in its own right. That said, she hasn’t truly shown us the Anne Bonny yet: the pirate queen of legend. But when Vane fades in behind her and Anne says, “You better be right about this,” we begin to really see her. You would not want to be the army facing these two.
The most unexpectedly eloquent
John Silver and Flint’s conversation on the ship confirms Silver’s atmospheric rise. Against all reason, these two have become each other’s closest confidantes, and their journey has been a spectacular feat of character development. When they connect over “playing the part,” it seems as though they’re on the same wavelength. Although Silver’s face was guarded during his act, we begin to think we understand his mindset. Like Flint, he’s scared of the man he’s becoming.
But then, when he says “how good it feels,” it’s such an unexpected turn, he induces genuine chills. This is the motherfucker from Treasure Island, who caused Billy Bones’s stroke with the mere suggestion that he’s looking for him. John Silver isn’t a cowardly little thief anymore or even a surprisingly compassionate quartermaster. He’s something entirely new.
The most intriguing hostility
Flint and Rogers’ conversation is every bit as tense and riveting as Flint’s duel with Blackbeard. And just like that scene, it has three acts — each with a clear victor. In act one, Rogers gains the upper hand simply by halting Flint’s recruitment plans on the beach. In act two, he antagonizes Flint by mentioning Thomas Hamilton. He can see on Flint’s face that he said erred, but he can’t figure out what. Flint gains traction, then, with his rail against England.
For the rest of the dance, Flint backs him into a corner and Rogers can’t gain traction. In Act 3, the men establish themselves as enemies on equal footing, albeit with a certain level of mutual respect. They understand each other in a way that nobody else does — even as the lines are drawn in the sand. Flint is as captivating as ever in this scene: In quick succession, his face flits from startled (when Rogers mentions Thomas Hamilton), to guarded, to wryly amused, to cocky.
As they part ways, Flint once again rests at his usual low-simmering rage. Their meeting reaffirms that Black Sails, more than any other series, excels at grey areas in which nobody is a hero or a villain — yet still maintaining high stakes and the air of an old-fashioned adventure yarn turned on its head. It’s a heady and impressive alchemy.
Stray nuggets of gold
- Vane’s “For those of you who live to see tomorrow, know that you had a choice,” remains the most badass line in the show’s history, but “My name is John Silver and I’ve got a long fucking memory” might be a close second.
- Suggesting a swap of Flint for Silver (“No ghost story I’ve ever heard begins with a ghost introducing himself”), Billy not only asserts himself as Black Sails’s most underrated comedian; but he also shows he’s savvy. It’s easy to forget he can be just as crafty as Rackham and Silver when he wants to be (remember his Season 2 trickery with Dufresne and the pardons?).
- In Season 1, recall that when we’re first introduced to Max and Eleanor as a couple, Max mentions that Eleanor is paying her for it. Max has been morphing into Eleanor in various ways all season. Now, by accepting the company of a paid companion of her own, her transformation into Season 1 Eleanor is nearly complete.
- Was anyone else oddly disappointed that Idelle wasn’t the one to get the Madame promotion? Idelle deserves it. This episode really shows her evolution from a comic-relief background character into the show’s most interesting lady, save for Anne.
- The odd-couple trifecta of Idelle, Featherstone, and Vane is also golden. When Idelle and Featherstone get their own spin-off sitcom, Vane needs to be their surly neighbor.