So 'Black Sails' Killed Charles Vane and You're Pondering Rage-Quitting
For all the 'Black Sails' fan torn up about Vane's death, I hear you. Here's why you should keep watching.
If you are a fan of Black Sails, it’s safe to assume you’re still recovering from the most recent episode. You might even be so distraught that you’re considering a rage-quit of the show. Rage-quitting is what happens when you feel betrayed by a form of entertainment that once brought you joy, and thus you swear off it. The most common instigator is the axing of your favorite character. This is familiar territory to fans of shows like Game of Thrones, any of Joss Whedon’s work, or The 100. Now, after Charles Vane has met the noose, Black Sails fans are getting their first real taste of it.
Before I tell you why this doesn’t merit a rage-quit, let’s get one thing straight: Charles Vane was my favorite too. I watched the episode twice to prepare for my discussion with Zach McGowan, and I still ugly-cried the second time. For someone who analyzes the show, his brain was the most fun to pick. While other characters are schemers and talkers; driving the plot in chess-moves, Vane barreled his way through it with unpredictable game-changing actions. But no matter how crazy they seemed, you could always trace them back to his psyche. He was dynamic, intriguingly idealistic, and he was always game for a batshit insane plan. Hell, I wrote an oddly prophetic accidental eulogy a few months ago about how great he was. His death is a profound loss to the show. But I’m going to keep watching. Why?
Because Black Sails is still better than 95% of other shows
It’s entirely possible that Black Sails won’t be as good without Charles Vane. I explained why in my review. That being said, Black Sails was better than 98% of other shows. As a relative term, “Not as good” still means that it will be better than 95% of other shows.
Week in and week out, Black Sails has some of the best writing, acting, and storytelling on TV. As it demonstrated in the carriage road chase sequence, it knows when to go full-throttle with action and when to pull back with quieter two man play dialogue scenes. Removing Vane is a blow, but so long as Rackham, Flint, and Silver are still around, it will still have the most compelling dialogue scenes on TV. And so long as Anne and Rackham are around, it will have the most nuanced and unique relationships.
Even though Vane drove the majority of the action, recall the Flint and Silver ship heist at the beginning of Season 2. It’s unquestionably one of the show’s best sequences, and Black Sails was able to deliver it without Vane’s involvement.
Because this isn’t a matter of philosophy
Fans of Game of Thrones rage-quit the show after the creators used rape as a plot crutch a few times too many. Fans of The 100 recently rage-quit after it indulged in the television cliche of axing a queer character. In both instances, viewers felt that the creators of these shows were at odds with their worldviews.
Now, thinking Charles Vane needs to stay alive can certainly be considered a personal philosophy, but it’s not a philosophy in the same way as your views on sexuality or how a show should treat its audience. His death is tragic, but it doesn’t actively clash with any particular view or cast the show’s creators in a different light.
Because this is risky as hell
On a purely mercenary level, killing off Charles Vane was not a good idea. He was the fan favorite character, essentially a combination of the show’s Tyrion and Jon Snow — and even Game of Thrones, with its high death toll, knows not to touch Tyrion or Jon (for good) because the internet’s rage would be too mighty.
If Black Sails wasn’t aware of how loved Vane is, that would be a problem, because it would suggest a disconnect between show and audience. But several producers, actors, and writers have addressed it on Twitter with “keep watching” sentiments. They know this makes you want to quit, and they get it.
If they know it would cost them viewers, that makes it risky as hell. But it also makes it interesting as hell, because it means whatever story they aim to tell, they value their narrative above all else. If they cared only about ratings, they would keep Vane around forever, even if he no longer had anything to do and was relegated to more lumberjack adventures (I will get over that someday, I promise). Killing the fan-favorite character with full knowledge of the level of rage it incites is incredibly ballsy storytelling — and if they think it’s worth it, then it’s worth sticking around to see where this story goes. For curiosity alone, if nothing else.
Because Flint and Silver
Mild Treasure Island spoiler, it’s safe to say Flint and Silver will not be knocked off before the end, because there would be no show. And so long as these two are still interacting, Black Sails will always have riveting scenes, stellar acting, and engrossing dialogue.
Because fights will still be good
Charles Vane’s fights were a true joy to watch. Maybe it’s because Zach McGowan does his own stunts, so it added to the viewing experience to know we weren’t watching a stuntman, or maybe it’s because Vane’s fighting style fits his character so well. Regardless, nobody else on TV fights like Vane, and his feral approach will be missed.
But Black Sails excels at tailoring each fight to suit characters’ personalities. Silver isn’t a fighter, yet watching him curb-stomp Dufresne was as thrilling and badass as any Vane fight. It’s also not Jack’s forte, but recall his Season 2 sloppy victory over that captain who challenged him. If Silver or Jack suddenly started fighting like Vane, that wouldn’t make sense for their characters — but they don’t need to. And if you’re wistful for a vicious style, there’s still Anne Bonny.
Because there will be more abs
It is a truth universally acknowledged that all cable shows dabble in a certain amount of “because we can” nudity. And on Black Sails, a show that keeps its gender ratio balanced, it is a truth universally acknowledged that for every woman they showed, Black Sails would then say, “Quick, Vane, take off your shirt and start smashing rocks! It doesn’t matter what your smashing technique is, just do it! Bonus points if you can simultaneously ponder your tormented past!”
If an alien visiting earth wanted to know about human hobbies and read the comments on the the Black Sails Facebook page (because why wouldn’t they?), they might walk away with the conclusion that Charles Vane is some sort of deity. If you do any cursory googling, you’ll find that he has more twitter accounts, blogs, tumblrs, Pinterest boards, and probably some Myspace pages in his honor than any other character.
If you are an owner of one of these pages, commenter of one of these posts, or perhaps you have a voice-fetish and you’re distraught that no man in the real world sounds like that — including Zach McGowan and Tom Hardy, another frequent practitioner of the whisper-growl technique —you are especially distressed by the prospect of no longer seeing Charles Vane on your screen.
But because Black Sails is nothing if not conscientious about its gender ratios, I bet the Urca gold that it will find another candidate for its Chosen Abs. And whomever they nominate might not lounge in Vane’s relaxed yet vaguely murderous way, squinting off into a middle distance like he’s philosophizing about death, freedom, and his cold-hearted lost love — but he will have his own charm. Though on second thought, this might be the toughest area to appease. Whoever is the show’s next Chosen Abs should probably start working on his pack-a-day voice.
Because only the good die young
Just because Charles Vane is dead, it doesn’t mean he still can’t be your favorite. Stories have been axing their most dynamic characters going back to antiquity, from Hector and Achilles to Shakespeare’s Mercutio to Sirius Black to the Starks. If anything, axing a beloved character only preserves their glory — because it’s better to burn out than fade away.
Though history says Vane was in his thirties, it wasn’t specified on Black Sails. And if it makes you feel better, just think of him as the original member of the 27 club. He was certainly the rock star of Black Sails, with his necklace bling, his effortlessly cool aura, and his lead-singer swagger. His time was short, but man did he burn bright while he lasted.
Hanging Charles Vane is a hit, but it’s not one the show has taken lightly. Black Sails has been firing all cylinders with some of the best writing, plotting, and characterization on TV — and though this is a tragedy, it never claimed to be a happy story. Whenever you find yourself hankering for Vane, the first three seasons are still there to re-watch. Now get on with it, motherfuckers.