Black Sails Season 3 has been filed to the brim of its pirate hat with twists (Jack’s trickery with the gold) and shockers (RIP Charles Vane) in between sedate book club discussions and cravat-wearing. Before the season ends on the 26th, in what is sure to be an explosive finale, let’s take a look back at the biggest moments so far.

1. Blackbeard’s entrance

Black Sails has always excelled at character introductions — recall “Charles Vane, of the Ranger” — but Blackbeard’s first scene is something special, even for this show. His eyes appear first, followed by his calm and measured voice. Then he slowly turns around… and breaks out in sudden violence. All the while, he never raises his voice or breaks a sweat. He calmly entreats his ship to Nassau. It sets the tone for the entire season: sedate yet ominous, building to a spectacular explosion.

2. Silver’s confession about the gold

This season has been an astounding feat of character development for John Silver. He’s gone from bumbling thorn in Flint’s side to his closest confidante — and a formidable pirate in his own right. “He’s a guy who’s always had one leg out the door, and then they cut it off,” Luke Arnold told Inverse. “He didn’t care what anyone thought of him. But there’s a pride in him that’s developing.”

Pride and balls of steel, which we see in the third episode. In one of the tensest moments of the season, out of sheer desperation for Flint to respect him, he confesses his Season 2 duplicity with the gold and waits to see how Flint will respond. His gamble pays off and the moment brings them closer, but it feels touch-and-go for a few beats. 

3. “Paul…something or other”

When all of Nassau is pursuing the bounty on Charles Vane’s head, the original Ranger crew — Vane, Jack Rackham, and Anne Bonny — are forced to take refuge in the fort. Outside, men call for them to give up Vane. Jack opens the door and, without a word, shoots a particularly obnoxious reward seeker point-blank before shutting it once more. Vane asks if he knew him, and Rackham responds, “Paul…something or other.” It’s the season’s most hilarious moment, and as Toby Schmitz told Inverse, “it’s one of the butcher things we’ve seen Jack do onscreen.”

It demonstrates just how far Rackham would go for Vane, and it reveals different side of him.

4. The Fire Ships

The fire ships not only present a spectacular (and historically accurate!) action scene, they show that once and for all, Charles Vane is underestimated as a thinker. He’s always been more straightforward than virtually any other character. “It’s not like he’s trying to connive his way through a situation” Zach McGowan told Inverse. “He’s usually going, ‘This is how I feel about that,’ and someone tries to fight him and he ends up winning.”

That, coupled with his savagery in battle, often causes other characters (and the audience) to underestimate his intelligence. But here, he proves that he’s capable of seeing the bigger picture and placing tactics over his emotions. Also, it looks cool.

5. Flint’s speech to take back Nassau

In the first half of Season 3, we see a different side of Flint: He cries in his office, appears unbalanced to his men, and is resigned to die in the Maroon camp. We once said he was a Macbeth figure, and it seems like he’s at the hopeless “tomorrow” stage. But just when we think the iron-willed pirate is no more, Silver encourages him into his best soliloquy yet.

Though his plan to reclaim Nassau is improbable, it’s no surprise that hundreds of people instantly agree to follow him. In Season 1, he tells a skeptical Billy “I am your king,” and it’s never been truer than it is here.

6. The duel and Vane’s intervention

The Blackbeard and Flint duel was building all season, and the sequence did not disappoint. It’s a feast both for our inner teeneager who watches Black Sails for cool pirate shit — swords! lines in the sand! standoffs! — and for the culture snob who watches a sophisticated period drama for clashing ideas about what a pirate should stand for.

It also shows how Charles Vane’s principles always jump in at the most unexpected times to result in unpredictable plot turns.

7. Rackham’s big play with the gold

Like his “Paul…something or other” moment, Jack’s play with the gold demonstrates his competence as a pirate in a different way. Previously, he’s been a bumbling figure. He’s intelligent but too short-sided to plan like Silver or be as tactical as Flint. But as he coolly manipulates Woodes Rogers and sends a secret message to Anne, it underscores two things: Rackham is a more competent pirate than he seems, and never bet against Anne Bonny.

8. Silver’s peg-leg curb stomp

Until this episode, our most vivid memory of Silver and violence is the beginning of Season 2, when he and Flint commandeer the Spanish warship. He says to Flint, “I really have to fight?” and Flint responds, “what the fuck did you think was going to happen?!” It’s a great scene, but it doesn’t exactly leave an impression that Silver has much prowess with the more hands-on aspect of the lifestyle. But that changes in episode 7, when Dufresne challenges him and he retaliates with a lethal curb-stomp. His own men turn the tale into legend almost immediately, and the smirking trickster from Season 1 is gone for good.

Luke Arnold told Inverse, “If I decide to retire as an actor after this show, having done the scenes in that, I’m going to be happy.”

9. The carriage chase

The carriage chase scene — filmed in a continues shot, throwing the audience into the chaos of the attack — is one of the show’s most thrilling action sequences to date. As Zach McGowan told Inverse, “I was pushing to do that horse stuff, and they were like, ‘No one’s doing that!’ Our producer said, “You’re aware that this is a horse and there are many horses behind you?” I said, ‘Yes!’ I felt like that sequence would just be bullshit if we were all in masks and no one was riding.” It’s fair to say the sequence was far from bullshit.

10. Charles Vane meets the noose

In the biggest “holy shit” twist of the entire series, Black Sails axes its most dynamic character. He goes out like a true boss, igniting a revolution with his final epic speech. When he shakes his head at Billy, discouraging his rescue, Zach McGowan told Inverse, “He was thinking, more than anything, that he could show that these people are wrong. Let them do it, let everyone see how brutal civilization really is — because civilization is always calling the pirates brutal.”

We once compared Black Sails to Game of Thrones, and this is up there with the Red Wedding as a scene that’s gutting to watch.

The season finale is tomorrow night on Starz. It’s hard to imagine how it can upstage any of these moments — but if Black Sails continues its track record with finales, it’s inevitable.