One of the best pieces of media about the Golden Age of Piracy, Starz hit television series Black Sails had it’s season 4—and series—finale last Sunday, marking the end of a groundbreaking show that had many fans eagerly awaiting to see what the showrunners had in store for Captain Flint and Long John Silver.
Major spoilers ahead!
To recap, Captain Flint’s desire for the war that will bring freedom to the pirate island of Nassau started from the grief and rage over losing the man he loved, Thomas Hamilton. Trusted friend John Silver’s desire to see his captured love Madi free and safe overwhelms his own desire for the war that Flint so desperately needs and the friendship he feels for him, no matter that Madi wants the war for her people just as much as Flint does. Their battle against Billy Bones and Governor Woodes Rogers, one driven by the betrayal of his pirate brethren, the other by the loss of his wife by his own ambitions, rages on after Rogers destroys the Walrus and murders most of the crew on board with Billy’s help. Silver and Flint’s own battle for the treasure is put on hold as they rush to help their crew.
The episode starts out with one of Silver’s men interrogating the owner of a prison farm about the unwanted people sent there by their wealthy English relatives. Silver’s man is looking for a very specific person, but we do not yet hear the name of him. Meanwhile, Silver and Flint rush to save as many as they can and receive unexpected help in the form of Jack Rackham, there to try and get the treasure for himself and to kill Flint to appease the grandmother of the late Eleanor Guthrie/Rogers in order to receive her help to take over Nassau for themselves. However, he agrees to engage against Rogers in a final altercation.
The battle that ensues takes place on all levels of the ship, Flint fighting Bones among the rigging, Rackham with his men against the redcoats on the deck, and Silver fighting his way to Madi down below. Flint sends Bones down into the ocean then helps Rackham finally defeat Rogers. Silver, after meeting the cook in a nice bit of cyclical writing, discovers that Madi is still alive and frees her in an emotional reunion. All that is left to retrieve the treasure from where Flint had buried it.
As Flint and Silver go to dig it up, Flint knows that things are not going as they should. Silver reveals that he had made arrangements earlier so that there would be no war and no more danger for the woman he loves. He returns to Madi’s island without the treasure, and without Flint. Rackham goes back to the colonies where he and Max negotiate with Lady Guthrie for the control of Nassau. Max still refuses to take a husband because of her feelings for Anne Bonny, but puts in her own people instead to become the controlling power, while Rackham dictates the story of humiliation that Rogers will face.
Madi and Silver fight about the fate of the war and Flint. She hates that he gave the war up for her as she was fighting for the memory and the future of current and former slaves such as herself, and she hates that she believes that he killed Flint. Silver then tells her that he did not kill Flint, he “unmade him”, took the rage from him by giving him back what he had lost. Thomas Hamilton was alive and at the prison farm he had sent his man to investigate and Flint was reunited with his lost love. Madi still cannot forgive him, so Silver says he will wait.
The final scenes of the show, surprisingly, focus on Rackham as he tells new recruit “Mark” Read about what had happened with Long John Silver and those connected with him. We see Billy Bones washed ashore on Skeleton Island, alone for what he’d done, Silver still waiting for Madi’s forgiveness, and Mrs. Hudson finally back with her children. Rackham and Anne are running their own totally-not-a-pirate ship (because there are no more pirates) under the blessing of new rulers of Nassau, Featherstone and Idelle and through them Max, and they unveil Rackham’s long desired legacy in the Jolly Roger flag.
The show itself is 4 seasons of great storytelling and compelling writing. As a prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson‘s Treasure Island, the writers of Black Sails did a superb job in writing a story about a war that all those familiar with the novel know would end up being a failure. That being said, they did not make the story a completely tragic one. The changed Flint’s narrative from being a failed dead man to someone who retired into obscurity to live with the peace that had long eluded him. Nassau did not get the revolution so many wanted, but it thrives under the veneer of British civilisation without the amount of bloodshed the war would have cost. Silver himself is the most tragic person in this tale: he brought about his own end, but also the end to those closest to him. He ensured he would never see Flint again, and he broke the trust between himself and Madi in denying her the war she wanted for her people and doing so much behind her back in a massive betrayal.
While definitely intended for mature audiences due to sexual and violent themes, there is something for everyone in this show. There is an excess of action and adventure and everything you would expect from it being a pirate show, romance and drama, and a lot of great costumes and weaponry that come with it being a period piece. There is an underlying theme of the greyscale of morality and how different perspectives can shape different peoples worldviews, and how those views can change over time. There are many bi/pan, interracial, and polyamorous relationships that are not villified nor even really questioned about by the “good” guys, and is never made out to be the point of the show or the characters, simply an unquestioned part of it. All in all, Black Sails is a well rounded show that stretched the imagination many times and the plot only sometimes with believable characters insofar as the universe exists.
Episodes of Black Sails can be found through Starz.