Thursday, March 31, 2016

It’s All About Silver in the “Black Sails” Season Finale!

After this season’s first episode, I wrote that “On Black Sails, the Seeds of Treasure Island are Beginning to Grow.” Having watched the season finale twice, I think my initial observation was quite accurate. Above all things, this season was about the transformation of Long John Silver into the notorious pirate of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale.

Is Silver now the star of the show?
If Season One was about introducing us to the various pirates of Nassau and the still-important Urca gold, and Season Two was devoted to Flint’s backstory and motivations, Season Three belonged to Silver. As proof, all you need to look at is the brilliant dialogue between Flint and Silver that ran through the entire season finale.

It began, after burying the cache of gems, with Silver wanting to know what really happened to Flint to set him down this path:
“I told Billy that your darkest thoughts somehow had the ability to manifest themselves upon our reality. Your anger over the murder of Ms. Barlow became the storm into which we all battled. Your despair over her death became the doldrums into which we all sank. In my defense, I had not had anything to eat or drink in a while. But the truth of it, I’m not sure it was far off. Your demons are a part of our reality. Such is the nature of the influence you wield. Some of those demons I’ve come to know, but the one in whose name this war is to be fought is still a stranger to me. Before this war actually begins, I’m asking where it actually began.”
Flint tells him, ending with a line evincing Flint’s noble – and even heroic – intentions. Explaining what he felt after his relationship with Lord Thomas Hamilton was exposed and scandalized, Flint says: “That was the day on some level I knew that England was broken and that sooner or later a good man must resist it.”

Is Flint the noble hero?
That’s what’s driving Flint – to stand up against England and avenge the deaths of Thomas and Miranda. But Silver doesn’t really care. All he cares about is that everyone close to Flint ends up dead:
“Before today I knew of two people who managed to truly know you. To gain your trust, to be your partner. And they both ended up dead while playing the role. . . . Now you’re telling me there’s a third member of this class, making it even less credible to characterize Mr. Gates and Mrs. Barlow’s deaths as bad luck. It would seem that those closest to you meet their end, not just during the relationship but because of it. And as I sit here I’m acutely aware there maybe no one closer to you in the world right now than I.”
Flint is surprised. “What exactly are you saying?” he asks. “That I have somehow sought out my own tragedies?” Then he says, “So you see yourself as a potential fourth member of this class? Concerned that your association with me will lead to your end?” That’s when Silver lays down the gauntlet:
“My association with you began out of necessity, but I’ve come to find a great deal of respect for you. Perhaps even friendship. . . . Which is why I find myself unnerved by the thought that when this pattern applies itself to you and I, that I will be the end of you.”
Flint raises a brow. He’s skeptical, but Silver’s not done. He’s become a superior leader to Flint, and wants Flint to know it. Silver reveals that he entrusted Mr. Dobbs (whom Silver had disciplined a few episodes back) to play a key role in the pirates’ battle plan by leading the British into a trap. Flint immediately questions Silver’s decision: “Why would you do that to a man harboring such resentment?” You have to love Silver’s response:
“Because it isn’t resentment. If you had disciplined him, he’d resent you for it. But towards me, I don’t believe he feels resentment. I believe he feels shame for having disappointment me. And a great need to redeem himself in my eyes. . . .
“I once thought that to lead men in this world, to be liked was just as good as feared. And that may very well be true. But to be both liked and feared all at once is an entirely different state of being. In which I believe at this moment, I exist alone. The men need to know they’re in good favor with me. They need it. And there is nothing they won’t do to make sure they have it. Mr. Dobbs will do what I ask of him.”
Now that’s the Long John Silver of Stevenson’s Treasure Island! Even better, though, is Flint’s response, which promises an epic fourth season of Black Sails:
“Let us say there is some merit to your argument. Let us say that Mr. Dobbs will do what you ask of him. I will have to admit in that case the world has shifted beneath our feet in a most startling way. But in terms of our future and the danger that you believe you may pose to me, bear this in mind. I survived starvation, tempest, pirate hunters, just captains, mutinous crews, angry lords, a queen, a king, and the goddamned British navy. So to whatever extent you may be concerned that someday we will clash, worried that though today we be friends, someday you’ll have no choice but to be my enemy, I won’t worry too much.”
In other words, challenge accepted! This dialogue made the episode, but there was a lot more to like about the finale, including Jack telling Blackbeard to “Raise the Black”; some of the best Ann Bonny scenes ever; and, last but not least, RIP Capt. Hornigold!

As for Eleanor Guthrie, whose decisions this season have been a frequent subject of this blog, it looks like we’ll need to wait for Season Four to see what happens to her. Although given the introduction of the infamous “black spot” and Billy Bones’ actions on the island, I think we know what to expect.

Did Billy Help Create a Legend?
Yet in the end, it still came back to Silver. As Billy is creating a fictional villain to scare the pirates of Nassau into revolt, he ultimately decides to use the name of Long John Silver instead. Then he offers this preview of what’s to come:
“When he’s ready, he’ll step into the role we’ve created for him and lead an impossible army into an unwinnable war. And win it.”
It’s too bad we have to wait nine months before Black Sails returns. But fortunately, we’ll have Outlander and Game of Thrones to help get us through!

* Images courtesy of Starz


Bill said...

The several hundred yard underwater swim to capture a English ship and rout the fleet was a bit of a "bridge too far" for me, I'm afraid.

I agree about Silver's development being the most promising part.

How in the world did such incompetents ever create a globe spanning empire?

Joseph Finley said...

Bill, thanks for the comment. Yes, it seems Anne Bonny is a veritable mermaid when it comes to swimming long distance to capture British warships! But I love her character, so I was happy to overlook that.