Friday, February 10, 2017

On “Black Sails,” Israel Hands Adds Another Link to Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island”

I’ve been travelling the past seven days, so I just caught up on the latest episode of Black Sails. I’ll admit, a grin spread across my face when I realized who had captured Long John Silver.

Silver is the craftiest character on Black Sails, and once again his “silver” tongue saves his bacon after he’s captured by a weathered pirate living among the wreckage of an old ship. The pirate wants to sell Silver to the British, until Silver talks him out of it after recognizing who his captor is – a man who suffered a peculiar injury at the hands of Edward Teach, also known as Blackbeard.

That man, Silver concludes, is Israel Hands, and suddenly the entire set up proved once again how brilliantly the show’s writers are sewing together this prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. Hands is an important character in Treasure Island, but he’s also one of Stevenson’s few characters who was actually a real-life pirate. 

Hands, as the show revealed, was Teach’s second in command. Historically, Hands is known for having been shot (but not killed) by Teach during a fit of rage. Hence that unique scar below his eye on the show (though by historic accounts, the bullet only pierced Hand’s knee). Hands’ notoriety grew tenfold when Stevenson made him one of Long John Silver’s pirates in Treasure Island. So it’s fitting on Black Sails that Silver has turned Hands from his captor to a deadly ally, as his attack on Max’s men proved last Sunday. 

I’ve always wondered if we’d ever see Israel Hands on the show. The emergence of Blackbeard last season suggested we would, but now it’s happened. And the links between Black Sails and Treasure Island only continue to grow.

* Images courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes.

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