A prequel to the classic Robert Louis Stevenson novel “Treasure Island,” “Black Sails” is a pirate adventure that centres on the tales of Captain Flint, who has a reputation throughout the West Indies as being the most brilliant, most feared of all the Golden Age pirates. It’s 1715, and as Flint fights for the survival of New Providence Island — a debauched paradise teeming with pirates, prostitutes, thieves and fortune seekers — in the wake of threats from British and Spanish forces, he aligns himself with Eleanor Guthrie, daughter of the local kingpin, to hunt the ultimate prize and ensure his people’s survival. But standing in the way are rival captains, Eleanor’s intrusive father, and perhaps the bigger obstacle of all: John Silver, a young, fast-talking, authority-flouting sailor recently added to Flint’s crew.
The finale of Black Sails is here, and I am really, really, REALLY, not ready for this four-season adventure to be over. Anyone who knows me knows how obsessed I am with this TV show, and knowing that there will never be another season is upsetting.
Before diving into my review of both the finale and the show in its entirety, let me just start by saying this: ‘Black Sails’ is one of the most underrated shows ever. Whenever I mention it, the only response I seem to get is “Black Sails? What?”, which is ridiculous as the acting, directing, and all-round production is incredible, each season only getting better and better. I try my best not to compare shows but honestly this series is one that should be as highly recognised and loved as Games of Thrones or The Walking Dead.
The entire series is a masterpiece, intertwining the lives of many familiar characters known in ‘Treasure Island’. Its focus has always been on the character development of Captain Flint, but more so recently the “cook”-to-legend transformation of Long John Silver, thanks to Billy Bones (who, well, let’s just say is not the most popular character of late).
With this adventure, you never know where it is going to end up. There is always a sly trick in the works, a betrayal on the left, and a death on the right. Your favourite characters end up sacrificing themselves for the greater good *[Insert one of the most heartbreaking scenes here]*, and sometimes the deaths are so violent that you’re pulling at your hair and cringing in your seat *[Let’s try and not remember what keelhauling is]*. But what I love most about Black Sails is either everyone is a villain or no one is. It takes a lot for a show to convince you that both sides have good reasoning for their attacks, but this show really manages it. And no matter how much I try to despise characters such as Woodes Rogers or cunning and manipulative Max, I cannot thoroughly manage to because even though they have hurt (or killed) others, their reasoning seems oddly just and interesting. It’s conflicting moments such as these that keep the show together.
[Finale spoilers ahead] The finale starts several weeks before present day – before the Spanish invaded Nassau, in fact – with a man completing a task given to him by Long John Silver. A few episodes earlier, Max had mentioned how wealthy families were able to make their loved ones “disappear”, aka become nameless and start their lives over again. At hearing this, I was 100% sure I knew who to expect in the finale: Thomas – Captain Flint’s lover, who had “died” years ago after betraying his father. The death of Thomas had been the catalyst which prompted Flint’s rage, causing him to commit most of the crimes we had seen on the show, and so, surely, Thomas (and maybe Silver) would be what prevented the war from going any further.
Back in the present day, however, war is the only thing we can truly expect from the finale. Flint’s boat has been destroyed, many men have perished, and this is all due to Woodes Rogers and Billy Bones. With Rogers seeking revenge after the death of Eleanor Guthrie and his child (*which is totally his own doing, but he doesn’t seem to recognise that fact*), he will not surrender Madi – Silver’s love – until the pirates are destroyed and he returns with the gold. Chances are he would never have let Madi go anyway. But thankfully, Jack Rackham and his crew are there to save the day, more by accident than intention, as Rackham has been sent on a mission to kill Flint.
Rackham’s boat reaches the mysterious island, where the treasure is buried, just in time to save Flint, Silver and whatever crew members remain. They let them onto their ship, watching Rogers’ boat vanish as it prepares for the battle they are about to face.
At this point we do not know if Madi is alive anymore, after Bones puts a knife to her throat, believing her death to be the only way to separate Flint from Silver. She counters him, saying it will only bring them closer together – a fact which seethes under Bones’ skin as he had always been a dear friend to Silver, only to be betrayed by him.
As one boat eventually crashes into another, the moment I am most excited about is Flint vs Bones. What makes it even more exciting is the fighting takes place high up on the rigging, which reminds me of the first time Billy Bones fell into the sea in season one at the hands of Flint. Surely if he were to fall again, he wouldn’t be lucky enough to survive twice? The choreography of the fight is incredible, my personal favourite bit is where Bones stabs his knife into the sails, barely missing Flint. You can see the rage in his eyes, a rage which he has wanted to unleash most likely since we first met Bones. Flint’s downfall is all he wants, but it isn’t what he gets and he once again is consumed by the sea, falling, much to the audience’s delight. [*He survives once again, shown in the final minutes, having washed up on the island and there his story ends*].
Downstairs, Rackham is on a mission to capture Rogers, but what I’m more interested in is Silver and Madi’s reunion, if she is still alive. He ventures down into the boat where he meets a man, cowering in the corner. He puts a sword to his throat, calling him a coward, only to be met with the plea “I’m just the cook”. Everything arrives full circle when this line is uttered. John Silver finally meets himself, four seasons on. Having impersonated a cook within Season 1, Episode 1, it just exemplifies how far he has truly come since being nothing more than a coward with a map.
Madi is found alive *[thank God because she is one of the strongest female leads on the show next to Anne Bonny*], and the team Flackham push Rogers and his crew into submission, winning. For all the time spent on the brewing battle between Woodes Rogers and the pirates, I didn’t believe they’d be defeated so easily, but I was content knowing my favourite characters were safe. Part of me was worried Rackham would not make it to the end of the series, but luckily he did, and I’m positive Vane and Teach would be proud of that [*RIP*].
The only thing that matters now is to secure the buried chest, which everyone had been fighting over since Silver stole the map in the first episode or so. And there holds another division: Flint and Madi vs Silver and Rackham. The latter (mainly Silver) wants no more fighting, or the constant fear of losing his love, whereas Flint wishes to continue with his reckless-almost-suicidal-rage of “watching the world burn”. Madi is by his side, not because she enjoys disagreeing with Silver, but because she hears “a chorus of voices” compelling her to seek revenge on men who have made slaves of her people.
With Madi sent away, it leaves Silver and Flint to argue with each other over what is right and what is wrong. Both believe in their cause, and neither has been anything other than stubborn over the years. With Flint refusing to show Silver the treasure until he finds out his real motive, Silver confesses he cannot do this anymore. He says that he does not care if the pirate name is forever tarnished and they are known only as monsters in the dark, instead of rebels fighting for a worthy cause. Flint tries to use Madi’s beliefs against him, but this time Silver will not budge. He says he will wait “an hour, a day, a year” until Flint sees it his way, and pulls out a gun.
The scene cuts – we do not know if Flint is dead, or alive, or captured.
And this is where the ending of the show brings us some warmth. Part of me is upset that the battle Madi and Flint worked so hard for does not happen. But another part of me loves a bunch of happy endings, especially when such doom and gloom is expected.
Confronting Madi with the truth that the treasure is gone and the war will not continue, Madi believes Silver killed Flint, but this is far from true. He reveals to her that Flint has resigned, that he is no longer the monster he once was. That he did not kill Flint, or persuade Flint to accept his reasoning, but reached in and found James McGraw – the man he once was when he met Thomas for the first time. Silver reveals that Thomas is not dead, and that Flint can once again be reunited with him. And that is exactly what happens. Flint is taken to Thomas, they embrace and kiss, and all the hatred Flint once felt burns out seeing his love once again. Madi is appalled, and tells him to leave, but he says he will remain on the island “an hour, a day, a year…forever” for her. [*This repetition made me squeal a little bit as it shows he cares deeply for her and Flint*]
With James Flint and Thomas Hamilton reunited, Anne Bonny and Jack Rackham readying their boat with a new flag, Max being Max, and John Silver met by Madi on a cliff top [*a sign that she may have forgiven him*], the ending to Black Sails is peaceful and moving. It draws away from the sad and true history of Rackham, Bonny, and (for those nerds who recognised the character thrown in at the end) Mary Read. And I think that is exactly what I wanted.
Goodbye Black Sails – you will always have a place in my heart(y).
Setting: – New Providence Island, 1715
Favourite characters: – James Flint, Madi, Anne Bonny, John Silver, Woodes Rogers (Even I’m not sure why I like Woodes Rogers)
Hated characters: – Miranda Barlow, Billy Bones, Eleanor Guthrie
Favourite quote from the show: – “Odysseus, on his journey home to Ithaca, encounters a ghost. The ghost tells him that once he reaches his home, once he slays all his enemies and sets his house in order he must do one last thing before he can rest. The ghost tells him to pick up and oar, and walk inland, and keep walking until someone mistakes that oar for a shovel. For that will be the place that no man had ever been troubled by the sea. In the end that’s all I want, to walk away from the sea and find some peace.” – James Flint
Favourite quote from the finale: – “I’m just the cook” –