Welcome back, Captain Vane. After being mostly in the background or absent altogether during the last couple of episodes, ‘VII.’ dedicated a large chunk of its run time to Charles and his attempts at getting a new crew together. A lot of questions were answered in the process: we learned the significance of the brand on Vane’s chest, that it signified he used to be part of a crew of pirates who had now settled down and lived legal lives of labor in the woods. The good captain sat down with their leader, the black-bearded behemoth we first saw in ‘IV.’, to discuss a mutually beneficial agreement, but we later learned it was a ruse Vane used to take over. This resulted in a fight the good captain almost won before a dirty move and a sequential string of blows rendered Charles defeated, after which he was tossed in a grave and buried. We knew this could not be the end of Captain Vane, but we could not have suspected how amazing his comeback would be: he climbed out of the grave and covered in dirt he snuck up to his enemy and killed him in cold blood. It was a brilliantly executed scene that echoed Apocalypse Now‘s demise of Colonel Kurtz and set up Vane’s next step beautifully: an attack on Nassau with a large number of men at his disposal.
Meanwhile Gates and Flint had a falling-out because of Billy’s alleged demise: Gates told Flint he would leave his crew after the treasure hunt was over. It was a rough episode for Flint: after the conversation with Gates he headed home to Mrs. Barlow who he learned had a decidedly different agenda than his. She thinks he should swallow his pride and beg for a pardon in Boston, but Flint sees this as the ultimate defeat, because according to him those people earn him an apology, not the other way around. The control Captain Flint once had over the people surrounding him is slipping and so he did what any pirate would do: drink his troubles away. But the biggest problem he’s still unaware of: Dufresne, the new Quartermaster, and a couple of other men from Flint’s crew learned of his deceptive actions and are planning to kill him once they’ve found the Urca de Lima. ‘VII.’ cleverly and assuredly raised the stakes for all the main players, all of which will come to a head in next week’s season finale.
The other parts of the episode were functional and furthered the already established storylines, but ‘VII.’ didn’t give Anne, Rackham, Mr. Scott or Eleanor much to do. Rackham had trouble running the brothel and in the end found Max in his corner, who informed him of his thieving prostitutes in the most hands-on manner. Eleanor meanwhile freed the slaves Mr. Scott had brought back from the Andromache and Mr. Scott informed her of his decision to join Captain Hornigold’s crew. Meanwhile John Silver and Randall’s storyline was fun to watch, as always providing some levity and furthering the main plot. While nothing big happened, it’s exactly this sense that all of Black Sails‘ characters have a life and go about their business, that makes the show work so well. It’s an ensemble piece focused on its characters, not necessarily on providing big and forced set pieces every week to offer something flashy for its more impatient viewers.
‘VII.’ put the pieces in place for the season 1 finale, which promises to alter the playing field quite a bit, and delivered exactly what we’ve come to expect from the show. Black Sails can pride itself on its consistent quality. 8/10