The swashbuckling pirates, cunning whores and boatload of Spanish gold are back for the second season of Starz’ Black Sails.
Season 2 of Black Sails picks up where the season finale of the first left off – on the shore littered with Urca de Lima gold. The shiny vindication of his ambitious promises is within reach, but Captain James Flint (Toby Stephens) has three teeny weeny problems. First, he is dethroned as a captain. Also, he faces a death sentence for killing members of his own crew. Lastly, the gold is guarded by the Spanish Man O’ War, which is armed to the teeth.
Any other man would have surrendered and let fate take its course, but Captain Flint is not any other man. He is the devil incarnate. In order to show his worth to his remaining crew, he almost singlehandedly take over the skeleton crew of the Spanish Man O’ War. Then, to reclaim what is deservedly his, he plots with John Silver (Luke Arnold) to take back the captaincy in less than two days. With a brilliant mind game, he succeeds in supplanting Dufresne (Roland Reed) at the helm.
The relationship between Captain Flint and Silver is one of the most prominent in the show, yet it is the least dynamic. It involves Captain Flint lying to the crew and using Silver’s oratorical skills to manipulate them into doing the former’s bidding. It usually ends up with Silver saving Captain Flint’s ass and the crew liking Silver even more. In doing so, Silver is indispensable to both Captain Flint and the crew. It would have been a win-win situation if not for Silver’s personal machinations to get the gold for himself.
To address last season’s inquiries about Captain Flint’s background and his relationship with Miranda Barlow (Louise Barnes), Black Sails delves into the captain’s mostly-subdued past in London. Captain James Flint is actually navy Lieutenant James McGraw. He once shared a dream with the Hamiltons, the thought-provoking Thomas (Rupert Penry-Jones) and the supportive Miranda, to eradicate piracy in Nassau. Their constant togetherness and their shared love for intellectual conversations made McGraw and Thomas fall in love. Yes, Captain Flint once loved a man (I also liked Thomas, so I cannot blame Captain Flint). Black Sails Season 1 executed the Miranda-James affair flawlessly. Because of it, I did not see the Thomas-James twist coming.
Unfortunately, society and the powerful father of Thomas, Alfred (Danny Keogh), disapprove of same-sex relationship, so Thomas is confined in a mental institution. Miranda and McGraw were unceremoniously booted out of London. Those privy to the truth spun a tale that it was Miranda that McGraw was having an affair with to keep Thomas’s homosexuality. The separation from his truest love angers McGraw so much so that he aims to destroy the civilized society that frowns upon their intimacy. This is the real cause why McGraw created Flint, his alter ego, to be the necessary evil to wreak havoc in a world he once served. Flint is the middle finger to the whole English civilization. This is also the reason why Captain Flint wants the paradise of Nassau to survive, to serve as a haven for outcasts like him.
With this development, Captain Flint’s persona dramatically changes. He is not a brutal self-serving pirate anymore. He is now a victim of society’s harsh judgment. In hindsight, his pursuit of the ship that carried Alfred and his subsequent bloody actions in Season 1 seem justified.
Meanwhile in Nassau, Eleanor Guthrie (Hannah New) has to contend with the arrival of Fancy captain Ned Low (Tadhg Murphy). Low is a fearsome villain who fancies Guthrie in the worst way possible. His unwelcome presence in Guthrie’s tavern ultimately angers Guthrie’s on-off lover and owner of the best set of abs in the island, Charles Vane (Zach McGowan). And when Vane is bad, he is really good. So good that he puts Low’s bloody head on a pike with the note, “I angered Charles Vane”. That moment marks Vane’s resurgence as the resident bad boy of Nassau. That moment is only the start of Vane’s procession of deadly assaults on people who threaten him and his beloved mistress, Nassau. Yes, Vane’s love is not Guthrie (not anymore) because she drops him like a hot potato in sticky situations. It will be interesting to know what Vane will do now that his former paramour is branded as the Queen of Thieves and faces jail time.
Still in Nassau, the triumvirate of disgraced pirates Jack Rackham (Toby Schmitz) and Anne Bonny (Clara Paget) and ex-prostitute-turned-madam Max (Jessica Parker Kennedy) emerges from the ashes to rival Guthrie’s power grip on the economic proceedings in the island. They use their network of prostitutes to spy on pirates whose appetite for carnal desire make them gossip like bored housewives playing mah jong on a Saturday afternoon. With the information they gather, they thwart Guthrie’s and Captain Flint’s plans for Nassau.
Rackham is a disappointment this season. For someone who claims to have only his name and his wit to survive, he is not so witty this season. The women in his tight group overtake him. Even with her adrift phase, Bonny and her knife are silent but deadly. As usual, Max uses her brain and her body to get what she wants. However, unlike the almost boring relationship between Captain Flint and Silver, the trio has an unpredictable one. It will be a surprise what two boatloads of gold will do to their fledging enterprise.
The most welcome sight in the entires season is a barely alive Billy Bones (Tom Hopper). Despite the festering wounds and parched lips, Bones is a sight to behold. Although he does not have a clear answer for whether or not Captain Flint wanted him dead last season, the two men reconcile. Bones’ captivity brings him knowledge that is valuable not only for Nassau’s future but also for the survival of pirates. With these in mind, and in spite of Dufresne’s protests, Bones supports Captain Flint’s leadership and goes as far as stopping mutineers in their tracks.
Even with the constant side switching and breaking of oaths that happen in Black Sails, one of the most unlikely pairing has to be that of Bones and Vane. They are polar opposites of each other. Bones is an altar boy who flirts with brutality now and then while Vane is kill-first-ask-later with a modicum of humanity. But they agree on a couple of issues: the survival of Nassau and Captain Flint’s key role in it. Their conversations before and after Vane’s rescue mission to the Charlestown are honest. The hope is for their alliance to make it through the first episode of Season 3.
Less unlikely than the Bones-Vane pairing is the Flint-Vane tandem, which is front and center in the finale. Captain Flint and Vane have past demons to deal with that ultimately push them to piracy. They are both ruthless and stubborn. Both of them also love Nassau and plan to keep it safe from the English Navy. Vane saving Captain Flint from hanging shows that their bond is stronger than it seems. Vane respects Captain Flint and knows that his capture and death will be the end of piracy. Their talk on the platform, in front of the jury, is funny. Their escape is a riot. The ruin of Charlestown that follows is wickedly apt.
Season 2 of Black Sails retains the fast-paced storytelling of Season 1 while building upon the solid foundation that the first eight episodes afforded it. Executions and betrayal in the high seas are as intense as politics and power-grab on land, mostly due to intriguing characters that know nothing about loyalty. With a mass murder, an enlightening past, an explosion and some bromance, Black Sails has everything covered. I cannot wait for Season 3 and watch the world burn when Captain Flint unleashes the monster in him.
Captain Flint – He has good taste in men and in books. Also, he has expressive eyebrows. He might be the first homosexual pirate in the world. I love him to bits.
Billy Bones – He makes Charles Vane see reason. That alone makes me like him.
Charles Vane – He is loyal to a fault. He is true to his promise and that makes him a better man than Captain Flint.
Favorite Body Parts:
Captain Flint’s eyebrows > Billy Bones’ biceps > Charles Vane’s abs
While Captain Flint, Miranda and Abigail share a meal, Billy Bones talks to Captain Flint. Abigail stares at Billy. Billy looks at her. Abigail continues to gaze at him like he was the most beautiful man on earth. Miranda smiles. Captain Flint shares Billy’s past with Abigail. Captain Flint acts as Cupid.
Captain Flint questions the soundness of Charles Vane’s plans to rescue him while the former is handcuffed and is minutes away from being hanged.
Charles Vane attacks Charlestown with its own cannons.
Miranda’s death. It must be painful for Captain Flint to watch his last tie to his former self die in such a quick and unexpected manner.
Will Billy Bones and Abigail Ashe (Meganne Young) meet once again in Season 3?
“Know no shame.” – Thomas Hamilton (addressed to James, his truest love)
“He isn’t mad. He’s just bright, determined and wealthy, all at the same time.” James McGraw says of Thomas Hamilton
“And every time I said my name, they knew my name. The first thing they said every time was your name. Like we was two halves of the same thing. I can’t be your wife, Jack. But you and I are gonna be partners ‘til they put us in the fucking ground.” – Anne Bonny’s temporary manifestation of emotional weakness.
“Everyone is a monster to someone. If you are so convinced that I am yours, I will be it.” – Captain Flint to Governor Peter Ashe (Nick Boraine). Cue gun shots and explosions.
“I figured if anyone was going to make a trophy out of you, it ought to be me.” – Charles Vane banters with Captain Flint