Where do I even begin to talk about this ending, that wraps everything up in a big beautiful tragedy and yet also manages to be not just an ending, but a beginning for so much more to come. If I were as good at talking as Jack is, I’d go on and on, but I’m not so I’ll just say fuck me. I think I’ve cried about three times since watching the finale last night. It’s heart wrenching and hopeful and overwhelming with a sadness that is probably going to linger with me for a good while. I applaud this show, I applaud the creators, the writers, the actors, the production team, the crew and everyone involved in making this for creating a stunning period drama about pirates that is anything but the stereotypical, cheesy or romantic version of piracy we most often see.
The standout moment for me in this episode was definitely the conversation between Flint and Silver in the forest. The two give equally impassioned (and extremely well-acted) speeches and we’re faced with two options that are both with merit and understandable in a way that makes it impossible to decide who is right and who is wrong. How could we judge such a thing when the outcome is so unclear? If the war is stopped, will they have missed their one opportunity to effect real change in world? What’s to say that the world would have changed at all, even if they did win? It’s this kind of complexity to situations that I feel Black Sails has always excelled at. To seemingly lead us to one outcome but then throw us in the other direction.
Speaking of which, the scene in which Jack trying to reach Woodes Rogers is paralleled against Silver trying to reach Madi left me so sure that either Madi would be dead or Jack would die. But neither did, and I think I am just so used to having a main character have to die in a series finale that it was a much-needed pleasant surprise that they both survive. The battle sequence is not the biggest Black Sails has done or the noisiest but it sure didn’t let up on the intensity and stakes, and gave us the final fight between Flint and Billy that had been left unfinished at the Underhill Estate.
Billy’s fate, as he once again is dropped off the side of a ship, is fitting as his own warnings come back to bite him in the behind. He made his choice, and now he has to live on that island surrounded by the bodies and ghosts of men he once knew as brothers. Nothing is more satisfying than Rogers’ outcome though, and this is actually something that I wanted, I preferred this over his death. His death would have been too easy, he deserved something more cruel, more humiliating, and Jack is brilliant as usual and proves that despite being a fearsome pirate, he is a better man than Rogers. A man who keel-hauled another and still failed in breaking him, is now broken in one fell swoop with barely any blood being drawn. It’s narrative heaven for me. On one hand I would have loved to see Eleanor in that courtroom, continuing to haunt him as he rots, but on the other I like the idea that she and her memory have now been set free of him.
As for everyone else, was Silver right to stop the war? John has perhaps paid the heftiest price in ensuring the outcome in which the most people survive. Not a noble cause necessarily, and maybe not without selfish motive, but he did what he did out of love and with good intentions. He knows that Madi and Flint wouldn’t forgive him for taking their cause away from them, he knows that he will have to live with whatever outcome they get, maybe he even knows deep down that Flint is right about him when he says a quiet life will never be enough for him. But as we see a prosperous Nassau in which Jack, Anne, Max, Featherstone and Idelle have survived this world and continue to live in the next, even in secret, I can’t bring myself to view him as a villain for doing what he did - even though we know that he will go on to be remembered in history as the villain of Treasure Island. (I wrote more on my immediate reaction to Silver’s actions here). This is exactly what the finale offers us, happiness tinged with unease and compromise - Steinberg said something similar in an interview, that most of the characters may have gotten the outcome they desired but the way in which they acquired it was not done without a hard sacrifice.
As I rewatch the episode, the theory that Silver did in fact kill Flint is becoming more believable to me (hang on a second)… The biggest clue is in the forest I think. You hear birds, then see Ben and Hands looking to each other before moving off in the direction of Flint and Silver. We don’t hear a gunshot, but the implication is there. Wouldn’t it have taken Silver a lot longer to transport Flint to Florida than the short amount of time it would have taken to get the cache? And it’s not too difficult to believe that Silver could have made up the rest of the story he relays to Madi at the end of the episode. You can poke many holes if you look hard enough. But on the other hand there is also good stack of evidence to suggest that what we see with James at the plantation is actually what happened. Why would Silver take the time to say that he would wait for Flint if only to kill him? Why would Ben and Hands be accompanying Flint in the afterlife? After Flint told Silver last episode that he would never be able to spin a story that would make Madi forgive him, wouldn’t that just be a kick in the face to have that actually happen? Do we really believe that John would have been able to do that?
I personally believe that the similarities between the journey to the plantation and the journey into Hades are purely symbolic. I don’t think that Flint is actually dead and he’s moving into the afterlife, I think it’s more symbolic of this being the ending to his journey. When he passes through those gates, James Flint is dead. Silver pays the ferryman, James McGraw is judged, and he is left to travel into the fields of Elysium, where he is reunited with his true love.
It’s annoyingly open-ended, and in a series that often tells us that stories may have little truth to them, or that the truth matters little, we’re being left to question it.
Did Flint die in that forest? Did he retire with Thomas? Did he drink himself to death in Savannah?
Maybe the writers were getting a bit meta by suggesting to us the viewer, through the voice of Jack, that the story we want to believe is the story that will survive. Jack’s entire last speech is in itself a wonderful ode to the show, and how we will continue to remember the men and women who lived in this world long after they’re gone and the truth is forgotten. Technically the story is a Treasure Island prequel, but it’s just as fitting to end with some of the real historical figures, standing in front of the most iconic and recognisable symbol of high seas piracy.
I did a thing… I am sorry. I had to hold back tears while writing it… ups.
Reaction fic to 4.9
Fandom: Black Sails Pairing: SilverFlint, hinted FlintMadi and some SilverMadi. But basically just John being reminiscent Rating: 12+ Words: ~1600 Summary:
Peace was a fragile thing and his sanity secured by the belief that James was happy. Because he had Thomas back. It had to be. Any other thought would destroy him completely.