selenak: (Black Sails by Violateraindrop)
[personal profile] selenak
I've finally managed to catch up on my beloved pirates show - after intermittendly fearing I'd have to wait for the DVDs to do so -, and watch the four remaining episodes. Yay - and woe, as it is now over. Am happy to unspoilery report that it ended in great quality.

Mind you, to get my one remaining nitpick out of the way, which is the same it was before: while I don't have a problem with Billy's arc in general - as I speculated, in order to become the paranoid driniking-himself-to-death wreck from the start of Treasure Island, Billy would have to have done something he couldn't forgive himself for, and betraying his "brothers" is the obvious thing to qualify, plus it also explains how he'd go from second most popular crew member to loathed by the remaining Walrus crew; it also works for me that this happens in a combination of his hatred for Flint boiling over, feeling himself betrayed first -, making the turning point a decision of Silver's between Flint and Billy, making that decision hard for Silve, and Billy being surprised by the outcome, really demanded a friendship and trust between Billy and Silver growing before that which I didn't feel we got, and no, those few scenes in early s3 didn't feel like friendship for me, more like "are we the only two sane ones on this ship?" bonding.

This aside: as I think I said earlier in my review of 4.06 or wherever the Billy handing over to the maroons happened, I appreciate the irony and the way Dufresne fate prefigures Billy in this regard. Remember, Dufresne looked up to Billy through s1, saw him as a trusted mentor, and the belief that Flint had killed Billy as he had killed Mr. Gates was a key motivation for the mutiny; Billy in s2 tricking Dufresne by a loyalty test and siding with Flint is what leads to Dufresne first getting expelled from the crew, working for the government and finally getting squashed by Silver (literally).

And of course, the irony of Billy creating the myth of Long John Silver, and creating the Black Spot, only to be consumed by it at the end, as Jack says in his last but one scene. A great many of the characters turn out to be storytellers; and a profession both dangerous and rewarding at different points it is, too.

Something I love and adore about this show, and which I got reminded of to the very end: while of course we see way more of the main characters than the supporting characters, it does not deny the supporting characters' humanity, or their pov, even when it is divergent from the main character pov, and it's not just voiced in order to be changed by the main characters. Take Idelle. Featherstone, too, though less so; Featherstone defending Max to Jack is a scene about Max, and in order to make a narrative point to Jack. Whereas Idelle's scene with Anne does include her defense of Max, yes, but it's not solely about that. When Idelle says to Anne "You killed my friend, for reasons that had nothing to do with her" , I practically high fived. I love Anne. But she did kill Charlotte - and probably had forgotten all about her - simply because she was having a bad identity crisis cum depression -, and Charlotte was a person with hopes and dreams just like everyone else. Back in s2, I really loved the scene between Max and Idelle about this for a similar reason - the narrative didn't vilify Idelle for being furious about this and seeing Anne as a danger to them all; even then, with just a very few lines in the season, she was a person, a character, which in all too many shows who use brothel scenes the non-main character prostitutes never are.

Another bit character given full humanity within limited screen time: Mrs. Toby Stephens Hunter. The reveal that she had in fact lied about the Spanish demanding Jack Rackham in addition to the gold - a lie that had devastating consequences for everyone, especially Our Heroes, for without it, despite Jack's ill advisied return to Nassau, he probably would not have been arrested and definitely would not have been in danger of being handed over to the Spanish, Rogers (or anyone else other than Anne) having zero interest in him - would have in another show been preparation for her death. Or vilification. Or both. But no. Instead, Mrs. Hunter continued to be treated with narrative sympathy, gets to keep her own mixed emotions and agenda (she's not without sympathy for Rogers, but she can also see how deeply he's lost it and that she really needs someone else in order to get the hell out of Nassau and back to her children), and gets her happy ending as we see in the "where are they now" montage near the end, when she reads "A History of the Pirates".

(Doylist excursion: the fact that not one but two family members of Toby Stephens were cast in minor parts during the last two seasons - his wife and brother (who played Woode Rogers' second-in-command during the first half of the season) - made me wonder whether the writers would find a way to nclude Maggie Smith, who is Stephens' mother, as well. And I do suspect Madam Guthrie was originally written for her, because it's just her type of role. Perhaps she was for some reason unavailable after all? Ah well. Harriet Walter is of course excellent in the part.)

Back to the main cast, and their choices, for (nearly) everyone gets to make those. This might be the most "audience expects Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies, Instead, Most Live And Bittersweet Happy Ending Prevails" ending since BSG finished, but unlike BSG, I don't expect Black Sails' ending to be hugely controversial. Jack and Anne living, being the Last Active Pirates, and Mary Read joiining them under her historical alias of Mark in the last scenes was both a pleasant surprise and perfect. It doesn't deny the historical tragedy to come for Jack Rackham, but it leaves him and Anne exiting the story happily (for now), searching for another adventure, reconciled with the past, which is perfect for them.

(Speaking of reconciliation, the Max and Anne scene in Boston was wonderful. Their preceeding scenes, too, which made this one feel earned.)

Max negotiating and bonding with Eleanor's grandmother - and how great was it that Grandpa Guthrie turned out just to be the front man, whereas Madam Guthrie was the true power? -, only to be faced with a choice between on the one hand everything she once dreamed of and on the other loss of a chance to make up with Anne and of her personal freedom: good choice, Max. Not just because of Anne. Even if the potential husband starts out every bit as benevolent, dim and manageble as Mrs. Guthrie suggests, there's no guarantee he'll stay that way, especially in Nassau, and the position of husband would give him all the power over Max at any moment he wants to have it, no matter their original agreement. Now Mrs. Guthrie still accepting Max' alternate suggestion instead of cutting her loose after that decision could be complaiined about as unrealistic, but the show was careful to establish Mrs. Guthrie a) is actually interested in the Nassau proposal and respects Max' business skills, b) is emotionally invested in Eleanor, thus has no reason not to go through with the punishing-Woodes-Rogers part of the plan even if she were to cut Max loose, and c) is told by Jack that the Flint factor has been dealt with (more about that in a moment). Sometimes, as Mrs. Guthrie earlier observed in conversation with Max, your cherished fantasy doesn't come true in the way you want it, and you have to make compromises to make it come true regardless.

Fantasy, reality, stories and what we make of them: Madi isn't unfamiliar with compromise per se (see, for example, last season when she ordered her man not retaliate after a Walrus Crew member had assaulted him in order not to destroy the just formed alliance), but not about her main goals. She's possibly the most uncompromising character on the show in that regard, and the only main character who, when asked to choose between her goal ad love, does not choose love. And this isn't presented negatively, either. That Madi and Flint despite being first at odds developed high respect for another was one of the season's delights and makes sense; they're alike in their burning devotion to the cause they've set their eyes upon, with of course the key difference that Madi's devotion wasn't triggered by rage about personal loss. It also makes sense that John Silver essentially does not share it. Silver is both a storyteller and a story. He can become what he at first pretends to be - concerned about the Walrus crew (s2), Long John Silver (s3 and early s4) -, he can change his personal goals (Looking Out For No.1 gets subjected to Looking Out For Flint and then Looking Out For Madi And Flint) due to the two key relationships he forms, and the temporary loss of Madi can let him understand how the emptiness of loss can fuel the need to deal with it not just by rage but using a punishment outlet for said rage. He's certainly capable of change. (Silver coming across the ghost of his former self in the form of the Eurydice''s ship cook was a masterful touch. ) But he's not, in his essence, someone who'd die for a conviction. (For certain people under certain conditions, sure. But not for a cause.) Which is both his strength and what divides him from Madi; it's why she refuses Woodes Rogers' offer and he accepts it (with Flint-related modifications). Silver was of course one of the few characters guaranteed to make it out alive and free of the show for Treasure Island reasons, but we didn't know how; it turns out, very bittersweetly. He does manage to keep both Madi and Flint alive, when the leading up episodes had made it seem impossible to do both (and yes, I'll get to ambiguity of Flint's fate in a moment), but he also loses both of them. And while the last look we get at him and Madi indicates she comes to forgive him, she won't be able to forget what he did, that key difference in their nature which she hadn't realised before, while Flint's prophecy to Silver that one day, life with Madi won't be enough for him anymore and Silver wiill return to the sea and try to recapture the pirate life they had wiill of course come true, it's Stevenson ordained.

"Even you can't create a story that will make her accept this" Flint says to Silver re: Madi, re: the abandonment of the war and what Flint then presumes will be his own fate. Later, Silver tells Madi the story of what became of Flint, and of course the question is: does he lie, or is he telling the truth? Part of what makes the show is that either would be in character for John Silver. But I'm with Team Silver Is Saying The Truth, and here's why:

1.) The cold open of the finale, which isn't Silver's pov nor part of the story he later tells Madi, establishes Oglethorpe's Secret Plantation For Undesirables does exist, and he did send Tom Morgan (another Treasure Island named pirate, unless I don't recall correctly) to investigate whether or not Thomas Hamilton ended up there and is still alive, following up on the suspicion that hit him after his conversation with Max earlier in the season.

2.) The imagery for Flint exchanging his oar for a shovel is directly from his quote about Ulysses from s1.

3.) The s2 conversation between Flint and Miranda near the end of s2 when they still believe Ashe is on the level also has James stating that he'll destroy his Flint persona.

4.) While the show has given us scenes imagined by characters before, these were always one pov character seeing or conversing with a person who isn't there, and who was clearly signaled to the audience as not being there, i.e. a drunken Charles Vane imagine a conversation with Eleanor in late s1, Flint seeing dead Miranda and talking to her in his rage and grief in early s3, and Woodes Rogers seeing dead Eleanor (and the cradle of their unborn child) at different points in the last few episodes (which, btw, is the last time the show parallels him with Flint). When Silver - or anyone else - lied, by contrast, said lies never came with visuals. (Case in point: Silver telling Flint that the Urca gold was gone. We did not get visuals until the reveal when Silver later that episode told Max the truth, that the gold was just where it was supposed to be, and then the visuals were the correct ones.)

5.) If Silver had simply killed Flint, there was absolutely no reason for Jack Rackham not to tell this to Mrs. Guthrie. It was exactly what she wanted to hear. "He retired", by contrast, was NOT what she wanted to hear, and it necessitated some more reassurances and explaining. Jack still really needs Mrs. Guthrie's support at this point if he wants to complete his revenge of Rogers. Why would he tell a lie that puts him at a disadvantage with her instead of a truth that would help him?

In conclusion: just as the show did it's "alive or dead?" fake out with Madi earlier, it did with Flint to heighten the suspense. But yes. Silver "unmade" Captain Flint, in as much as he could, and reunited him with the man he loved. Now whether James McGraw after the first reunion joy has faded will regret having given up his liberty and the cause in order to be with Thomas again, whether those pirating years will have irrevocably changed him too much for him to be forever happy in this life - who knows? There are no guarantees, for anyone. But he exits the story the only way fans have speculated could happen other than his deaith - Captain Flint officially dies, James McGraw lives. And so does Thomas Hamilton. They live together, and thus the show gives its period m/m couple a happy ending. (Of sorts. Thomas Hamilton still spent a decade bereft of his liberty for a completely unjust reason, no matter how benevolent the current captor. Now Flint actually does deserve prison - yes, he's fascinating and sympathetic and what not, but the man didn't "just" kill British soldiers and fellow pirates, he's responsiblle for a great many dead civilians who had no more to do with any of this than Charlotte did with Anne's identity crisis; remember the hapless passengers Flint shot point blank in the s3 opener?)

(Come to think of it, it's surviving f/f couple gets a happy ending, too. Of sorts. Whether or not Max and Anne have a sexual relationship again in the final scenes, their reconciiliation from Boston is clearly permanent.)

Let's see, what remains: ah yes. How to reconcile the lack of a map with Billy having one at the start of Treasure Island? Easy. Methinks that's why Billy finishes the show marooned on Skeleton Island. (Which, btw, was suitably spooky and intense.) He has decades to a) locate the treasure (and the show has made it clear Billy is both smart and persistent and not a little obsessed with all things Flint, plus in Treasure Island Ben Gunn after being marooned on the island managed to do just this, find the treasure on his own and relocate it), and b) get off the island. Yes, Silver also says the map is Flint's, but if you accept James McGraw is alive, Silver has a vested interest in insisting on the story of Flint's death towards everyone else. Why would Billy, after being at liberty again, announce he's got a map (which he would have to in order for Silver & Co. come looking for it)? Also easy. He does want to draw Silver out, maybe originally for revenge and maybe because for the same reason he drinks so much - because he does want to die at this point.

Trivia: Silver's conclusions re: the need to make sense which he voices to Flint remind me of that tongue-in-cheek meta dialogue Stevenson wrote for him and Smollett

- I do approve of the fact the scriptwriters deliberately avoided giving us a concrete pre-show backstory for John Silver, including whether or not John Silver is his original name; as he points out to Flint in face of the later's questions, it doesn't matter, because Flint and whom he has become through Flint is his story, though of course that it does matter to Flint and that Silver without needing to still at first takes refuge in his cover story says something about them both.

- Jim Hawkins' last sentences about Silver from Treasure Island suddenly take on a double meaning, because I bet someone is out there writing the decades post show and book canon where after Thomas Hamilton dies and after Treasure Island goes down, James somehow meets up with Silver and Madi again:

Of Silver we have heard no more. That formidable seafaring man with one leg has at last gone clean out of my life; but I dare say he met his old Negress, and perhaps still lives in comfort with her and Captain Flint. It is to be hoped so, I suppose, for his chances of comfort in another world are very small.

Date: 23 Apr 2017 12:26 (UTC)
goss: (*fangirls* - Starfire Raven)
From: [personal profile] goss
Hii! I just came over to squee about Black Sails, of which I marathoned the entire Season 4 yesterday. (In fact, I've watched all 4 seasons this week. o_O Once I started the series, I just couldn't stop.) Anyway, I really enjoyed your post, since it sums up my feeling exactly, plus I found the Treasure Island references really interesting to know. :D

Date: 24 Apr 2017 09:34 (UTC)
chelseagirl: Alice -- Tenniel (Default)
From: [personal profile] chelseagirl
Thanks for this. I had Many Thoughts after the finale, but never wrote them up because work and life have been too, too busy.

I loved the ending, but. I never doubted that Silver's story about Flint was true, because the narrative had been hinting about going that way. But I was disappointed in Flint. He and Madi had a vision of real independence, a society where racial equality seemed to be in the offing and etc. etc. And then his boyfriend's back, so that all just goes away -- he's able to let go, but what is he letting go of? Not just being a fearsome pirate, but a view of constructing a new society. And yes, it seems that Madi is on track for forgiving Silver at the very end, but she had ideals, she wanted what was best for her people, and at the end, she's let down by all her allies.

Date: 27 Apr 2017 13:39 (UTC)
chelseagirl: Alice -- Tenniel (Default)
From: [personal profile] chelseagirl
Not saying Flint was a paragon of political virtue, but he was willing to work with Madi and her people, and the ideal of freedom they were proposing was an interesting one.

And I do think Madi, like Eleanor, was thrust into a certain position which you may argue she did not especially deserve, but that her goals were admirable.

At least she did not fall into Silver's arms immediately, though that last shot of them suggested an eventual reconciliation, perhaps.

Date: 27 Apr 2017 12:01 (UTC)
poli73: (Default)
From: [personal profile] poli73
Sorry but to say that Flint chose Thomas is to imply that a choice was offered, when from where I’m sitting, a threat was issued. The “choice” was Thomas and enslavement/imprisonment or death, and when Flint evidently chose death (remember Silver saying that it took great effort to corral him?) even that was denied him (not that I’m not glad about that at least). Just - Silver’s actions were gross no matter how you look at it, and it’s not that Flint made a choice to end his revolution, it’s that that choice was made for him. In what way does being dragged North in chains resemble a choice having been made?

Date: 27 Apr 2017 13:35 (UTC)
chelseagirl: Alice -- Tenniel (Default)
From: [personal profile] chelseagirl
The threat that Flint would be destroyed was actually the destruction of the shell he had built up around himself after losing Thomas. It felt like he got his happy ending, despite everything he'd been through -- his true self reunited with Thomas and his carefully constructed persona gone.

Nevermind that the plans he and Madi had made were potentially politically very interesting . . .

Date: 27 Apr 2017 13:56 (UTC)
poli73: (Default)
From: [personal profile] poli73
I just wanted to say that he did not abandon the ideals of the revolution he shared with Madi but was forced to do it from Silver.


selenak: (Default)

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