Season Four premiered with the kind of epic sea battles that viewers love, but the strategy behind each cannon blast is what really burned bright in “XXIX.” War is at hand and everyone is scrambling to determine the best possible strategy. Both sides are heavily motivated by fear and anger. After last season’s stunning finale, which saw Captain Vane hung in a public execution, the pirate crews also have revenge on their minds. The Caribbean has been transformed into a chessboard, and the pieces are being placed.
Spoiler Warning: the rest of this review contains spoilers from Episode XXIX. Do not read further if you wish to avoid spoilers. You’ve been warned.
The pirates launch the first volley this time. Seeking revenge for Vane’s murder, Captains Flint and Teach lead their crews in an attack on the Fort. They’re acting on information from Billy and Mr. Featherstone, but that information turns out to be flawed. The British sunk six ships into the harbor before the attack. When the pirate ships hit the wreckage, they becoming sitting ducks for the British. In the chaos of the ensuing battle, John Silver is lost under the water. Captain Flint and Madi wait in vain for him to resurface. A flashback to a bedroom scene between Silver and Madi adds new levels to the pain on both their faces as each longboat of survivors comes to shore without John aboard.
Back on dry land, Eleanor Guthrie and Max are busy playing both sides. Out in the streets, Eleanor is the beautiful new wife of Governor Woodes Rogers. Away from prying eyes though, she and Max are up to their usual routines of subterfuge and silent power holdings. These plans seldom work out well for Max, however, and she’s already being slighted. 121 pirates are captured in the attack on the Fort, and Rogers intends to hold all of their trials at Max’s tavern. For free, of course. When Eleanor confronts him on the unjustness of this, he reveals that he’s in serious financial trouble. It turns out that he’s been bankrolling the campaign himself, and now his ex-wife’s family is pressuring his creditors to demand repayment early. He needs to find the Urca gold, or at least some major victories, soon if he wants to keep his head above water.
Elsewhere on the island, more and more men are pledging their allegiance to a legendary Pirate King by the name of Long John Silver. Capitalizing on the stories told after John’s epic tavern speech last season, Billy has created a character so powerful that men have vowed to follow him even without his physical presence. In his absence, Billy is the one that the men look to for guidance. Captain Flint doesn’t take that news well, but not nearly as bad as Billy takes the news that John Silver drowned in the attack on the fort. Legends can only go so far into battle, after all.
This episode sets the board well for the rest of the season. On the British side, it’s going to be Governor Rogers and the remains of his men led by the vengeful and brutal Captain Barringer. On the pirate side, it’s Captain Flint, Billy, and Madi fighting for power among the men, with Captain Teach, Jack Rackham, and Anne Bonny locked in a struggle for position of their own. Will the fragile bonds between the pirate crews hold long enough for them to reclaim Nassau once and for all? Or will the British finally eliminate the pirate scourage? The only thing that is certain is that there will be no calm seas this season. Oh, and that John Silver isn’t dead yet.
Black Sails airs on Starz on Sundays at 9pm eastern/8pm central. Viewers can catch up anytime online or on the Starz mobile app. Check back here to FanFest.com each week for episode previews and recaps.