There’s an old saying that goes, ‘when the cat’s away, the mice will play.’ Episode 403, XXXI, certainly seems to have taken that saying to heart. Governor Rogers is off the island and the man he left in charge is playing a dangerous game of cat and mouse with the pirates. Bold moves are made, fates and fortunes are set, and nobody escapes without at least a few scratches.
Spoiler Warning: the rest of this review contains spoilers from Episode XXXI. Do not read further if you wish to avoid spoilers. You’ve been warned.
Most of the action this episode focuses on Barringer. The opening scene shows him staring at a locket with two photos inside- a beautiful woman and a young child. Judging by Barringer’s expression as he gazes upon them, it’s his lost wife and child. This is the first glimpse of the human hiding underneath the monster that viewers get, and unfortunately, it’s also the last. Barringer’s late-night reflection time is interrupted by Governor Rogers, and the two quickly get down to business. They’ve got a secret plan to carry out, and it’s a doozy.
Viewers know from last episode that Rogers was planning to draw Blackbeard off of Eleanor’s ship so she could make a run for Philadelphia. What wasn’t known is the second part of Rogers’ plan. He isn’t simply trying to distract Blackbeard- he’s laying a deadly trap for him. The pirates overtake the Governor’s ship, and the vanguard sets off to deal with their new prisoners. The British are lying in wait and the pirates end up as the prisoners instead. Barringer’s cryptic comment in the opening scene about sending evil men to do dark deeds becomes clear when Rogers strings Teach up like a Christmas ham and keelhauls him three times in front of the crew. Lest viewers think that Rogers is simply acting under Barringer’s influence, a flashback sequence has Rogers recounting how he watched his brother die from a cheap shot from a captured pirate crew and how he then systematically and brutally murdered every crew member but one, whom he left alive to tell the tale. The level of darkness in Rogers makes Barringer look like a choir boy by comparison, which is a pretty neat trick considering what Barringer has been up to on the island in his boss’s absence.
Barringer’s first act of the day is to haul Max in for questioning. Word has gotten out about her midnight meeting with John Silver and Israel Hand, and Barringer wants to know just why she didn’t tell him about it. Max can’t give a satisfactory answer and is charged with treason. Before sentencing can happen, a very angry Eleanor busts into the room. Her boat to Philly has been delayed and she’s not pleased about finding her maid in the middle of an indictment. Eleanor tries to convince Barringer that Max is working as a spy under the Governor’s orders, and when that doesn’t work, tries to pass information about the Resistance. Instead, Barringer insists on continuing as a schoolyard bully, taunting the islanders and putting on as violent and public a show as possible.
Max is granted a temporary reprieve when Barringer hears that three more British soldiers have been killed by Long John Silver. He launches a full manhunt for Silver, which only leads to Silver being reunited with Flint and Madi and strengthening the pirates’ position. In an attempt to force Silver’s hand, Barringer begins hanging pirates in the town square. The plan works to a certain extent, in that Silver and Flint do indeed show up to the hangings. From there, though, Barringer’s plan falls apart dramatically. Word was sent ahead that Long John Silver is returning to the island, and the British are vastly unnumbered by pirates and islanders. Even Billy shows up with his men, although just what his intentions are there aren’t clear. In the chaos, it’s Israel Hand who sneaks up behind Barringer and opens his throat. Barringer dies, never having gotten his vengeance for his family but finally able to join them.
The fallout from “XXXI” is going to be enormous. Governor Rogers will return from his trip with Blackbeard’s head on a stake (maybe even literally, based on his new demeanor) to find that his island has fallen into the hands of Long John Silver and his pirate forces. He’ll also have to answer to his wife, who never got to go to Philadelphia and is probably still angry that her maid was charged with treason, and to his creditors, who never did get their money. On the pirate side, Silver, Madi, and Flint still have to deal with Billy and the results of his attempted mutiny. All of this is going on, and it’s only the third episode of the season. The remaining seven in this final season are going to be intense.
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.