TV Review: Black Sails Episode VII Review

Black Sails is nearing its season one finale. With only one episode left, many of the show's subplots still feel untwined. On the whole, Episode VII is an exercise of the transition word, "meanwhile."

Episode VII opens up with the Pastor, who had coital interactions with Miranda Barlow, reciting Biblical verse to an empty field of tall shrubbery.

Disheveled in appearance, the Pastor is likely regretful of his actions during the previous night. And, after his brief opening, that is all that is seen of the Pastor in Episode VII.

This is a microcosm of one of the show's biggest weakness; as thrilling as it can be, it occasionally lacks focus. Employing the technique of storytelling popularized by Game of Thrones--one that focuses on the world rather the biased viewpoint of one character-- Black Sails doesn't take advantage of such a method.

Clearly, the show wants Jon Silver as its protagonist. Yet, Captain Flint's story attracts the most intrigue, while Eleanor Guthrie and Charles Vane are left with dubious character roles.

In Episode VII, Randall threatens to reveal Jon Silver's secret as the thief of the Arca de Lima's schedule. Given that Randall is an ostensible half-wit, Silver is initially unconcerned.

But, as key crewmembers of the Walrus begin to listen to Randall's guttural accusations, tension begins to mount.

This is the only subplot of the episode that is brought to a satisfying conclusion; Silver arranges a mutually beneficial deal with the crew's former cook and he begins to realize that Randall--a senile man in appearance--has more wits about him than previously noticed.

Meanwhile, Captain Flint makes his first appearance in Episode VII talking with Mr. Gates.

Beginning to waver as his Flint's loyal quartermaster, Gates accuses his captain of murdering Billy Bones--a loose end who knew too much about Miranda Barlow.

While we are still left annoyingly confused about Flint's past and the full extent of his relationship with Miranda Barlow, Episode VII does a masterful job at portraying Flint as the cynical leader of the Walrus.

The next key scene of this episode deals with the aforementioned relationship. Storming into Barlow's house, Flint angrily approaches his lover about writing a letter that could implicate him as a traitor to his crew on the Walrus. Defending her intentions, Barlow insists that she doesn't want to see him fully succumb to the life a thieving pirate.

While the relationship between Flint and Barlow isn't without intrigue, the show cripples the potential that it has by veiling their respective pasts with such secrecy. While their pasts will likely be fully discovered during Season One's final episode, it will be at the expense of the battle between the pirates and the Arca de Lima--the treasure ship that has been hyped by the show's characters throughout the season.

Episode VII should have been used to tie up all the loose ends that remained in season one, which would have left Episode VIII with the sole purpose of chronicling an epic sea battle.

Not only did Episode VII fail to conclude season one's medley of subplots, it sought to create new ones. Enter Charles Vane, who emerged from his opiate laden wallowing with the purpose of returning to a place from his past. Talking to a mysterious man with a long black beard, Vane makes a business proposition for him to return to the sea and conquer Nassau. The show insists on withholding the black bearded man's name. While it hasn't been confirmed that this man is Edward Thatch--also known as the infamous Captain Blackbeard--who else could it be? The show mentioned Blackbeard in the series debut, but now it insists on withholding his identity.

And, as the show continues to weigh itself with needless secrecy, Vane's subplot ends with him losing a fistfight to the black bearded man and getting buried, which leaves another loose end in need of addressing in the season finale. Again, the show exasperates itself by trying to keep the viewer guessing; Vane is a character that is frequently shown in the series, yet his burial was given no dramatic weight.

Hence, it is clear that he is not dead. But, the show continues its fascination with cliffhanger excess.

Meanwhile, Eleanor Guthrie is reunited with her companion, Mr. Scott. Their relationship fluctuates throughout the episode. Initially, righteous anger pervades Guthrie when Mr. Scott attempts to speak with her. With a dwindling sense of friendship, Mr.

Scott finally addresses a touchy subject that has permeated season one; that the nature of his relationship with Guthrie is one of forced servitude. This causes the usually prideful Head of Trade in Nassau to speak with sincerity. Pleading that she never viewed him in such dehumanizing manner, Guthrie and Scott arrange to free the slaves that were on the Andromache.

While their endeavor is successful, their friendship is likely concluded--a fact made clear when Scott informs Eleanor that he will be joining Benjamin Hornigold's crew.

The show is trying to illustrate that Eleanor's ambitions are alienating those who care about her, and that is one of the better-driven themes in season one.

As always, the show end son a cliffhanger, after the capture of the Arca de Lima, Captain Flint will be killed at the hands of his own crew.

Episode VII was a study of the shows weak points. While Black Sails can beautifully portray pirate life in the 1700's, it can also feel disorganized.

And, by trying to keep the viewer guessing, its blatantly kept secrets can be a hindrance.

(Image from: televisionpromos.com)