TV Recap

Black Sails Season 1 Episode 5 Review – V

Flint and the Walrus crew play a deadly chess match on the open sea.  Richard forces Eleanor’s hand.  Rackham makes a career change.  Bonny confesses to Max.

(Summary provided by


Q:  Why is Mr. Scott on the Andromache?
A:  Because Mr. Guthrie betrayed him!! How did I not understand this the first time through??


The show starts out VERY strong with a conversation between Flint and Billy discussing both trust and leadership.  They walk such an interesting and fine line between admiration and suspicion!

Billy:  How can you pretend you don’t have any doubts about this?
Flint:  Years of practice.  There’s always doubt, Billy.  No sane man would deny that.  No good captain would acknowledge it.

And then Flint proceeds to lay out every possible outcome of their chase, assuring both Billy and us that yes, he is in fact a tactical genius.


I would give this to Billy for his brilliant turn as quartermaster (especially in using Positive Manipulation to empower Dufresne), but I’ve got more to say about Eleanor, so I’m going to give it to her.

When her father cuts his ties with their business in Nassau and runs, Eleanor refuses to let her life’s work go to waste.  She forms a consortium, choosing the exact right people who are low enough on the pirate totem pole to be grateful for the chance to serve her.  And in diffusing power, she also diffuses responsibility the next time a mob appears on her doorstep.

I also adore her defense of Max.  Everyone insists it was Max’s choice to stay with the Ranger crew, and I earlier defended this viewpoint, but Eleanor is totally right when she says, “She chose it.  She chose it.  I’ve been repeating those words to myself for well over a week and I find them wanting.”  Who expected Eleanor to be the voice of morality on this show, huh??

Finally, in the wonderful words of Jack Rackham, “To assume we’ve seen the last of Eleanor Guthrie is, well, not to know her.”


There was no true laugh-out-loud moment in this episode for me, but I do love Jack’s conversation with Mrs. Mapleton and especially the camera-pan to his scruffy puppy friends lounging in the background.


This is our first real look at pirate boarding strategy, and BOY IS IT GOOD.  Even better on rewatch when I could finally understand everything that was going on.  There’s so much!  It’s wonderful to see the roles of every crew member, from Captain Flint, who plans the strategy, to Quartermaster Billy, who explains it to the crew, who carry it out.  AND WHAT A STRATEGY.  Using a sharpshooter to make the Andromache’s helmsman lose grip on their wheel so that the current will bring their ship alongside theirs so that they can board?  IT’S BEAUTIFUL.

Alongside the strategy, we get to see the crew up close as they prepare, putting on their Pirate Outfits and Paint, looking fierce but hiding from gunshot until the time to board has come.  We see how they psych themselves, and others, up, whether that means lying about being invincible or kissing their sword for good luck.  And then, WOW, is it such a good move to have us board the Andromache with Dufresne.  It’s his first time experiencing the fear and the chaos and the bloodlust, and we truly get a sense of how kill-or-be-killed the experience is.

After all that…the quiet aftermath, and PART TWO because this is secretly a two-parter and we have to wait until next episode to find out how Flint will finish taking over the Andromache!


  • “Who’s Mrs. Barlow?”
    “You’ve heard the stories, haven’t you?  She’s a witch who pledged my soul to the devil, and anoints me with the blood of infants to keep me safe in battle.”
    “Come on, I’m not stupid.”
    “No, you’re not.  So you can probably guess it isn’t as much fun to tell stories about how your captain makes a home with a nice Puritan woman who shares his love of books.”
  • Jack Rackham now owns a brothel!  This is problematic, but less so than Noonan, who was AWFUL.  Also, Jack is either a terrible or a genius negotiator, giving Mrs. Mapleton a raise from 3% to 40%.
  • It is SO REWARDING to see Billy and Flint working together successfully and nodding in happiness at each other.
  • The Asshole Pirate is truly reaching new heights of Assholery, and I hate him.  MAJOR PROPS to Eleanor for powerfully walking towards him as he threatens her.
  • This is the episode when Anne becomes a fully-fledged character!  First she and Jack have a lovely moment where she wants to kill her problems and Jack is all, “darling, no,” and then we get her coming to help Max.  When she takes the horrific 1700s abortion machine away from Mrs. Mapleton and does it herself, we see a gentle Anne for the first time.  When she shares with Max a story of her own reaction to sexual assault (cutting off a dude’s balls), you see just how brutal you have to be to survive as a woman during this time period.  And WOW, the sadness of this:
    “You were the one who threw me to them in the first place.”
    “I only thought they’d kill you.”
  • Flint and Gates are Billy’s dads.
  • Vane loves that Eleanor is stronger than him, and this will never not be attractive to me.
  • And now we get to see “civilization”s true face:  the respectable Andromache is actually a slave ship.  As if that weren’t dehumanizing enough, Captain Bryson is willing to kill women in order to force a man to go above decks on a suicide mission.  Grossness on top of grossness.
  • Speaking of grossness.  Mr. Guthrie SOLD MR. SCOTT INTO SLAVERY because he sided with Eleanor, and this is The Worst.
  • Before realizing there are slaves aboard, Flint wonders why Captain Bryson wouldn’t fear them burning the ship and killing everyone aboard.  It’s because Bryson (who represents Civilization and England) knows that Flint (who represents Piracy and Self-Rule) would never massacre slaves.  😦 I am dead now, RIP me.
  • Silver does not know how to shut up, even when cuffed to a couch, to everyone’s benefit.
  • I’m not sure what to do with this:  “Guilt is natural.  It also goes away if you let it.  But losing your life’s work, that doesn’t go away.”  It is definitely a very Silver thing to say, but I can’t tell if the show wants us to agree with him.  What do you think?


  • Is it TRULY so important to have an extra pair of (unskilled) hands boarding an enemy ship that they’d risk their only crewman who is good at maths?  Hmm.

Not done reliving the episode?  Listen to Daphne and Liz’s podcast at Fathoms Deep!

2 comments on “Black Sails Season 1 Episode 5 Review – V

  1. I totally forgot how exciting the chase/attack/board sequence was, and how excellent the filming was. I have often wondered why the show never reached any broad level of popularity and I suspect part of the problem for the demo looking for a more fun, swashbuckling, escapist kind of thing was that this type of ‘traditional pirate action sequence’ was held back until 5 episodes in. That was in fact what we were expecting when we started watching the show (swordfights, pirate battles, brothel and tavern scenes, and not much of depth, which was fine with us going in). When the show actually turned out to be heavy on the politics and teeming with tons of complex mysterious characters, we were DELIGHTED, but I can see how some viewers might have bailed after 4 hours of not getting what they expected. When this show delivers the classics, though, it REALLY delivers.

    I had totally forgotten what a big role Billy and his psychology plays in the first season. When we took up Season 2 after a gap of 3 or 4 years, and Billy had been and was missing for a bit, I had this vague memory that he was sort of the ‘good-hearted, pure, slightly dumb’ one, and therefore I felt it just a little odd that he was suddenly such a power player in later seasons. Now I realize I just didn’t register him properly on my first watch.

    “Who’s Mrs. Barlow?”
    “You’ve heard the stories, haven’t you? She’s a witch who pledged my soul to the devil, and anoints me with the blood of infants to keep me safe in battle.”
    “Come on, I’m not stupid.”
    “No, you’re not. So you can probably guess it isn’t as much fun to tell stories about how your captain makes a home with a nice Puritan woman who shares his love of books.”

    Here we have Flint reiterating (probably to himself as much as Billy) the alternate, somewhat idealized version of himself that he keeps clinging to…the normal guy who wants to retire peacefully to a life of quiet inland farming with Miranda ‘someday’. But his joking framing of Miranda IS NOT ACTUALLY COMPLETELY FANCIFUL, metaphorically speaking, though that doesn’t become clear until much later.

    Mr. Guthrie, representing civilization and order, is such a piece of shit. He doesn’t deserve to even KNOW Eleanor, who, as you pointed out, is so amazing in this episode :swoon: And then we find out the only legit, civilized merchant captain we’ve had extensive dealings with so far is also a complete piece of shit. Not exactly subtle messaging, but effective.

    “Guilt is natural. It also goes away if you let it. But losing your life’s work, that doesn’t go away.”

    Re: Silver’s statement. I’m not sure what to make of it. He’s trying to manipulate Eleanor here, so I’m not sure it should be taken as any kind of creed in general (certainly not for himself at this point in the show, he appears to have no ‘life’s work’ to subvert his guilt for). It ends up being quite applicable to Eleanor’s choices (prioritizing life’s work and trying, but not always succeeding, to let go of the guilt decisions to that end creates).

    I think the show-runners are just very interested in repeatedly highlighting the difficulty of pursuing big goals, however morally good and well-intentioned they might be, without tons of collateral damage and personal guilt for choices made. DOES the guilt go away if you let it? Doubtful, unless one descends to sociopathy/psychopathy, and the show goes on to explore that to some degree. Interestingly, Silver’s arc is somewhat a reverse play, as he starts out appearing close to sociopathic (transactional in relationships, wholly self-interested, and without apparent guilt), but gradually starts to develop relationships, empathy, and to struggle with guilt.



    • That is a really good point re: Silver. He is saying the thing that we expect the mythic figure to say, but he’s just a dude. I do believe that he will do things that might cause guilt in someone who allowed it (killing that cook in the opener), but his “life work” right now is basically just surviving. It isn’t until he starts to care about people that he feels guilt. Gah, his arc is so good!


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