Black Sails, Episode 3.5 – “XXIII” Review: All Too Convenient

Warning: The following review contains spoilers from this week’s episode of Black Sails.

“I saw a dead dog lying in the grass when I was young,” each word spoken with a deep despair.

The black clad Death figure that has come to populate Captain James Flint’s (Toby Stephens) dreams stands ominously in the grass and mist of a river bank. As if part of the mist itself, the camera slowly pushes in on this creature.

“She was an old bitch in life,” he continues, “just a pup in death.”


Flint stands uneasy facing this figure. Miranda Barlow (Louise Barnes), standing by Flint’s side, seems at peace. This may be the captain’s dream, but it’s Miranda’s journey. Flint’s voice-over continues:

“I remember seeing the first flies set on her eyes. How strange it was that they looked so alive and yet did not move. That was the first moment that I wondered, what this moment would feel like.”

Captain Flint longs for death. He longs for his reunion with Miranda, the woman he loves, but somewhere deep in that miserable mind he knows it’s not his time, so Miranda offers this in response, “James, you resented me because we were so close and I threw it all away. If you join me now what if I resented you for the same reason? Flint wants to think he has nothing left to live for, but Miranda tells him “You are not alone.”

Opening sequences remain one of the best parts of Black Sails. Of particular note this week is that all Flint’s dialog takes the form of a voice-over, while Miranda physically speaks her lines, a curious and successfully unsettling decision by director Alik Sakharov.


Without difficulty, Flint receives a private meeting with the King of the Island. That Mr. Scott’s (Hakeem Kae-Kazim)  the king is of course quite suspect. It’s too convenient for Flint and his crew, so the writers make sure to have Mr. Scott explain. Its entirely unsatisfying when he tells Flint that he “might manage the survival of both places outside the scrutiny of either.”

However, what this scene does accomplish well is set up two key points. One, that there are many similar slave villages on other remote islands. Two, the village now needs a new supplier of essentials, a role the Walrus crew would fit well if Flint can persuade the Maroon Queen.


Outside, under dark of night, surrounded by her subjects, The Queen (Moshidi Motshegwa) sits on her throne.  Flint kneels before her to make his speech, but it isn’t the pitch Mr. Scott fed him. Flint has his own agenda, paramount of which is driving England out of Nassau. This man cares not how he can help the village, but instead how they and the many like it, hidden within other Islands, can help him.

“England takes whatever, whenever, however it wants. Lives, loves, labor, spirits, homes,” he tells the Queen, but with an army of pirates and slaves they could take from England, reclaim Nassau and build a free city on a defensible island.

The Queen sleeps on it, but ultimately she agrees with Flint because, you know, “luck” is eternally on Flint’s side. While his speech had its share of rousing lines it still felt out of character for the Queen to change her mind so easily. In large scope, the entire Maroon Island story line has been wholly underwhelming.


The best parts of this episode come in the interactions of Charles Vane (Zach McGowan) with a Spaniard (Isak Ferriz)  who’s protects his ship against the fearsome pirate fleet. For their first act the men put on a rousing sword fight. Interesting angles from cinematographer Gavin Struthers, including a birds eye view perspective,  ensures the audience sees the full extent to which these actors learned their excellent choreography.

The two up the ante by sharing a heartfelt conversation over a cup of rum, as the Spaniard slowly bleeds to death.


“You lag recovering from party… if you’d shown it to me again I would have had you,” the Spaniard lays into Vane. “Strange how little separates us.”

Charles Vane respects a man who can fight. He seems to genuinely feel for this fallen crewman, asking him why they didn’t just surrender? It turns out that ship owners will sometimes provide money to the families of crew members who fight back, and given the cargo they carry, surrender wasn’t an option.

It turns out, in a chamber below deck, a man hastily burns document after document. When Teach (Ray Stevenson) breaks down the door, the man puts a gun to his head and takes his own life without hesitation. The papers? Spanish intelligence correspondence, obviously not something allowed to fall into the hands of treacherous pirates. Some still remain intact, one with Charles Vane’s name written in it. This may not be Irca gold, but rest assured Charles and Teach will find this bounty valuable.


While this season remains strong, particularly with the action sequences,  some of the larger plot points have become quite transparent  and all too convenient. Flint finds an army of slaves just as Nassau is captured by England. Vane and Teach find Spanish intelligence just as that country prepares to invade Nassau itself. The rest of the season seems laid out all too perfectly. Hopefully, some surprises still remain.

Black Sails airs Saturday nights at 9pm EST on Starz.

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Black Sails

Black Sails








        • Wonderfully written dialogue.
        • Great action sequences.


        • Overall lack of struggle.

        In 2013, Matt co-produced and directed “The Devil in Jersey”, a short horror film which played at several east coast film festivals, including The Big Apple Film Fest at Tribeca Cinema in New York city.

        As “Team Starmada”, lead Matt Sundell, along with Daniel Dw and John Housley, created “Hive”, a short film about the dangers of technological advancement. The film received 6 nominations and won 4 awards, including best film at Philadelphia’s 2014 Project Twenty1 Film Competition. In addition to conceiving the concept and story, Matt directed, shot, and edited the film.

        Matt currently works as director of photography on the web series “Ghetto Nerd Girl” which won the Audience Choice Award at the 2014 Atlanta Webfest.