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YMMV / Black Sails

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  • Alternate Character Interpretation: Brought up by Silver in regards to Eleanor Guthrie in Episode 6. Were her actions, killing Vane's remaining crew, motivated by a desire to protect/save/avenge Max, or to show that "No one fucks with Eleanor Guthrie?" Both?
    • Does Flint's desire for war with England come from a desire to free the new world from the tyranny and oppression of the old one and build a society based on Thomas's ideals, or simply his rage at Thomas's believed death—and later Miranda's genuine death—pushing him to burn and destroy everything he blames for it? Silver flatly tells Flint himself in the final episode that he believes it to be the latter.
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    • Is any part of Flint's fate in the epilogue true or accurate? Is Rackham's story at the end what really happened, and Silver really did spare Flint's life and sent him to that plantation in Savannah to reunite with Thomas? Or is it all a story Rackham and Silver concocted to give the remaining pirates hope, and what really happened was Silver shot Flint dead in that clearing on Skeleton Island? Or are only some parts of it true? Like maybe Flint did survive at the end and go to that plantation, but Thomas really did commit suicide before the events of the series began, and was there never there to reunite with Flint? Or was Thomas really alive and an inmate at the plantation, but Flint was shot by Silver and thus never made it there to join his old lover?
  • Angst Dissonance: With Woodes Rogers after Eleanor's death. Most fans just couldn't relate to him.
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  • Awesome Music: Bear McCreary's excellent theme tune will send chills down your spine.
  • Base-Breaking Character:
    • Eleanor. Some like her for being a driven, tough young woman who does not allow a patriarchal world to stand in the way of her ambition, and who remains strongly independent. Others despise her for her Chronic Backstabbing Disorder, her extreme self-righteousness, and her loyalty only to herself. She has become even more hated in the third season when she repeatedly punches Vane in the face and agrees to him being executed, and genuinely falling for Woodes Rogers - becoming his Dark Mistress.
    • Max. Some love her for being a highly ambitious and intelligent woman of color who is able to achieve immense success despite being born into slavery and spending the majority of her life being an abused prostitute. Others hate her for Jessica Parker Kennedy's reserved acting performance, how she has developed into becoming more like Eleanor (who is base breaking herself), her bizarre accent along with Purple Prose can be hard to understand, and her attempts to split up Anne and Jack so she can have Anne for herself.
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  • Complete Monster: Edward "Ned" Low, captain of the Fancy, outdoes any other pirate in series for evil and cruelty. In the opening scenes of season 2, Low waylays a ship called the Good Fortune that peacefully surrenders, but upon finding a valuable hostage on the ship, Low has the crew massacred and personally shoots the captain dead as the man pleads he has a family. Low sets up shop at Nassau and tries to intimidate the head of business Eleanor Guthrie with a speech of how his crew knows Low is a monster. He later fantasizes about raping Eleanor to within an inch of her life. When his quartermaster, Meeks, tries to ally with Eleanor, Low tortures and beheads him in full view of Eleanor's entire bar, then kills her bodyguard when the man tries to make him leave. Low makes clear he will eventually come for Eleanor and confesses he is a man driven solely by cruelty and instinct that he often surrenders to.
  • Crowning Music of Awesome: As expected of Bear McCreary. Exhibit A: The Main Theme. If anyone can make a hurdy-gurdy awesome, it's Bear McCreary.
  • Death of the Author:
    • Jonathan E. Steinberg has confirmed in a podcast that Anne Bonny is gay and that her relationship with Jack Rackham is a platonic one akin to being "twins". This doesn't make a lick of sense when Anne in the series is clearly depicted as bisexual rather than a closeted lesbian who only recently discovered her sexuality; she has had sexual relations with both sexes, is devoted to Jack (a man), chooses him over Max (a woman), and continues to act romantically towards him even after her tryst with Max. The vast majority of fans ignore Steinberg's comments as it doesn't gel with the show itself and accuse him of bisexual erasure. Although there is a chance that he was using "gay" as an umbrella term. Scholars also believe the real-life Anne Bonny was bisexual.
    • The writers have a serious problem with acknowledging the existence of bisexuality. Flint has also been referred to as gay rather than bisexual even though he had intimate, sexual relationships with both sexes. The Distant Finale ends with him finding his lover Thomas, long thought dead. However, it is worth noting that with Flint's case he is never shown particularly enjoying heterosexual encounters, muddying the waters a little.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Charles Vane was always extremely popular, even when he was a villain.
  • Growing the Beard: Though the writing, acting, and production values were always high, the first season was a bit sloppy, especially with regards to Charles Vane's subplot, where he doesn't really do anything until episode 7. Season 2 takes all the good things from Season One and enhances them, all while making all of the characters significantly more complex and breaking them away from their archetypes. The third season only goes further.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Most of the pirates. They're all thieves and murderers, but life hasn't been very kind to any of them:
    • Flint only became a pirate when the world destroyed his life and took away the man he loved, all because he was trying to do the right thing. Even when he does horrible things, the moral consequences weigh heavily on him.
    • Anne Bonny was abused, tortured, and likely raped at the hands of her first husband (and it's implied her husband's friends), all before she was 13. The man who rescued her from that was Jack, which explains why she's so loyal to him.
    • Jack's parents owned a decent textile business until their rivals forced them out of business; his father became an alcoholic, and when he died, the apparently still quite young Jack inherited his debts. And went to debtor's prison, where he had to do prison labor involving, ironically, textile manufacture. All of this made him determined to be his own man with a respected name and a legacy worth having.
    • Billy's parents were good people, but he was kidnapped as a child and kept as slave for a few years. The abuse he suffered was so bad that he eventually killed his captor, and then he couldn't face his parents with a murder on his conscience, so he never saw them again.
    • Charles Vane was a slave on Albinus' lumber plantation note  and it was so traumatic for him that he vowed to never live under any man or any nation's yoke again.
      • He also implied that he was sexually abused during this time. Or at least Jack seems to assume Vane was refering to his own fear of nightly visits by the overseer, judging by the look he was giving him. And Vane seemed to have identified with a barely pubescent boy he was seeing during the scenes in the lumber yard, so it's implied that he was born into that life of slavery, not deported from Britain for some crime.
    • Even Silver. We don't hear much but we know that he grew up in an orphanage, and anybody familiar with the social history of England will know that orphanages at the time were absolutely horrible. For a man coming from a childhood little better than Vane's, one can understand why Silver is so ruthlessly greedy and opportunistic.
      • And near the finale of the show this orphanage background is retconned to have been another fabrication of Silver's. Reality was much worse - so bad, in fact, that Silver just straight up refuses to talk about it, even though he really needed to in order to keep Flint's trust at that point. All he would say was that the truth would make Flint lose faith in humanity. Considering that almost all the major characters (except Flint and Eleanor) have a background in some form of childhood enslavement and/or sexual abuse, this is really saying something.
  • Magnificent Bastard:
    • John Silver starts off as a selfish Opportunistic Bastard, but would soon become more brave and daring, while still keeping his sly charm. Originally, just a cook in Captain James Flint's crew, he soon rise up to the ranks to become Flint's right hand man by burning the schedule Flint dearly wants, forcing Flint to trust Silver in finding the Urca gold. Upon finding the treasure, they would soon be captured by a Spanish Man-O-War, where Silver proceeds to elicit conflict within the crew, allowing Flint to commandeer the ship. Arriving at Nassau, Silver has Jack Rackham's crew salvage the gold for him while Flint goes to war with Charles Vane, and teams up with the latter to rescue Flint in Charlestown. Becoming stranded on an island with the Maroons, Silver brokers an alliance with the Maroons and the Pirates against the British Empire, and has one his own men "defect" to the British forces led by Benjamin Hornigold to lure them into a trap leading to their decimation. Taking the moniker "Long" John Silver, he would grow a reputation that exceeds even that of Flint's, eventually removing Flint from piracy by reuniting him with his lover, Thomas, while Silver ends the war that Flint once started.
    • Charles Vane is a bold pirate who once helped to overthrow his mentor Blackbeard. In present, after being deposed by his crew, Vane returns to seize control again and dedicates himself to the freedom of Nassau. When his old flame, Eleanor, is threatened by the sadistic Ned Low, Vane outwits, traps and murders him before nailing his head to a post with a sign reading "I angered Charles Vane." Vane also organizes the sack of a city when it seeks to execute him to save himself and Flint, before helping to organize Nassau's defenses. Even in death, Vane allows himself to be hanged to inspire Nassau to rebellion, reminding the crowd that the British are not as numerous as the islanders and "they can't hang us all" before ordering the hangman to get on with it.
    • Vane's former right hand man, Jack Rackham, comes from the bottom to organize a new crew and pirate venture, stealing a fortune of gold out from under the noses of every other player. After the death of Vane, Rackham helps to organize some of the most devastating defeats of the British, and when he finally helps to defeat his nemesis, Woodes Rogers, Rackham on a plan to destroy him by having Rogers' debts purchased and defaulted upon, writing all his failures into a public ledger as Rogers is forced to hear his once-promising future destroyed. Rackham ends the series still secretly a pirate, setting sail for adventure anew with his beloved Anne Bonney at his side.
  • Narm:
    • Rackham's four-lensed sunglasses seen in the pilot.
    • Most of Max's dialogue can be this; aside from her odd accent, she has an overly flowery and dramatic vocabulary along with odd speech patterns. She virtually never says anything plainly, even if a scene calls for it, and tends to be given the job of explaining in detail what public reaction to a given course of action might be to characters who should by all rights be able to figure it out themselves.
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: In Season 1, John Silver is an insufferable git played by a fairly wooden Luke Arnold who causes a slew of problems, isn't helpful to the crew, and a major Karma Houdini — he is never punished for his actions but everyone around him suffers for them. He was easily the least popular character in Season 1 but improved dramatically in the second, and Arnold's acting is also seen as a highlight of the series by Season 3.
  • Shout-Out: The series ends upon Rackham and Anne looking at Rackham's Jolly Roger of a skull and crossed swords, which is on the cover of Barnes & Noble's edition of ''Treasure Island''.
  • Stealth Pun: At the end of Season 1, Max tells Rackham, "Get your fucking house in order" when he's mismanaging the brothel (a fucking house, as in a house where fucking occurs).


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