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Jenny: Okay, it's episode four and Black Sails is finally, finally setting sail for its shores of magnificence! The Walrus takes a time-out from piracy to perform some important ship maintenance; we learn a very great deal more about Mrs. Barlow's background and her history with Flint; Eleanor does some maneuvering to acquire the guns that Flint needs to go after the Urca; and the Max plotline continues to make me want to maroon the showrunners on an uninhabited island to die of thirst.

image of the Walrus being careened

Is it okay if we start by talking about the Max plotline? I know I just said that I hated it, but I want to get it out of the way. There's not much new to report here, just some additional scenes of Max being brutalized by Vane's crew while a white lady has feelings about her trauma. This time it's Anne Bonny having the feelings: Though she's complicit in allowing Max to be violently raped, she feels real bad about it. I hate this with an intensity and I can't wait for it to be over so that Max can blossom into the amazing character she truly is.

Jodie: I also hated the Max storyline. First, I feel stupid because I let myself get tricked into thinking that Max would be "OK" in the broadest sense of the phrase because she had come up with a smart way to use sex education to ensure her safety. But, sure enough, the show swiftly demonstrates how futile her (very resourceful) strategy is in the most brutal way possible.

Second, that's a GREAT point about Anne Bonny being a white woman having feelings about the rape of a chromatic woman, and one I had not considered, so thanks for bringing that up. That interpretation is totally spot on! Max's rape allows Anne to display visible emotions, designed to tug at the viewer's heartstrings, and push them to emotionally engage with Anne; a white lady. Meanwhile, the viewer is largely distanced from Max's internal feelings. This situation feels similar to fridging - where female death becomes a plot device and emotional catalyst in the story of a male hero. I wonder if there's a separate term to describe situations where chromatic female suffering, rather than death, performs the same kind of function in a white woman's story line? I feel like there must be, but I just don't know it.

Finally, I think Anne has a problem with the way Max is treated partly because it makes it difficult for Anne to ignore the unthinking, misogynistic attitudes of her crew, and closest ally. If the crew, and perhaps Jack in particular, have no compunction treating Max this way, it shows Anne they'll never really value her either. As much as seeing another woman get repeatedly raped, and being silently complicit in this violence, clearly upsets her, it's obviously also uncomfortable for her to face this reflection of her own low worth. So, once again, the viewer is pushed to consider how Max's repeated sexual assault affects Anne; a white woman who is, so far, physically safe. The show pushes the viewer to feel ALL the things about Anne, but the pain is really written on Max's body. It's a really terrible storyline -- please show, let's move on.

Jenny: A central conflict in this episode that I don't hate is the disagreement between Eleanor and Mr. Scott, her man of business. The Andromache has come to Nassau with twelve guns board, and Mr. Scott makes Eleanor promise that if the captain won't sell her the guns, she'll leave it at that -- never mind that Flint needs them. Meanwhile, Eleanor has lowkey blackmailed her horrible father, Richard Guthrie, into helping her convince the Andromache's captain to sell the guns. This -- only kind of succeeds. What do you make of Eleanor's relationships with her two father figures thus far?

Jodie: I think the relationship between Eleanor and her father is a very simple one. He's terrible and she knows he's terrible, but she needs him for political reasons. I hope he is somehow exploded, and (in the long run, after some drama) everything works out for Eleanor. *thinks vague hand wavey thoughts about how this might be achieved in the hope that this makes it happen*

I think, in the event that Richard Guthrie is exploded, that Mr Scott would be key to Eleanor making a go of things on her own; especially if she wants to do it without burning every single bridge to the ground. Unfortunately, at time, Eleanor seems to view Scott as a restraining force; similar to her father. I have a very speculative view of Eleanor's psychology, as I'm so new to this series, but I think Eleanor is so used to being restrained, and so desperate to cling on to her freedom, that any attempt to moderate her behaviour by a man is unthinkable to her. So, when Scott asks her not to go around the captain on the gun issue she almost can't help herself. She's so used to having to go against authority (both as a woman and as the owner of a fine lawbreaking island) and to sacrificing her personal relationships for ultimate gain that it's almost impossible for her to imagine any other way of operating, or any way that male requests can be moderated by personal context.

I both respect, and despair, of this attitude - especially because it sounds so clear that Mr Scott is making a huge exception in asking her to please not steal the guns. It's obvious to everyone else that by arranging a back up plan for getting the guns she's massively betrayed Scott by showing she doesn't trust him, won't listen to his counsel, and placing everyone in danger. However, being Eleanor she either can't see what she's done, or she can't care about the bridges she's going to burn for too long because it might get in the way of her true love - commerce. I find it interesting that she doesn't even contemplate the idea, in this episode, that Scott might be so upset he'd something drastic. Eleanor doesn't really believe other people have valid, strong passions unless they coincide directly with what she wants, and she's only really sorry to have hurt someone after she's achieved what she wants.

It's starting to sounds like I really don't like Eleanor, and I'd have to say right now I find Eleanor hard to take sometimes, but that's ok because female characters don't have to be likeable. Eleanor is an interesting character who divides my opinion (empowered female business woman who will stop at nothing to get what she needs - yay, terrible person who will betray even those she loves - oh no) much like a ton of male characters do. There is a good chance I will end up stanning for Eleanor much like I stan for the most terrible Valerie in The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (with caution, from a distance) by the end of this show. She just better not mess up Max's whole life again.

Jenny: Eleanor was an early favorite character of mine, as she is smart and potty-mouthed and blonde, three things that I also am, but she can be an absolute shit. Despite the precarity of her position in Nassau, she possesses considerable power and privilege as a white woman, as a daughter of wealth, and as the person who controls trade on the island. We've now seen her betray the only two black characters on the show, without any apparent realization that their positions not just are more precarious than hers, but in fact depend on hers. So I think it’s fine not to care for her.

The idea that she doesn't believe in other people's strong passions is a very interesting one, and I'm going to have to give it some thought! My read on the situation is that so many people have told her -- incorrectly -- that they know better than she does (just about every man in this damn show does that to Eleanor, with one annoying exception) that she's unable or unwilling to listen to anyone who actually might know better than she does, like Mr. Scott. My heart is nevertheless warmed when Eleanor goes to see Flint and he says, "What's wrong? Your father step out of line?" They're such birds of a feather, and I have emotions about their weird, hostile friendship.

The pirate problem of the week is that the pirates need to clean their ship's hull, and they're on a tight schedule. Newly elected quartermaster Billy Bones is in charge of this, which requires him to take his shirt off and shout at other pirates for being lazyboneses. While Billy's working hard, John Silver's just weaseling around failing at his job as a cook and trying to undermine Billy to Flint. It -- sort of works?

black and white gif of Flint saying 'I trust [Billy] a thousand times more than a rodent like yourself

But Flint doesn't have a ton of time to think about it because the next thing that happens is he has to hack a guy's leg off with a machete while leaving another guy to be squished by the Walrus.

Which, yes, leaving people to be smushed by ships is not great. But I do want to take a moment to acknowledge an element of Flint's character that stays consistent throughout the series: He never, ever asks his men to undergo danger that he's not willing to undergo himself. Period. When he realizes that Randall's trapped under the ship -- not remotely someone he cares about! -- he takes off running to effect a rescue, despite being well aware of the risk that he will be smushed by the ship. The fact that instead of getting smushed himself, he ends up walking away scot-free while his ship enemy gets smushed instead is -- probably why Billy confides in Gates that he's scared of Flint. All due respect to your pectoral muscles, Billy, but you should be. My dude's super scary and extremely a murderer.

Jodie: “He never, ever asks his men to undergo danger that he's not willing to undergo himself. Period.”

See, this is a character trait that I find endearing so I am sure to be charmed by it as we go along, and I see more examples pop up in Flint's story. But yes, 100% agree that Billy Bones should be scared of Flint because he will do the murder with whatever weapons are available. And while Billy may be strong, and capable, you also sense that he has some moral boundaries whereas I'm not sure Flint (much like Eleanor) does.

Even knowing that there are "reasons" I'm not fully aware of for whatever happens in the flashback we see in this episode - Flint walks out of a cabin very definitely having done some murder, and that's a pretty scary scene particularly because he puts on such an impressive mask as he leave the cabin. There's no space for remorse at having taken a life in those eyes. And, while I'm sure it's a necessary power move, I often find characters who are so great at surviving that they can fool the world into thinking doing murder has not affected them at all straight up terrifying. Especially when they have literally just done the murder!

So yes, I'm hoping Billy will stay on Flint's good side even though I can see they must inevitably clash because Billy Bones has concerns about Flint's morality, and clearly lacks some vital knowledge. Billy is kind of the "investigative" character I guess, along with Silver, and will maybe help the viewer to unearth secrets about Flint?

And, ah, thanks for explaining a plot point to me. After the boat comes down I was kind of like 'Oh you saved Randal, but he's also getting his leg amputated, and another crew member got killed anyway because he came to help you- seems like a loss & just a bit of drama.' But of course, it actually helps Silver because Morley has been spreading dissent. That clears that right up!

Should we talk about what's been revealed about Miranda next? I still don't know what's up with her, but I do now know some of the rumours surrounding her. However, since they're being repeated by Richard Guthrie, and Miranda is clearly sad about the death of Thomas, I'm pretty sure they don't paint the whole picture.

Jenny: Let's indeed do talk about what's been revealed about Miranda. Richard Guthrie (a known liar who earned my eternal enmity by referring to Mr. Scott as his houseboy) tries to enlist Miranda to his side by revealing what he knows about her life in London. She was -- according to him -- the wife of Lord Thomas Hamilton, who lost his mind because his wife had cheated on him with his best friend, and later killed himself in Bedlam. Guthrie offers to help her start over in Boston, with a new identity and a new life, and Miranda looks extremely tempted.

There's some relevant context here from earlier in the episode, so let's get back to it. We've seen Miranda try to make nice with her neighbors, and she's been rebuffed -- a little boy throws a rock at her and calls her a witch. It's been heavily implied that Flint committed some murders for Miranda ("for some fancy bit of Puritan tail" is what Morley says), and we don't know why. But most interestingly, we've seen in this episode that Flint is furious with Miranda for reading a particular book to Richard Guthrie. Miranda says the book was something she shared with Thomas, and she misses that life, and it visibly devastates Flint to hear her say that.

I rewinded every scene with Miranda in this episode to watch thrice, and I still didn't think of much that I can say about her scenes and her backstory that won't be a spoiler. I love that the show makes it clear early on that Miranda and Flint really really love each other and also are very unhappy -- for reasons we don't quite know yet. But it's a terrific choice to show him so vulnerable to Miranda, since his moments of vulnerability to date have generally been calculated for best effect on whomever he's trying to persuade. What did you make of this, as a person who doesn't know the full story with them?

Jodie: From my point of view, everything is still very mysterious and it's hard to know what to make of anything between Miranda and Flint. I'm still not really getting the emotional beats between them, probably because I don't know enough, and I'm wondering if it's a relationship that means more to viewers after they have a bit more context?

I am at a complete loss, for example, as to why they are banging when it seems like maybe Flint killed Miranda's husband who she obviously misses, and she knows Flint killed him. I don't buy this idea that Thomas went mad from heartbreak. I feel like he's more likely to be one of the people Flint kills on the boat. So, I think for me I'm still waiting for some switch to flick when it comes to Miranda and Flint.

Is there anything else you want to discuss before we wrap this one up or is it time for pirate facts?

Jenny: OH MY GOD PIRATE FACTS. I’ve been sitting on pirate facts about careening for a while now, and I’m so excited to finally get them out there. One huge thing that I wondered while watching this show is why on earth the Royal Navy couldn’t get a handle on the pirate problem -- and careening is a big part of the reason why pirate ships kept getting away from official government pursuers.As Flint says, “A clean hull means an extra knot or two in speed, five degrees or more in coming about. It’s essential to the job at hand.”

New Providence was a good home base for pirates in part because of its a large, shallow harbor. Enemy warships weren’t shallow enough in the draft to come there, and the shallows made it possible to sail your ships close to shore during high tide. Then the tide would go out and you’d have an exposed hull all ready to have the barnacles and miscellaneous crud scraped off of them. Teredo worms (shipworms!) would eat away at hulls during months at sea, so damaged planks had to be removed and replaced. Finally, you recaulked the hull and coated it with tallow and sulfur to waterproof it. Result: Gorgeous, speedy, clean ship’s hull!

Couldn’t the English Navy have done this same process and increased their ships’ speed to a similar degree? Absolutely they could. But in addition to having far fewer men than pirates did, ships of the Royal Navy careened far less often than pirate ships did. Governmental inefficiency strikes again! The Navy possessed fewer than 60 working ships in 1714, which means that ships were heavily in demand across the globe. To set one aside for the time-consuming process of carenage was quite an undertaking!

I have not been able to discern how common it was for people to get smushed during carenage. I’d like to say that I don’t think it happened that often, but pirates were drunk, like, a LOT of the time. So careening-adjacent accidents probably happened.

That’s all from us! Join us next time, when Flint takes off after the Andromache to retrieve the guns he needs, thereby missing quite a day in Nassau.

Date: 2018-10-11 07:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] necromancyneverpays.wordpress.com
The "emotional beats" between Miranda and Flint were also hard for me to figure out, but when more is revealed, it all makes perfect sense. (the non-necromancer)

Date: 2018-10-11 10:02 pm (UTC)
sabotabby: (anarcat)
From: [personal profile] sabotabby
I swear if I rewatched it I'd be squirming in my seat every time Miranda is on screen.

I was watching Black Sails at around the same time I was watching Hell on Wheels, and it struck me that both Eleanor Guthrie and Lily Bell are protagonists in an Ayn Rand novel: Blond, beautiful, selfish, and tough. The only difference is that the latter show has shitty libertarian politics and expects us to like Lily, whereas the former has good politics and we're supposed to see right off the bat that someone like Eleanor would be a horrible person IRL but hella entertaining to watch.


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