NYCC 2016: Hit the High Seas and Get Ready for the Final Season of Black Sails
Here we are, folks. It’s the beginning of the end. Black Sails premieres January 29th with the first episode of their fourth and final season. After the events of season three, with Vane’s death and Eleanor’s betrayal, it feels like it’s been a long road towards the eventual future of Treasure Island.
When we spoke to some of the cast and executive producers at New York Comic Con this year there was both a sense of finality and a sense of satisfaction with the conclusion of this series. Executive producer Robert Levine described the series as “not tv, not a movie, but something in between.” We’d have to agree. Somewhere between the cinematic production and the grand story archs, Black Sails has always been a show that operates more like a ten hour film than an episodic story.
In regards to the ending, EP Dan Shotz seemed satisfied with where it ended. “We got to tell our full complete story,” he said. “The story was building to this climax, we didn’t want to overstay our welcome. […] It felt like it was going towards this giant end note.”
Many of the cast member seemed to agree, with Luke Arnold (“John Silver”) adding that, “It just wouldn’t feel right coming back next year for a fifth season.” He described the last episodes as the pinnacle of Black Sails, that it ends “really satisfying, heartbreaking, [but] there’s still a lot of hope.”
The ultimate goal seemed to be to create a new story that we hadn’t seen before, and one could argue that they succeeded. In a long line of humorous and affable pirates in productions like Hook and Pirates of the Carribean, Black Sails grounded the pirates of Nassau in the gritty reality of their time, not fanciful children’s stories. In the end, EP Jonathan E. Steinberg and fellow creators of the show found the perfect ending for the unique show that they had created. One “that was gratifying, that felt like it was worthy of everything that came before it, [one] that felt like it was worthy of the book that came after it.” Indeed, Levine added that at the end of the show, ideally the audience could follow it up with a read of Treasure Island and see the story in a brand new way.
In regards to the major death of Captain Vane last season, it’s become one of the main catalysts of the final season for many of the plots and characters. “He’s not there, but his ghost is felt very strongly. […] He’s gone, but he’s not really gone,” Levine explained. He also talked a little bit about Vane’s death; “We all know it didn’t end well for them [pirates].” In many ways, Vane’s death was very true to his character. He wasn’t someone who was going to ever grow old, and in his death, he inspired a rebellion as a martyr.
Hannah New (“Eleanor Guthrie”) talked about her role as Eleanor and her relationship to Vane with the events of the previous season. Viewing her as a survivor, New praised her character for doing exactly what many of the male characters would do, despite the criticism from fans. “Quite often she does things that, if she were male, she would be lauded for,” she explained. “For me, it’s so refreshing to play a female character who doesn’t have to be likable. Why does she have to be likable?”
New talked about how fun it was to play a character that had to adapt to the changes in her surroundings, and in playing a character that people love to hate. She also talked about Eleanor’s relationship to Vane; “I can’t keep going back to this person, he’s my Achilles’ heel, he’s going to ruin my vision of what I have for this island,” New said, explaining Eleanor’s thought process regarding Vane. “It’s like that bad college boyfriend that you keep coming back to. You really shouldn’t, but you can’t help yourself. […] They’re both bad for each other.”
For the pirates, Tom Hopper (“Billy Bones”) reiterated Billy’s loyalty to his men as one of his largest traits. “He will be aggressively protective of those men around him,” Hopper said, explaining Billy’s intentions and suggesting that Billy would be taking on the clearly defined role of a leader in the finale season. Hopper also added that Billy feels that Flint has his own interests in mind and not the interests of his men. Luke Arnold also emphasized Silver’s development as he has
Luke Arnold also emphasized Silver’s development as a character throughout the seasons. Gates, Miranda, and now Vane, “every time something bigger steps out of the way, Silver keeps falling into these other spots.” While the path is painted clearly for Silver, who is a major character in Treasure Island, less is certain for the other characters. Historical characters like Rackham and Anne Bonny faced the noose in the end, while original characters like Eleanor and Max have an even more ambiguous future.
Clara Paget (“Anne Bonny”) mentioned that with the death of Vane, Anne would be taking on more responsibility, especially now that she’s teamed up with Blackbeard. “She’s the glue holding it together, she’s less emotional than Rackham. It [Vane’s death] hits her really hard because that’s her captain.”
And while Max’s future is up in the air, Jessica Parker Kennedy talked about the pride of playing a unique character like Max and getting the opportunity to represent a character of color. “I feel very privileged to be included in that [people of color] demographic,” she said, after explaining that she had never felt that identification while living in Canada before the production of Black Sails. In the last season, we saw a bit of Max’s backstory, and although Kennedy revealed that she had created her own different backstory for Max in her head, the canon story was also something that she felt was true to her character, saying it was the “easiest scene to memorize, easiest scene to film, because it just felt natural.”
The fate of the characters is up in the air, but there’s no doubt that we’re in for a climactic build towards the explosive end of this series, and everyone seems excited to see it unfold. Black Sails premieres January 29th on STARZ at 9pm EST/PST, and will be airing on Mondays.