Flint, Flint, Rum, Rum, Sea, Sea – Foreshadowing Flint’s Finale Fate.
Before I return to the sea not unlike a certain infamous Mr Flint (though in this case I'm about to return the sea via some vacation time, wahoo), I did want to offer up the following for a belated perspective on the events of the finale. Black Sails, like no television series I have seen before, is absolutely meticulous about its foreshadowing, parallels, symbolism, etc. Many of the characters' fates are set-up in S1 via dialogue and foreshadowing. The following is to demonstrate why – for me – taking a living Flint's finale fate at face value offers a satisfying amount of pay-off to all that meticulous set-up throughout the series. On the other hand, a dead Flint undermines hours of set-up, parallels, dialogue, text and subtext that the series has gone to great pains to establish. For a neat and logical breakdown on the Flint's fate and Black Sails' established cinematic language, u/flowersinthedark did so here. If you want an in-depth look at the incomprehensible amount of detail that went into foreshadowing the fates of Black Sails' characters via physical props and set-dressing (ie. Flint/Thomas, Jack/Rogers, Max, Miranda, etc), a huge thank you to the kind soul that recommended me Sagestreet's historical breakdowns and analysis of the iconography and cinematic language used throughout Black Sails. I've seen few pieces of media with such meticulous attention to detail before, let alone a piece of media that was so dense with foreshadowing and parallels from the dialogue down to the set dressing.
Due to the pacing, intentional ambiguity and the symbolism of the finale, any interpreted death flags for Flint can be taken literally or symbolically. If it was any other television series, I wouldn't embrace a symbolic death over a literal death quite so keenly, but Black Sails is quite a different beast like no other. The show has been extremely purposeful about emphasizing McGraw's creation of Flint, separate from the original man himself – almost the equivalent of Bruce Wayne's Batman in terms of separation of man and mask. A creation born out of a great tragedy. The lines also ultimately become similarly blurred between both men and their creations, though James throughout Black Sails has been more willing to put aside Flint than some incarnations of Bruce Wayne/Batman have been. Flint has also been examined as a construct beyond the original man himself within the series. In 3×01, when Flint is being cavalier about his own safety after the tragic loss of Miranda, Silver points out the importance of Flint's name and persona independent of the original creator: 'This crew has spilled a great deal of blood to make your name what it is. It doesn't belong to you. It's a jointly held asset belonging to every man on this crew who sacrificed some part of himself to build it. They have a say about how it is managed and I am the voice of it.'
Come 4×10, it is fitting that it is not Flint himself, but once Silver (alongside Rackham and Max), that makes the final choice as to the liability of the former joint asset that was 'Flint'. There is also an irony in that, like with Billy Bones to Long John Silver, Silver had a hand in making Flint and Flint's legacy from S3 onwards. It's again fitting that Silver contributes to 'unmaking' of Flint.
Black Sails quite bluntly shares its game plan for what is to the come with the series itself early on in S1 via the 'fruit/fruit, tits/tits, plants/plants – it's the same!' scene. Black Sails is a show about parallels, truth vs. stories, and a lot of tragic bookends. The following is just a very basic summary of the dense weaving narrative that is Black Sails and some of the foreshadowing/set-up that applies to Flint. I know I've still missed quite a bit and I still don't think I've done the dense narrative tapestry of Black Sails justice due to the sheer amount of depth there is. The following is also primarily just focusing on foreshadowing and parallels for Flint himself, though a breakdown on Silver and the dynamic between Silver and Flint in the lead up to the finale, is another prolonged and very important discussion entirely.
1. James' Inescapable Fate of Exile.
Lord Hamilton, 2×05: 'Now, this ends quietly, permanently, and in the manner of my choosing. You are summarily discharged from service. No charges will be drawn against you, provided you leave London quietly and are neither seen nor heard from again.'
Gates, 1×08: 'No. We're going to go home and I will see you and Mrs. Barlow secreted away before anybody knows you're gone. You're gonna go to Boston. You're gonna take the pardon that she's offered you – and that is the last that you and I will ever see of each other.' // Flint: 'Please. Please, don't do this…'
Max, 4×04: 'This man, we were told, found it profitable to offer his services to wealthy families, some of the most prominent in London on occasion, who needed to make troublesome family members disappear. Cared for, tended to, but never to be seen or heard from again'.
Rackham, 4×10: 'Retired from the account. (Flint) was persuaded that his efforts were not longer viable, that those closest to him had grown tired of them and of him. He then chose to walk away from it all. He is no longer a concern of ours'.
Silver, 4×10: 'There is a place, near Savannah, where men unjustly imprisoned in England are sent in secret. An interment far more humane, but no less secure. Men who enter these gates never leave them. For the rest of the world, they simple cease to be.'
There is an almost a cruel and an inescapable circular inevitability to how James McGraw is fated by his friends, as much as his enemies, throughout Black Sails. Time and time again, he is to be exiled and intended to never be seen or heard from again by the sender. Lord Hamilton was an enemy, but Admiral Hennessey, Gates, Silver held a great significance and affection for James. There was even Miranda's well-meaning and unintentional betrayal to get Flint pardoned and sending them both away so that they might go to Boston – which of course starts the domino effect of Billy falling into the ocean, Flint killing Gates, Billy never again trusting Flint upon his return, etc.
Compounded with the loss of Thomas, Black Sails began due to Lord Hamilton and Admiral Hennessey exiling James McGraw away from England, intended to never be seen or heard from again – and Flint was created in the process. Black Sails ends with John Silver exiling Flint himself to a place where he is intended to never be seen for or heard from again, though this time he is to be reunited with Thomas – Flint is then 'unmade' in the process. It's a cruel irony that James' inescapable fate is a revolving door of banishment and one that is inevitable once he becomes too inconvenient or causes too much disruption. An even crueller irony is that the victors in the finale won because of Flint's competence, tactics and naval experience against Rogers. Jack wouldn't have gotten his prize in Rogers, Silver wouldn't have found Madi safe and sound, Mrs Guthrie wouldn't have gotten vengeance for Eleanor, Max wouldn't be shadow ruling Nassau. Flint's reward for the above is, once again, exile and betrayal.
Part of Oglethorpe's speech in 4×10 can also be applied to James' perpetual banishment throughout the series, as much as it also applies to Thomas: 'What's to be done with the unwanted ones? The men who do not fit, whom civilization must prune from the vine to protect the sense of itself. Every culture since earliest antiquities survived this way, defining itself by the things that it excludes. So long as there is progress, there will be human debris in its wake on the outside looking in.' There have been many attempts to prune James from the vine throughout the series, to remove him from civilization – though he keeps coming back, despite everyone's best efforts. The words on the gate of Oglethorpe's estate (the colonial seal of the Georgia colony) say 'non sibi sed aliis'/'not for themselves, but for others'. The role of the Georgia colony in history applies as a depressing parallel for both James and Thomas: 'not for our own benefit, but for England's'. James McGraw's/Flint's inescapable fate in Black Sails summarized into a sign, really.
2. Flint's Ten Year Odyssey.
We have a very distinct parallel from Flint himself as Odysseus from S1 onwards, though you could also parallel other characters from classical and Biblical literature. Sagestreet has an absolutely fascinating breakdown of Thomas as Ariadane, McGraw as Theseus and Flint as Dionysus, which was foreshadowing and symbolism that was set-up all the way back in S2. It was a breakdown that was written pre-finale, too, and with a living Flint reuniting with Thomas, the foreshadowing does indeed come to pass. In regards to the show's comparisons within the text itself between Odysseus and Flint, Flint says to Eleanor in 1×02: 'Odysseus, on his journey home to Ithaca, was visited by a ghost. The ghost tells him that once he reaches his home, once he slays all his enemies and sets his house in order, he must do one last thing before he can rest. The ghost tells him to pick up an oar and walk inland… and keep walking until somebody mistakes that oar for a shovel, for that would be the place that no man had ever been troubled by the sea. And that's where he'd find peace. In the end, that's all I want. To walk away from the sea and find some peace.'
In the finale, that is Flint's exact fate. Rackham reinforces the phasing to Mrs Guthrie: '(Flint) then chose to walk away from it all.' Oglethorpe states of the men taken into his care, 'here they must cease to be, in order to find peace.' With Flint living past the events of Skeleton Island, he finally finds peace in a place where no man has been troubled by the sea and an oar could be mistaken for a shovel. The finale certainly emphasised some oar/shovel close-ups, too, along with all workers with their rakes/hoes at the plantation. Odysseus' journey away lasts for ten years, as does James' ten years away from Thomas, in which more powerful forces kept them apart. Odysseus returned to Penelope under a false guise, which again fits nicely for James McGraw reuniting with Thomas wearing the clothes and guise of Flint. I am sure this is an entirely unintentional bonus, but the reunion of Flint/Thomas in Black Sails very much evokes the reunion of Odysseus/Penelope within the Odyssey itself: Odysseus/Flint melted and wept as he clutched Penelope/Thomas close to him and Penelope/Thomas could not tear (their) arms from his neck in turn.
Flint's purposeful parallels to Odysseus are also why I also think the symbolic Greek mythology overtones to Flint arriving at the plantation are quite fitting. We see Flint's 'death' and then McGraw's reawakening from Flint as he finally finds some semblance of peace. The candle being snuffed out in the Guthrie's parlour is a good metaphor, alongside Flint's arrival at the plantation being rife with Greek mythology and symbolism – paying the toll to the ferryman, the three fates sewing, Thomas' clock, etc, before Flint walks into the Elysium Fields. I will say it's the most depressing version of the Elysium Fields ever, as it contains no reunion with Miranda, armed guards and eternity of servitude.
3. The Price of Love and Happiness – The Primary Overarching Theme of Black Sails.
Eleanor, 4×06: 'I found myself thinking about it – walking away from Nassau, from England, from civilization. One can be happy that way, can't they? A life of isolation and uncertainty, as long as it is lived with someone you love… and who loves you back. It is possible, isn't it?'
The most important questions posed from the beginning of Black Sails have been in regards to love, and it's a theme that is carried through to the end of the series. The stakes of it, the necessity of it, the worth of it over ambition, what it drives us to do and the legacy its loss can leave. It asks what the characters would trade for it, or give up to keep it – ambition, security, or even a revolution. Eleanor ultimately chooses Nassau and her ambitions over Max early on in S1. Flint himself watches the scene unfold, which is fitting considering he must wrestle with the same choice across the series, as I'll discuss below. Come S4, Eleanor reminisces with Max over whether she did the right thing in choosing Nassau and why she did it. Max, after betraying Anne previously, ultimately chooses Anne over her ambitions in 4×08. Vane chose the safety of Jack, Anne and a revolution for Nassau over his own life. Blackbeard tormented Rogers in his dying moments to keep Jack safe from Rogers that little bit longer. Jack surrendered to Rogers in early S4 in order to save Anne. Eleanor wanted to save Rogers from debt and to protect their unborn child. Silver would take Madi and her safety over danger and revolution and forcibly does so, though he clearly regrets this choice come Treasure Island. Madi, though she loves Silver dearly, wouldn't necessarily trade it all for him. The stakes for her are far too high for her and her people, and those still in slavery. In a moment of both love and utter cruelty, Silver takes that decision from her and seals her fate. Julius is more of a realist and would take peace and safety for the Maroon people over a war with such deadly stakes.
The aforementioned stakes are ones that Miranda, Thomas, McGraw/Flint and Peter Ashe also have to contend with: the choice between success and revolution and protecting the ones you love. In the S2 England flashbacks, Miranda was frightened that the stakes had become too high and too dangerous for her little trio, and had wanted McGraw to stop encouraging Thomas in his pardoning of the pirates of Nassau. She valued the safety of those she loved over pushing back at civilization and saving the pirates of Nassau. McGraw was aware of the precarious game they were all playing, but is too enthralled by Thomas and Thomas' vision for Nassau to stop. Thomas fears the kind of man his father is, and knows how far his reach extends, but Thomas continues onward with his reform and pardons regardless as his plans also have ‘the virtue of being the right thing to do’. Later, as Thomas is about to be taken away to Bethlem, his primary concern is not for himself, but the safety of James and Miranda, wanting them to take care of each other. Meanwhile, Ashe betrayed his friends for thirty pieces of silver, but we never truly find out if it was a betrayal genuinely out of love and fear to protect his family, or if it was out of sheer greed to increase his standing. It may have been a combination of both. In S1, Flint and Miranda come to verbal blows over the revelation that she wanted to give them a new life in Boston, and to walk away from the pain and vengeance for a chance at a new start. Whilst Flint can't let go of his grief, Miranda knows that for the sake of them both, they need to let go and move on. Relevant excerpts from Miranda's and Flint's 2×07 dialogue:
Flint: 'What was your intent – what was it? To destroy everything we've tried to build here for the past 10 years? Or was it just to embarrass me?' Miranda: 'To show you a way out of all this, to free you!' // 'What does it matter what happened then if we have no life now? Because there is no life here. There is no joy here. There is no love here.'
Miranda: 'You'll fight a war so we can make a life?' // Flint: 'You don't get one without the other, my sweet.'// Miranda: 'No. You're wrong. I sent that letter to show you that you're wrong. There is a life in Boston – there is joy there, and music, and peace. The door is open. I've opened it for you – and it requires no war, and no blood, and no sacrifice.'
Miranda: 'This path you're on… it doesn't lead where you think it does. If he were here, he'd agree with me.'
Flint, of course, storms out of their house and immediately begins drowning his sorrows in rum over the thought that Thomas wouldn't approve of Flint's decisions and vengeance since Thomas' death. After the Thomas reveal and the 'I think you're fighting for the sake of fighting' argument between Miranda and Flint in 2×05, Flint starts to come around to Miranda's way of thinking. Flint later tells Miranda that he is truly willing to cast 'Flint' aside, and let James McGraw and Miranda Barlow retire to the interior of Nassau permanently. Come 2×09, there is a tragic reversal and bookend that it is Miranda – not Flint – that is so overcome by vengeance and grief that she wants to see Charlestown burn for Ashe's betrayal of her, James, and Thomas. After her death, Flint is more than happy to oblige.
A dead Flint doesn't get to ultimately wrestle with the choice given to the rest of the characters, one that was set up from Silver in 4×04: 'If we assume, that we are on the verge of some impossible victory here, a truly significant thing – that we assume that is real, and here for the taking, wouldn’t you trade it all to have Thomas Hamilton back again?' // Silver: 'Would you trade this war to make it so?' Come 4×10, Flint himself admits whilst nearly in tears that he's not sure what he'd do: 'You asked me once what I would do, what I would sacrifice, if it meant having Thomas back again. I honestly don't know what I would have done. I honestly couldn't say I wouldn't have done what you did.'
If Flint lives, we have a complicated answer for him. Flint is reunited with Thomas in the end, though not under idyllic circumstances. We know that from Treasure Island that Flint doesn't go back for the treasure, and that Flint starts no more widely known disruptions out of vengeance. We can assume that being reunited with Thomas was enough for Flint to put that grief, rage, and vengeance aside and have some semblance of peace. If Flint was willing to do this for Miranda in S2, it stands to reason that he would be more than willing to do the same for Thomas, who was the catalyst for the events of Black Sails and the creation of Flint in the first place. Flint and Eleanor were partners is crime for much of Black Sails, with similar ideals – it's fitting that Eleanor also succinctly prophesied Flint's exact finale fate in her talk with Madi from above – 'a life of isolation and uncertainly, as long as it is lived with someone you love, and who loves you back. One can be happy that way, can't they?' I always thought the 'isolation' part of her statement was unnervingly specific, but having an ending with Flint in an isolated prison shut away from civilization with the one he loves pays off that foreshadowing nicely. The creators talked about in an interview that these were the stakes they wanted for these characters, and for Flint, even knowing there wouldn't be a clear answer for it all by the end of the show. Come TI, Flint's curse comes to pass, and Silver regrets the choices he made at the end of Black Sails. We don't know what happens specifically for Flint, but taking his TI fate at face value and from interviews with Steinberg/Levine, I would logically assume that when Thomas has passed away and Flint's revolution has long been buried in the ground by Silver, Flint then turns to drink to drown his loneliness and sorrow.
4. The Story of Mr Flint.
Flint, 4×09: 'One night (my grandfather) was alone on the late watch at anchor in the Boston Harbor when he sees this man climbing out of the water and onto his ship. A stranger. Now, my grandfather thought about ringing the bell, but curiosity got the better of him… the stranger approaches my grandfather and asks him for a little rum. Man said that he had fled his fishing trawler, accused of killing another man. And when asked his name, the man simply replied, 'Mr. Flint'. This stranger – he never said whether he was guilty of the killing or why he chose that ship or where he was bound, he just – just sat there. Eventually, he asked my grandfather for a little more rum from below. My grandfather went off to fetch it, but when he returned… the man was gone. My grandfather was in Boston for a month after that. Never heard a word about a killing or a fugitive at large. It was as if the sea had conjured that man out of nothing and then taken him back for some unknowable purpose.'
Captain Flint's tale of Mr Flint works on quite a few satisfying levels. It's a parallel to the fate we know of Flint in Treasure Island – Flint asking McGraw to pass him the rum before he dies/disappears. For one, it could be a potential ironic parallel and foreshadowing to the fate of our own Captain Flint pre-Treasure Island. Like Mr Flint in the tale, Captain Flint is accused of killing a man – Billy Bones in S1. We never get true confirmation in regards to whether or not it was attempted murder. We also see in S1 that Flint will drink himself into a stupor if he feels isolated and tormented enough. The original Mr Flint's appearance and disappearance artfully ties into Flint's known fate come TI, but also symbolically with Odysseus/Flint and James McGraw wanting to return Flint to the sea.
Whilst I prefer Captain Flint's fate linking up to his TI fate as much as possible for continuity reasons, I do think there is an interesting twist to it all that plays into Black Sails' open ending. If the tale of Mr Flint is not a fate to be an ironic parallel for our Flint in the future for TI, the story of our Flint's fate within the Black Sails continuity almost needs to come from James McGraw. Only Miranda was told of Flint's origins and inspiration, so it seems unlikely that anyone else could spread such an identical account. If it was information Silver needed to know (like the 4×09 Silver flashback with Madi about Thomas to set up the finale), we would have seen Flint tell Silver of the Mr Flint inspiration onscreen instead of Miranda. It would have then given another layer to the Dead!Flint ambiguous ending, and give more build-up and proof to Silver and his men spreading a false and ironic story of what happened to Flint. If Flint is dead, why has the tale that's been spread come TI's era so similar to one that was previously only told to a now dead woman, let alone the added titbit of McGraw? Silver/Bones/Gunn/Hands never knew about any of it. Whilst I again like a more straightforward and bittersweet Treasure Island fate for Flint, there is a of interesting potential gray area a decade or two down the line where it is James McGraw – or the possibility of Thomas – spreading the tale of Flint's death, a story fittingly inspired by his grandfather's meeting with Mr Flint.
5. Returning Flint to the Sea.
Flint, 2×09: 'But beyond that, I don't think that there's a part for Captain Flint in Nassau's future. Not with the blood on his hands. He will have to go away and leave James McGraw and Lady Hamilton to retire to the interior in peace.'
Miranda, 2×09: 'You said Captain Flint would have to disappear for this plan to work – are you truly ready to let him go?' (See Mr Flint dialogue above.) Flint: 'When I first met Mr. Gates and he asked me my name, I feared the man I was about to create. I feared that someone born of such dark things would consume me were I not careful, and I was determined only to wear him for a while and then dispose of him when his purpose was complete. And I thought of that story. Am I ready to let him go? Truth is… every day I've worn that name, I've hated him a little more. I've been ready to return him to the sea for a long time.'
Until Miranda's passing, it's addressed many times whether or not James could let go over the persona of Flint. James tells us how he has grown to loathe the man he had created in response to such tragedy, and we've seen, throughout the entire series to the final episode, Flint hating the thought that he could be perceived or painted as a monster or a villain. Flint introduces himself to Abigail Ashe as James McGraw, simultaneously wanting not to frighten her and wanting to return to what he once was. Though it's not remotely as simple as McGraw and Flint being two entirely separate people and Flint just purely being a mask McGraw wears, but we do see with Silver's speech to Madi in the finale shows that at least some of the layers of Flint are pulled back to the point Silver can no longer fully recognize all of the man 'whose mind he knew as well as his own.'
It's not like any of this is an abrupt change, either, that magically occurs just in Flint's final moments on Skeleton Island. Towards the end of S2, and midway through S3 onwards, we see more and more shades of the man we met as McGraw in flashbacks, and quite a stark contrast to the Flint we meet in S1. S4 is the most consistently McGraw-like we've seen Flint. Flint is calm and thoughtful with a sense of humor, which is especially prevalent in the 4×09 flashbacks with Silver. S4 Flint is quite a contrast to the more callus Flint of the earlier seasons. Even with the brutality of Skeleton Island over the cache, Flint is still trying to save the remaining crew of the Walrus, and to protect Madi from harm at all costs. In retrospect, S4 is almost a season long death knell for Flint as a persona, a death knell that starts from 3×10 when Flint tells Silver about Thomas. In that moment, Silver has finally wormed his way into Flint's head (3×01 callback), and Flint truly lets down his guard with Silver. We can see for ourselves the exhaustion in Flint in S4, especially during the events of Skeleton Island and Flint's final scene with Silver where Flint is seated on a rock. By the time Flint arrives in Savannah, it's also quite sobering to notably see that the resistance and fight in Flint has diminished. Flint's demeanour is one of resigned exhaustion, and it's only upon spotting Thomas (coincidentally as Flint's shackles are literally being removed), that James McGraw finally begins to awake from his nightmare.
6. Know No Shame, Civilization, and Freedom in the Dark.
Marcus Aurelius' Meditations has been a constant throughline to Flint's character and story, even before we knew what it meant. Taking Flint's finale fate at face value, it is a throughline that is then carried through to his final scene. I think it was 1×03 when Miranda first reads an excerpt from Meditations to Richard Guthrie. Of course, back then we don't understand the significance of Meditations, and what it truly meant to Flint and Miranda, and their connection to Thomas. The final revelation in regards to Meditations is in 2×05, from Thomas Hamilton's own inscription within the book itself: 'James, my truest love, know no shame. TH.'
Miranda, 2×05: 'I think you are fighting for the sake of fighting. Because it's the only state in which you can function. The only way to keep that voice in your head from driving you mad. The one telling you to be ashamed of yourself – for having loved him. You were told that it was shameful. And part of you believed it. Thomas was my husband. I loved him and he loved me. But what he shared with you – it was entirely something else. It's time you allowed yourself to accept that.'
There are so many layers to both Flint as a character and the creation of Flint that it isn't so simple as Flint purely feeling shame for his sexuality. In S2 flashbacks, Miranda points out that McGraw takes great care in how he is perceived by others, and we see that trait carried through to Flint. There is not just shame in Flint, but there is fury, loss, guilt, betrayal, heartbreak, etc. Flint's incredibly poignant speech in the finale is gut wrenching in regards to how civilization treats its outcasts, and many of the characters we got to know and love over the course of Black Sails fall into that category. Flint's speech works on multiple layers for many characters and their struggles against the oppressive, conforming and often dangerous force that is civilization.
Flint, 4×10: 'This is how they survive. You must know this. You're too smart not to know this. They paint the world full of shadows, and then tell their children to stay close to the light. Their light. Their reasons, their judgements. Because in the darkness, there be dragons. But that isn't true – we can prove that it isn't true. In the dark there is discovery, there is possibility, there is freedom in the dark once someone has illuminated it. And who has been so close to doing it as we are right now?'
Flint's bittersweet speech is relevant to the fates of quite a few characters in Black Sails' finale:
The anguish of Mr Scott, Madi and Julius over the course of Black Sails, fighting back against slavery and abuse. In the end, the horrors of slavery continue, but those on Maroon Island are safe.
. The struggles of Max/Anne/Eleanor/Miranda trying to find their footing and power in a world that doesn't want them. In the finale, like Grandma Guthrie before her, Max must also operate from the shadows to have her power. Anne operates outside of civilization. Eleanor and Miranda died fighting.
The shame that both Flint and Thomas went through from society, having to hide their relationship and their attraction to men. Their fate is both a positive and negative one. Positively, Thomas' inscription of 'know no shame' and Flint previously only finding freedom within the dark are both revisited with Silver letting Flint live, and sending him to Savannah. It is a satisfying bookend to the torment within Flint that his reunion with Thomas is in a field full of people in broad daylight, temporarily free from the darkness. It's a reunion that is still extremely tragic and bittersweet, though, because the only way they can be 'free' is still kept apart from civilization, and imprisoned as of the finale. As the gate of Oglethorpe's estate states – 'Not for themselves, but for others'. Even if they leave the plantation, they are still never truly free because of how society views their sexuality. The above also applies to Max and Anne, but is more prominently explored through Black Sails via Flint and Thomas.
Flint's own past, sexuality, and perspective is a subtext that is seemingly very intentional for his final speech, as a short arrangement of A Nation of Thieves (a musical piece most associated with Flint, Thomas, and Thomas' legacy) begins to play towards the end of his dialogue just as Flint begins to talk about possibility and of freedom – freedom he previously only ever found in the dark, away from society's judgemental gaze.
7. McGraw/Hamilton Reunion.
After introducing themselves to each, Thomas' first words to McGraw in 2×01 are: 'They say it started with a man named Henry Avery, who sailed into the port of Nassau, bribed the colonial Governor to look past his sins, and camped his crew upon the beach. Thus began the pirate issue on New Providence Island. Where and when will it all end? …I suppose that's where you and I come into the story.' And so it came to pass, with Flint and Thomas reuniting at the end of Black Sails, alongside the end (well, for all appearances) of the pirate issue on Nassau. It's a great twist that the first meeting between Thomas and McGraw foreshadows their ending together. I always thought Thomas' phrasing was extremely odd the first time I watched S2, but props to Tumblr/Twitter users for catching this line and putting it into a very clever context of the series itself.
8. Character Parallels – Flint, Rogers, and the Price of Revenge.
Like a lot of character parallels in Black Sails – of which there are so goddamn many – one that is particularly relevant to the finale are the dual fates of Rogers and Flint. Rogers compares them to each other in 3×07 when they first meet: 'I am now what you were then. And without you, there would be no me.' Rogers is shades of McGraw and Thomas Hamilton combined, but with a darker, more insidious and cruel underbelly. The loss of Miranda for Flint and later Eleanor for Rogers sends them both on devastating rampages of revenge. Eleanor dies as Miranda's house burns in the background. Both men lost a Thomas, too, though it was the difference between a brother for Rogers and a lover for Flint. Both Flint and Rogers are called out in S4 for escalating beyond their intentional means – Flint wants to burn civilization, Rogers wants to save it, though it's above and beyond his role has Nassau's governor. A dead Flint undoes the finale parallels between the two men. In their final moments on screen, neither Rogers nor Flint has any dialogue or agency, and have their fates dictated for them. Jack could have killed Rogers, but he wants him to live and be utterly humiliated instead. We then see Jack narrating over Rogers' imprisonment. Silver could have killed Flint, but wants him to live on, in both a compassionate and cruel fate. We then see Silver narrating over Flint's imprisonment. The final times we see both Rogers and Flint are through a slightly washed out color filter. Considering Rogers' history and Flint's fate pre-TI, we would assume neither of them are imprisoned forever, but it's a fitting close with two characters that are so similar, yet ultimately so different.
9. Character Parallels – Flint/Thomas to Silver/Madi.
Flint, 4×10: 'I know what it's like. To have lost her… and then seeing a way to have her back. I understand what that must have felt like. You asked me once what I would do, what I would sacrifice, if it meant having Thomas back again. I honestly don't know what I would have done. I honestly couldn't say I wouldn't have done what you did.'
Everything Silver went through with losing Madi in S4 was like watching a sped-up version of Flint's ten year character arc in real time, including the quandaries posed to Silver that Flint had already been wrestling with for years. Silver's preaching to the choir in 4×07 when he says the following to Flint, 'She died for this, she believed in this – and if it all goes away, then it was all for nothing. I can't let this be for nothing, I just can't.' Silver later acknowledges losing Madi allowed him to see the world through Flint's perspective. As mentioned above, come the beginning of the finale, Flint doesn't know that he wouldn't have made the same choices to save Thomas that Silver did to save Madi. As a final bookend, Silver and Flint are reunited with Madi and Thomas respectively, after fearing both had been lost. There are similarities between Madi and Thomas themselves, too – both are well-read, brave, resolute, and clever, willing to push forward where others would falter.
10. Character Parallels – Silver vs. Flint/Madi.
As Silver points out early on in S4 to Madi re: Flint – 'Jesus, you sound just like him!' Considering the importance of both Madi and Flint to Silver, there is a purposeful set-up and pay-off as to how Silver controls both of their fates in the finale. Silver to Flint, 'This is not what I wanted. I will stand here with you, for an hour, a day, a year, while you find a way to accept this outcome so that we might leave here together.' Silver to Madi, 'I will stay, and I will wait. A day, a month, a year, forever, in hopes that you will understand why I did.' In wanting to keep both Madi and Flint alive, safe, and preventing further bloodshed, Silver takes their agency and choices away from both of them, and puppets the strings of their fates. Though, come TI, it's Flint having the last laugh, with Silver yearning for days gone by like Flint foretold. There are many parallels between Madi and Flint throughout S4 in particular, the two irreplaceable things Silver has to choose between. Both have similarities as characters, like Thomas and Madi. Thomas' influence turned a more pragmatic McGraw into someone who became far more idealistic in Thomas' stead, and we see that trait continue on even as McGraw later became Flint. Madi and Flint are both idealists who are willing to sacrifice, including themselves. Madi and Flint grow to have a fondness and a strong loyalty to each other, both in their rapport and their personal stakes for the war. Madi's crusade is a more honorable one for her people, whilst Flint's is driven for all he has lost and suffered – but both for how they are treated by civilization itself. In the end, Silver takes their agency and their revolution away from both of them, in order to save them – and loses them both in the process. Flint ends the finale physically distant from Silver, whilst Madi is now emotionally distant. On the assumption Flint does indeed live, both Madi and Flint have death cutaway fake-outs in the same episode, in tried and true Black Sails style.
11. The Set-Up For Thomas' Return.
To keep the word count under, I'll add a proper breakdown of this as a comment below.
I will say, considering the continual series of improbable events that occurred over Black Sails, I do find it bizarre that Flint reuniting with Thomas is where the improbable line is drawn for some viewers. Thomas being in Savannah is probably one of the most logical and straightforward plot points in the series, and ties in Black Sails canon and Treasure Island foreshadowing with the tangible history of Oglethorpe and Savannah. Black Sails is built on improbabilities from the beginning, too, which is why the criticism feels a bit odd. Let us remember the events that went down in the hurt for the Urca gold, let alone the Urca de Lima being shipwrecked in a storm. Most of the remaining crew died/became weak from sickness, with the end result being Jack swooping in and taking the gold and the Walrus. Talk about a score. We then have Ned Lowe coming across Abigail Ashe, who brings her to Nassau. Abigail, who comes under the ownership of Vane, whose existence is mentioned to Miranda of all people. Miranda, who is an old friend of Abigail's father Peter Ashe, who is of course an instrumental character both in the past and the future for Miranda and Flint, and perfect leverage for Miranda for Flint and Nassau. The improbability of Flint and the Walrus crew surviving the storm of S3, the deadly doldrums, and arriving on Maroon Island – the very same Maroon Island that had their old acquaintance, Mr Scott, as their king… the daughter of said king that will become Long John Silver's wife in Treasure Island. I could go on!
Whilst I understand that the ambiguity of Flint's fate can work within the finale itself, the finale is one small part of a much larger tapestry that has been sewn tightly together since the very first episode of S1. In the context within Black Sails itself, a dead Flint unravels and undermines hours upon hours of dialogue, foreshadowing and parallels. This foreshadowing and parallels were told not only through the text/subtext of Black Sails, but down to the very set-dressing and props themselves. With his death, Flint would be the only character that doesn't get pay-off for all his foreshadowing, whereas the fates and heavily foreshadowed actions of the other characters very much came to pass, especially by the finale. If it was a side character, I could understand why the above might have fallen by the wayside, but Black Sails' protagonist…? Both Miranda's and Eleanor's fates were set-up and paid off, alongside foreshadowing for the finale fates of Silver/Flint, Silver/Madi, Flint/Thomas, Flint/Rogers, Jack/Rogers, Max's storyline, Max/Anne, etc. On a side note, I would again love to see a dense round-up of all the Silver and Silver/Flint foreshadowing and parallels for the finale, of which there is so much to be found and discussed.