The crew of The Walrus on Starz's Black Sails (Saturday, 9/8c) suffered several casualties during its recent battle with The Andromache. But one very important life still hangs in limbo.
In Episode 6, Capt. Flint (Toby Stephens) & Co. tried to devise a way to clear out the remaining men in The Andromache's hull in order to steal the remaining guns needed for The Walrus' upcoming quest to challenge the Spanish treasure galleon the Urca de Lima. But while on board The Andromarche, quartermaster Billy Bones (Tom Hopper) found a letter about Captain Flint that Billy believed to be a betrayal of the crew.
Coming just days after Billy began questioning Captain Flint's motives — as well as Flint's connection to the mysterious Mrs. Barlow (Louise Barnes) back on shore — Billy couldn't keep quiet and mentioned the letter to Gates (Mark Ryan). Flint eventually catches wind of the letter and, just as the Walrus sets sail to avoid another battle, Flint asks Billy what was in the letter. Before Billy can answer, cannon fire rips through the deck, and Flint informs the crew that Billy had fallen overboard. And Gates, much to his own dismay, knows the ship can't turn back without being destroyed.
So, is Billy really a goner? "I suppose [fans] ought to live in hope that he can swim well," Hopper tells TVGuide.com with a laugh. "I think the safe thing is to understand that if people read Treasure Island then they might know a little bit more about the story that is to come about. But I think there's certainly something more there than meets the eye, and it might not be what everyone is expecting."
But did Billy actually fall or did Flint try to murder yet another of his men? Read our chat with Hopper below to get his thoughts on that, what mistakes Billy made that led to his unfortunate circumstance and whether Billy is meant for the pirate's life at all.
There was tension building between Flint and Billy all season. Where was his head going into this episode?
Tom Hopper: He's certainly been the most conflicted character through the first season. He really wants to believe that Flint is the right guy to get behind, and then all these other things keep popping up. I think he is fearful that if he asks the wrong question, his life is in jeopardy. But at the same time, he knows for the good of the crew he needs to find out more. And his mistakes are obvious: He gets a little bit of information and thinks, "Oh my God, I know something crazy and should I act on it," and actually, he just needs to go out and find the facts. And I think at the point where he's about to really find all those things he needs to find, it all gets a little bit messed up and he takes a little tumble.
Why do you think he didn't play his cards more closely to his vest?
Hopper: His source of information to start with was Morley, and of course Morley dies under the ship in Episode 4. Billy is dealing with all sorts of guilt from that. So, he is in a world of his own emotions, and he just wants Gates to be the sort of the father figure that Billy sees him as and help him do what's best for the crew. By the end of Episode 6, he's really starting to believe that Flint could be doing them wrong. He's leading them down a path for selfish reasons and that's the last thing he wants. All he wants is to do things for the good of the crew.
You mentioned Billy's guilt over Morley's death, but he also was complicit in Flint killing Singleton. Is this entire mission maybe motivated by some guilt from Billy lying about the stolen page?
Hopper: Billy needs justification that what he did was the right thing, that a man didn't die for the sake of someone who's leading him down the wrong path. I think Billy knew at that point Singleton wasn't the right man to take the crew to where they needed to get to. Flint was the best option, so the right thing to do was to lie to the crew. But Billy can't live with that guilt if Flint has been doing everything for selfish reasons. Everything he's done is because he is trying to justify that one moment in Episode 1.
But after seeing Flint kill Singleton — and possibly Morley — shouldn't Billy have feared for his own life if he continued on this course?
Hopper: He wants to believe that Flint is the right guy to get behind. He sees him as a mentor in so many ways, but also he is also fearful of him. He certainly has his suspicions. But I think Billy also understands the world he lives in. He is starting to learn that you do have to be devious. You do have to lie to get where you need to be in this world that they live in.
Since Billy does seem to have a moral center, is he even cut out for this life?
Hopper: He eventually will come to an understanding that being the way he is, he will not survive in this world. He needs to find a balance between being the guy that everyone trusts but also having a certain way about him that can deal with people that really thrive in this world. I think he has to sort of meet them halfway.
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That's assuming he's a good swimmer and isn't dead! If we continue to assume that, do you think that scuffle with Flint is what changes Billy's way of looking at the world?
Hopper: [Laughs] Whatever happens to Billy now, I would think he will look at things differently. We'll wait and see. I think the Billy that we've seen in this season has learned a lot, and if he were to return to this world, I think he'll offer something different from what he's learned.
Do you think Billy is cutthroat enough to ever become a captain?
Hopper: Billy's a natural leader. Whether Billy strives to be a captain, I don't know. Billy's not greedy. I think to be a captain there has to be an element of greed, a selfish element, and Billy doesn't really have that. All that he really cares about is making sure that people around him are OK. He is a team player. He wants the team to do well, and he is there to make sure everything runs smoothly. I don't think he strives for power.
Do you think any part of Flint's behavior comes from a misunderstanding that Billy wants to take Flint's job?
Hopper: There is a very fine line. He doesn't think, "Billy is going to take over my captaincy!" But he does think Billy could jeopardize his plan.
And is protecting that plan worth killing one of his own men?
Hopper: That's the big question. Is Flint then capable of that? I think Flint really respects Billy and he thinks Billy is good to have on his crew. It's the audience's job to determine whether Flint is capable of doing something horrendous to Billy to get rid of him because he has found something that could be so jeopardizing to Flint's ultimate plan.
Black Sails airs Saturdays at 9/8c on Starz. Do you think Billy is dead?