Arrr you ready for the most intense season of Black Sails to date?
While the Starz pirate drama has sometimes frustratingly focused on the bureaucracy of Nassau instead of high-seas battles, the early episodes of Season 3 (premiering Saturday at 9/8c) are chock-full of action and intrigue, thanks mostly to the "awakening" of Captain Flint (Toby Stephens), who is hell-bent on revenge after the murder of his lover Miranda Barlow last season.
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But unlike past seasons, when Flint & Co. were battling rival pirate crews in Nassau, Season 3 finds everyone flying a black flag thinking about the future and the threat posed by civilization in the larger world. "When you separate from civilization and its institutions so completely, you start to realize that meaning is a hard thing to find," co-creator and executive producer Jonathan Steinberg tells TVGuide.com. "In some direction or another, all of these characters' stories are about that struggle. They keep thinking it's the money, but every time they get it, it keeps falling apart on them. [Season 3] is about struggling with the question of: What's meaningful? What's worth fighting for?"
Will new alliances last? And what kind of threat comes with the introduction of the famous pirate Blackbeard (Ray Stevenson)? Check out 6 reasons why we're excited for Black Sails Season 3.
1. No more Mr. Nice Flint. Three months have passed since the murder of Mrs. Barlow, and Flint has spent that period obsessed with revenge and murdering any magistrate who has ever hanged pirates. "At the end of Season 2, Flint explicitly says, 'If everyone is so sure I'm this monster you've accused me of being, then I'm just going to wallow in it, that's what I'm going to be," Steinberg says. "It's anger and resentment and mourning, all wrapped up into one. When we started this season, we thought it shouldn't be possible to deny your humanity in that way. As an audience, we know there's a humanity in there. But what does that human being do when it's told it doesn't exist?"
Although Flint's recklessness certainly begins to worry crew members John Silver (Luke Arnold) and Billy Bones (Tom Hopper), Flint doesn't really seem all that concerned. "Ostensibly, it seems like he doesn't care, but actually deep inside he is a strategist," Stephens says. "He has a greater aim, which is his macro-revenge on England. The more magistrates he kills, the more England is going to come and then he can take them on. So there is a strategy, but does he care about the people who are dying because of his strategy?"
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While Flint may never be able to speak the answer to that question, viewers will gain particular insight in a new way this season. "He's becoming somebody who doesn't want to open himself up to anyone anymore," Stephens says. "The way you understood what's going on inside of Flint was through Gates or Barlow. This season, they reveal it through dreams. The audience is allowed inside his inner workings through dreams that are revelatory. He presents initially as this implacable, nihilistic dead person, but what's revealed is the emotional chaos going on inside this person." Plus: Thanks to those dreams, we haven't seen the last of Mrs. Barlow!
2. Ahoy, Blackbeard! While Flint is out terrorizing the world in the name of pirates, one of the most famous and feared pirates in history makes a return to Nassau to find Charles Vane (Zach McGowan). But Blackbeard, aka Edward Teach, is more than a little disappointed by what he finds. "He was part of that fabric, but he's been away for eight or nine years," Stevenson says. It's quite clear that the energy is different. He doesn't recognize it as Nassau. He's come back to re-establish himself as a pirate, but there is also a deeper reason: He wants an heir, someone to carry on his legend and his legacy, and the closest thing he's ever had to it is a young pirate that he mentored and who reminded him of his younger self --Captain Charles Vane."
Adds Steinberg: " It gave Teach an emotional stance. He's not coming in as the villain who can kick anyone's ass. He's coming in as a guy who's invulnerable physically but intensely vulnerable emotionally. He needs Vane to want to put this relationship back together. You can't force somebody to be your son. That's when it became interesting to us, when you could have this character who could both be this larger-than-life action hero and at the same time be this guy who has this hole in his heart."
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As a result, Vane, who has finally started to buy into the idea of building a pirate community in Nassau, will be stuck between a rock and a hard place for most of the season. "It's this discovery of, 'There's my old self, there's the guy I've become. What is the difference between these two people? Who do I want to be?'" McGowan says. "These are classic human questions we all ask ourselves, the idea of which side are you going to chose? It's not an easy choice. It's not like yin and yang. It's two good options, and that's actually sometimes the thing that sucks the most."
3. The rise of John Silver. The character took a big, um, step toward his character's destiny last season when he lost his leg. And this season, he'll worm his way even deeper into Flint's inner circle. "The thing Flint doesn't have in Season 3 that he's always had is a partner," Steinberg says. "Part of the arc of the season for us was about him really flailing alone and not having anyone to have that human experience with. [We liked] him finding John Silver and having that become the person with whom he's able to emerge from this awful experience he's having. It's a massive moment for us, in terms of these two guys who've been circling each other and mistrusting each other starting to become friends."
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But Silver may not be fully prepared for what it means to be Flint's new right hand. "He's got insight into Flint that most people don't," Levine says. "That's a two-way street if you want to dare go that way, and it's precarious at the beginning of the season. The commonalities between the two of them start to become evident in a way that is not necessarily beneficial to Silver's mental well-being. Silver begins to realize there's a mentor/mentee relationship developing that he might want to resist but can't. It's a lot more complicated than he thinks when you're sitting on the outside."
4. Dangerous threesomes. No, not that kind of threesome, perv! The tricky business-vs.-pleasure triangle between Jack Rackham (Toby Schmitz), Max (Jessica Parker Kennedy) and Anne Bonny (Clara Paget) gets even more tricky this season as Rackham enters into an agreement with Flint and Vane to protect the stolen Spanish gold from the Urca de Lima. While the three men all agree the gold is the key to actually building the pirate haven they've all dreamed of, Rackham is having trouble protecting their stash.
While the alliance seems shaky at best, they'll soon have to work together when Woodes Rogers (Luke Roberts) comes ashore with the intention of running Nassau. "This felt like the best time [to introduce Rogers] in the sense of 'careful what you wish for," co-creator and executive producer Robert Levine says. "We've got the Urca treasure, we've got this opportunity to make this place into what we've been talking about. Right when they're working it out between the three of them, in comes civilization with as much force and as much gravity as it's ever brought to bear." Adds Paget: "It's constant power shift, but this season is definitely us against the world."
5. Poor Eleanor. The new season finds Eleanor Guthrie (Hannah New) in chains as she awaits trial for her crimes against the crown. However, a strange ally may be the key to her future and a possible return to Nassau. But after her "nasty breakup" with Vane, she will approach this new relationship with caution. "We wanted to create a situation where it felt like they were never going to put this back together again," Steinberg says of Eleanor and Vane. "They were going to be enemies, but they left their mark on each other. When Vane told her at the end of Season 2, 'You will betray absolutely anyone,' it hurts and it's this thing she can't shake. So, whatever her next meaningful relationship is, she has to make it work in a way where that can never be thrown at her again and be true."
6. It's all about building a legacy. Just as Blackbeard is motivated by his inability to produce an heir (despite trying with eight or nine wives!), all the characters are forced to think about what their actions now mean for their (collective) futures. "They realize there's only one way out of this," Stephens says. "The further it goes down, the more united they become." Adds McGowan: "You're watching the golden age of piracy. Pirates have supremacy over the waters and around Nassau. No one is messing with them and everyone's afraid until England comes into the picture. The idea [becomes], 'What do you want your legacy to be? All these people now know that there's a sense of mortality in this world. People die all the time. So, what are we accomplishing?"
Black Sails airs Saturdays at 9/8c on Starz.