It’s natural to wonder whether Black Sails also should have kept running for longer. On the other hand, some shows long outstay their welcome.
Black Sails ended in 2017 after a respectable four seasons. Luckily, the writers were able to complete the story they set out to tell, with the most important storylines being tied up in one way or another by the end of the series. But when so many popular dramas have run times of six, seven, or more seasons, it’s natural to wonder whether Black Sails also should have kept running for longer.
The open-ended possibilities that the finale presents and the wealth of material Treasure Island still has to offer are tantalizing. On the other hand, some shows are better off left alone.
Needs 5th Season: Ambiguous Ending
Ever since the finale aired, fans have debated whether the story that Long John Silver tells Madi is true. While Flint is seen reuniting with Thomas on screen, the last moments in the forest between Silver and Flint aren’t shown. Everything following is narrated by Silver, who is a master manipulator and storyteller throughout all four seasons.
While Flint is likely alive, at least if the show is to be consistent with Treasure Island, a fifth season could confirm this and shine new light on the truths and/or falsehoods in Silver’s story.
Doesn’t: Treasure Island Already Exists
The first few seasons of Black Sails felt like they could go almost anywhere, only resembling the source material insofar as some settings and character names. In season four, things change as the plot closes in on Treasure Island: by this point, it’s clear that one way or another, Flint will bury the treasure in a secret location and make an enemy of Silver for the last time.
Continuing any further would likely involve even more restrictions on the plot. There’s not much left to happen in a hypothetical season five that isn’t already described in Treasure Island. For a show that set out to be an imaginative prequel, continuing in this way could be viewed as redundant and unnecessary.
Needs 5th Season: Treasure Island Still Isn’t Set Up Perfectly
Even though the finale brought characters almost perfectly into perfect position for a lead-in to Treasure Island, there are still a few loose ends. Flint’s infamous map showing the location of the treasure is not referenced at all in the script, for instance, and it’s unclear if Flint has even drawn such a map by the end of the show.
How the map ends up in the hands of Billy Bones, and the events leading up to Flint’s death as described in the novel, are questions that remain unanswered at the end of Black Sails. Another season could get a lot of mileage from fleshing out details between the remaining known plot points.
Doesn’t: Flint’s Story Is Already Resolved
There’s no arguing that James Flint is the driving force of the show. More specifically, his need for revenge against England, and the bitterness he holds after Thomas’ and Miranda’s deaths, fuel almost every decision he makes.
Season 4 wraps up his character arc pretty definitively: depending on the interpretation, he’s either defeated by Silver or he willingly lays down his pirate identity to reunite with Thomas. Without this central character arc, the show would lose its focus and likely decline in quality as a result.
Needs 5th Season: Reinterpretation Of Treasure Island
One of the things Black Sails did well is create a rich backstory and creative characterizations, where there are none in the source material. Even though the show started out as a prequel, it’s possible the showrunners could still reinterpret the plot of Treasure Island in an equally creative way.
Season five could even provide alternate perspectives and/or completely new stories concurrent with the events of the novel. Despite changing the purpose of the show, this could be an interesting way to continue adding meaning and depth to the classic tale.
Doesn’t: Shorter Is Better
Long-running shows can eventually lose the interest of fans and critics, especially when it’s obvious that the ending wasn’t planned in advance. Game of Thrones overstayed its welcome in some ways by moving beyond the George RR Martin novels, disappointing huge swathes of its fan base in the process. Lost meandered for six long seasons, seemingly with no single vision or ending in sight, resulting in an almost laughable number of loose threads.
One of the strengths of Black Sails, as it stands, is that, as a prequel, it was moving towards a known, planned-for ending. While some longer TV series maintain their quality and even get better over time, keeping things self-contained can be a less risky and a more satisfying experience.
Needs 5th Season: Anne, Jack, Mark Read
The introduction of Mark/Mary Read, and the scenes in which Anne Bonny sets sail as a pirate with Jack, are so clearly the beginning of a new story that it’s surprising there isn’t already a spinoff.
If Black Sails were to continue with a fifth season, this thread would be the perfect jumping-off point. The characters that viewers know and love would tie the story tightly to previous seasons, while their new circumstances would open the possibilities for all sorts of new plot lines.
Doesn’t: Major Character Deaths
By the end of season four, many characters who were previously major players have died. The list includes Eleanor, Mr. Scott, Dufresne, Captain Hornigold, Charles Vane, and several others. Some of these deaths actually occur in season three, but there’s a limit to how long a series can continue while major characters continue to be killed off.
As shows like The Walking Dead have demonstrated, it’s all too easy to alienate viewers and evolve into a completely different show when too many beloved or important characters disappear.
Needs 5th Season: Maroon Island & Nassau
The end of the series leaves a number of questions open regarding the two major island societies. Does Madi govern Maroon Island and does she eventually reconcile with Long John Silver? What is Max’s role in helping Nassau operate as both a legitimate port and a hub of piracy? How long does she stay in power? Do the two islands have contact with one another moving forward?
While imagining the possibilities can be part of a satisfying ending, it would have been great to see the answers to these questions play out during a fifth season of Black Sails.
Doesn’t: Actors’ Other Projects
Black Sails hosts an array of talented actors. To name just a few, Luke Arnold has starred in five other TV shows, Jessica Parker-Kennedy landed a role as Nora West in The Flash, and Tom Hopper played the memorable Luther on The Umbrella Academy.
It would be a shame if these stars were unable to share their skills with other genres and audiences due to a likely unnecessary continuation of Black Sails.