Crossbones’ second episode, “The Covenant”, continues the saga of Thomas Lowe as he continues to hide his true intentions from his new employer, the infamous Blackbeard. Having saved the pirate’s life (after attempting to end it), Lowe is in a position to observe Blackbeard and the inner workings of the devious ways in which he bends people to his will by seeming as benevolent as a buddha.
“The Covenant” begins with a visitor on the island, an old friend of Blackbeard’s called Sam Valentine. With the cipher solved and the chronometer rebuilt, Blackbeard must decide how to best put it to use. He offers it as a gift to Sam in hopes of finding a few hellburners (a ship-sized Molotov cocktail) sent his way in exchange. The ultimate goal is, of course, to get it back into the hands of the English in order to convince them that Blackbeard no longer exists except in legend.
Sam wants nothing to do with the chronometer since it means the end of profitable pirating, but Blackbeard is determined to get his way and so begins to play cat and mouse in such a way that you never see it coming until right at the very end of “The Covenant”. Whatever Blackbeard’s character, his mind is a well-oiled machine analyzing every move and appraising his opponent’s strategy as if in a life-sized game of chess.
Blackbeard is surrounded by intelligent women (one of them is a trader, one his assistant, and one a pirate) and while they may have not had as much screen time in the pilot, I feel they will be very instrumental in how Lowe’s plot against Blackbeard unfolds. While I’m not too interested in the romance between Kate Balfour and Thomas Lowe (I just feel this angle has been overdone), I love the relationship between Blackbeard and his right-hand woman, Selima. She refuses to sleep with him (begging the question, is she straight? Is she choosing to be celibate? Is there a medical reason or a moral reason behind it?) and instead becomes his legal counsel and confidant.
“The Covenant” succeeded in producing some sympathetic tears after revealing the past of Kate’s husband. He was a Jacobite (a fascinating historical tidbit), caught and tortured within an inch of his life, resulting in the damage sustained to his legs. Kate barters with Lowe to see if he can ease her husband’s pain, but it’s more than physical pain: the man is also suffering emotional pain. I think Lowe manages to become a sort of counselor to him, telling him, “fighting for a lost cause don’t make you a lost cause.”
This unexpected kindness and gentleness from Lowe has increased my enjoyment of this show. Each character is slowly becoming multi-faceted and I find myself believing that these are real people and that this story holds truth. While it does of course contain some historical fact, the story itself transcends history to speak about men in power and the moral dilemmas they and their subordinates face. The right choice may not always be the obvious one, and Lowe will have to learn this lesson.
There was also another interesting theological discussion between Lowe and his patient, James in “Covenant”, as James considered the type of God who would allow such misfortunes as he suffers. He doesn’t believe God delivered him. “Yet here you are, delivered,” says Lowe. Of course, “maybe the devil was listening,” he states.
The devil and God seem to be warring in Blackbeard as his gentle side makes way for his diabolical plot revolving around his own friend. While Sam warns Lowe,that Blackbeard is “the most evil man I know,” his death is being put into motion by his old friend. Blackbeard doubles back on his tracks to appear the victim and only reveals near the end that it was his idea all along. It’s a frightful thing to watch. What is Blackbeard capable of if he maintains control of these pirates and outlaws, a notoriously rowdy set of individuals?
Blackbeard will get what he wants, one way or another. His utmost desire is to remain out of sight of the English, to remain a legend and live on his island in peace. But with the arrival of Thomas Lowe and the secret deal with the Spaniards, he may have to rise out of legend and become the fearsome Blackbeard once more.
“Covenant” ends with Blackbeard warning one of the women in his employ, “If you mistake the difference between a secret and a legend, I’ll have to make you part of it.” Malkovich again delivers a spine-tingling performance. I just hope we get to see him in full Blackbeard regalia complete with smoking beard before the season is over. I want to see the Blackbeard of legend.
I’m not sure where the storyline is headed with Lowe’s character. I feel like I understand Blackbeard’s position well enough to start putting the pieces together when he is up to something, but Lowe is still quite a mystery. I do think, however, that once he finds out just how barbaric and ruthless his own fellow Englishmen have been in their rabid search for Blackbeard that he will think twice about rejoining a society where violence against prisoners and those less fortunate is looked upon as normal and even right.
Lowe may be an upstanding individual, but this is where he’ll be caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, the Englishmen are “civilized” and Blackbeard’s island is chaotic and ruled over by a murderous thug. On the other hand, Blackbeard is trying to build a society where class doesn’t matter and everyone is provided for, while Englishmen don’t even think about those worse off. I wonder very much if “The Covenant” is the beginning of Lowe’s moral dilemma as well as the showing of Blackbeard’s true colors.
Which begs the question: will Lowe and Blackbeard eventually sail together with Lowe as first mate, if he begins to see that his country has become more of a villain than his new employer?Image Credits: Universal Television