Three separate storylines manage to merge seamlessly in Crossbones’ “A Hole In The Head.” While these storylines seem to twist and turn on their own, every road leads back to Blackbeard and the theme of the show: trust. It’s a testament to the creators and writers of the show that they understand intrinsically what the show is about and are able to wield three divergent stories without creating an episode that seems too busy or too splintered.
What they give us in “A Hole In The Head” is a thrilling, terrifying ride through backstabbing, murder, and cover-up as Blackbeard once again proves that he is the most fearsome pirate of all. Not for his strength, which is formidable, but for his intelligence and perception. He wields his words like weapons and no one escapes his attention.
At the beginning of “A Hole in the Head” Tom Lowe has returned from Jamaica with the tool needed to ensure Blackbeard’s continued health. It seems counter-productive to drill a hole in a man’s head to keep him alive, but being so close to death’s door makes one desperate. Tom, caught up to speed on Blackbeard’s suspicious activities, decides to put his plan into action and kidnaps Blackbeard to protect the island and the ideals by which he has come to subscribe as well as Jamaica and the thousands of innocent civilians he believes are in danger by Blackbeard’s hand.
While Tom battles it out with Blackbeard, his superior, Jagger, is interrogating someone from Blackbeard’s past in an attempt to uncover the details Tom withheld at their last meeting. Antoinette, we learn, was Blackbeard’s wife when they were living in Charleston, South Carolina. What happened to her that caused her insanity? She mentioned that Blackbeard sang sweet sea shanties but never for her. Did they have a child? Was she jealous of the attention Blackbeard gave it? There’s something I can’t quite put my finger on that adds a layer of murky creepiness to this that is compelling and yet slightly disturbing, causing a reaction of shying away from wondering too much about Antoinette’s mysterious past and Blackbeard’s role in it.
On another part of the island, a struggle for independence has caught up with Nenna. Fed up with Rose and her blackmail, Nenna decides to play to Rose’s greediness and gets the best of her. However, there’s a letter floating around that could reveal Nenna’s treachery. She’ll need to find it to keep herself safe. If her inclination for independence is any indication, she’ll kill whoever gets in her way.
With all of this going on, romance stays steadily to the side (much to my liking), although I’m still disappointed they went the “star-crossed lovers” route with Kate and Tom. Did he really stay on the island for her? Did he really make a deal with Jagger to protect Kate, or is there something else he’s after? In “A Hole In The Head”, we learn that just because Tom declares something doesn’t mean it’s the truth. It could be covering up an even deeper secret.
Charlie and Salima are also caught in the middle between hiding their secret and coming clean with Blackbeard. They should have remembered that Blackbeard didn’t become the most feared pirate on the high seas because of his lack of stealth. What’s interesting about this episode, is of course, what Blackbeard chooses to do with all this information. Once part of the truth is out, how does one react?
Blackbeard has maintained an air of benevolence, a countenance of peaceful humility, a position of wisdom, like the serpent, and harmlessness, as the dove. But he isn’t one to trust easily, and when he is acquainted with the betrayal of his most intimate connections, Blackbeard reveals just a small portion of himself in the process as the clever, dangerous, yet painfully hopeful person he is, creating a situation much like something from the pages of Scripture.
There’s a story in the Bible about a king who took another man’s wife for himself. A prophet arrives and tells him a story about a rich man who stole a poor man’s only sheep to kill for a banquet. When the king becomes angry and wishes to punish the rich man, the prophet points out that he would have to punish himself in the same manner.
Another Bible story runs along similar lines, when Jesus is confronted by religious leaders who want to stone a woman for committing adultery. Instead of joining in this barbaric activity, Jesus asks whoever is completely innocent from any wrong-doing to cast the first stone. No one can throw any stones except Jesus and he refuses to participate therefore rescuing the woman from certain death.
Blackbeard, I think, likes to picture himself as a sort of Messiah to the people he has rescued from various political systems gone awry. Jagger mentions this when he tells of Blackbeard’s transformation after seeing women raped, people enslaved, and innocents killed. So what does Blackbeard do when confronted by traitors? Does he torture them like Jagger would? Does he choose to act on his piratical reputation and cut their hearts, like the Spanish or Portuguese would?
He does not. Instead, Blackbeard reminds them that he loves them, and that he wants to trust them, regardless of their unfaithful behavior. He even wants Tom to remain on the island. He does not fall for Salima and Charles’ suggestion, to kill Tom for his actions, and gently reminds them that they have behaved in the same manner. “Tell me again,” he asks them, “what must I do with him?”
I am in awe, every episode, of Malkovich’s delivery. His Blackbeard is eloquent, chilling, and yet endearing. I adore him. I’d follow him. Would you?