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Crossbones - The Return" - Review - "For King or Country"

15 Jul 2014

    Crossbones, “The Return,” was written by Michael Oats Palmer and directed by Terry McDonough. Palmer wrote the teleplay for last week’s episode and McDonough’s other credits include Suits, Clue, Breaking Bad, and No Ordinary Family. This week’s episode sees several of the plots make significant progress, but the execution of the climactic fight was a bit lame with more broken furniture than exciting choreography. It was nice to see that some of the plots do go deeper, however.

    It’s unclear whether Jagger (Julian Sands) is torturing Antoinette right after we see her in the flashbacks to the previous episode or just after Lowe (Richard Coyle) has made his escape. Regardless of the choppy editing, the torture seems utterly pointless other than to underscore what we already know – Jagger is the true madman and bad guy in this narrative.

    It’s Lowe’s discovery of the gunpowder which precipitates his return to Jaimaca. I loved the scene with Coyle and Chris Perfetti (Fletch) when they discover the gunpowder. The relationship and comic interactions between the two are fun. I loved Fletch disappearing to hide before Lowe could finish the sentence and then showing up again almost immediately.

    The true highlights of every episode continue to be the scenes between Lowe and Blackbeard (John Malkovich), however. They do justice to the clever dialogue – my favorite line from this episode had to be the “hole in the head” reference – I was so hoping they’d find a way to get that in when they started talking about trepanning! This scene – including the inserted scene with Charlie (David Hoflin) and Selima (Yasmine Al Massri) is particularly well shot. We get a great reaction shot on Malkovich when he dismisses Charlie. When Lowe leaves Blackbeard after manipulating him into sending him to Jaimaca, there’s a great close up on Lowe’s face – as his face breaks into a grin that only we can see.

    Blackbeard’s reluctance to let Charlie or Selima know about his condition seems to underscore that he doesn’t trust them. Though his interaction with Selima underscores that her real problem with Lowe is that she’s jealous of the favor he’s found with Blackbeard – and perhaps this explains her sleeping with Charlie as a way of getting back at Blackbeard. It’s still unclear from his reaction to Charlie leaving as to whether he really does suspect they slept together. Interestingly, Blackbeard also says that he distrusts Balfour (Peter Stebbings).

    Before the end of the episode, however, Blackbeard reveals that he is dying to Selima – and that his only reason for secrecy is to spare her sorrow. He reveals that his first feeling every morning is fear followed closely by shame. His goal is to make Santa Campana a way to make up for the horrible things he’s done. He wants Selima to be prepared to take over after his death. But he gives her an ultimatum to begin to win the people to her, by forcing her to leave the house.She manages to make it out of the house and to the market to buy a mango. While everyone is surprised to see her and the general populace still seems to fear her, Kate (Claire Foy) and Rose (Natalie Hoflin) are pleased to see her out - though Charlie seems less so - no doubt realizing she is his main competition for taking over should anything happen to Blackbeard.

    Blackbeard admits that he doesn’t trust Lowe, but thinks that Lowe’s love for Kate will keep him from betraying him. Lowe’s smile on the way out made me think that Lowe’s plan all along was simply to make Blackbeard think he’d fallen for Kate. However, when she comes to see him, he tells her that he’d betray anything for her. She is the one who kisses him first – though it would seem the distraction he was looking for to shut her up too. When it becomes clear that Jagger means to kill everyone on the Island the only two people Lowe pleads for are Kate and Fletch. I have to admit I was very surprised that he essentially sentenced James to death by not saving him when he had the chance. It’s possible Kate started out as a cover, but it’s clear that he really does love her.

    Then we see that Charlie and Kate have possibly worked together to garner information - and possibly even had a relationship at some point. Is Kate simply playing Lowe for information? This seems unlikely given her conversation with Fletch – as she seems very happy that Fletch is convinced that Lowe will return to them. Of course, she also has sex with James right after this scene. Their bed chatter would indicate that James may suspect Kate’s feelings for Lowe and be willing to do “whatever it takes” to make her happy. I wonder if that includes taking his own life? Or is he simply referring to his painful rehabilitation? One of the things that does continue to be intriguing about the show is that characters are not black or white – James comes off much better in this episode than Lowe.

    When Lowe takes his leave of Fletch, he would seem to have a fair bit of disdain for Santa Campana, which makes me wonder why he hesitated to blow it up in the first scene. Fletch has clearly come to relate and sympathize more with the inhabitants that Lowe – who confesses he is not troubled by a conscience. It’s also becoming increasingly clear that Blackbeard’s target is the treasure fleet – not innocents as Lowe accuses him.

     However, one of Perfetti’s best scenes is the one with Kate on the dock, and he reveals that he’s a much better judge of character than Lowe credits him as – he sees through Lowe’s attempts at being cold-hearted. When Jagger maintains that he is going to torture everyone on the Island, Lowe begs to be far away and not have to watch it happen – proving that Fletch’s faith in him was well founded.

    Perfetti is clearly not getting to do his best work with some of the over the top comedy that he’s given to do. Similarly, the Wildman (Henry Hereford) feels like he belongs more in a Monty Python sketch than the middle of Crossbones.

    Tracy Ifeachor delivers some of her best work as we see her negotiating to buy a plantation through Morrisey (Tom Riis Farrell). Her disgust and anger are palpable as she lashes out at him for assuming she can't read and under estimating her in general. We finally get a glimpse of where she’s come from and her plans for the future.

    Lowe’s confrontation with Jagger reveals both the extent to which Lowe has become persuaded by Blackbeard’s vision. Jagger is incensed when Lowe compares Blackbeard to the King. Clearly we are meant to see Blackbeard's democracy - or quasi-democracy as far superior to the subjugation of the King's subjects. Lowe is appalled that Jagger plans on not only killing but torturing everyone on the Island. Lowe admits to having developed a feeling of “responsibility” for the people on the Island – he is unable to distinguish whether he lived with them or simply among them. Jagger also reveals that Lowe has a dark past. He assures him that Lowe will now be able to step out of the shadow of his own infamy. What that is still remains to be learned... In the end, Lowe realizes he can’t trust Jagger and gives him the wrong location - precipitating their fight.

    Lowe does pick up the trephine before escaping – stabbed – for the ship. The single-file chase though the field was a little silly – and if he was really bleeding that badly on hitting the ocean, he would have bled to death – it looked more like something out of Jaws!

    This episode certainly did clarify some loyalties and motivations between characters. The show is always strongest in the more dramatic, character driven scenes. What did you think of the episode? Do you think that Lowe will still honor his vow to deliver Blackbeard to Jagger? Do you think Blackbeard intends to use the gunpowder to hurt innocents or simply to secure more treasure? Do you think Selima is the best choice of a leader to take over after Blackbeard? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!


  1. Dominick Grace15 July 2014 at 20:04

    Nice--generous--review of a show that is floundering (water metaphor unintentional but also uinchanged!). Totally agreed about Captain Gunpowder seeming like something out of Monty Python--I thought exactly the same thing. He looks like one of Michael Palin's scruffy characters. And that whole scene with lowe and . . . whatever Julian Sands's name is, just painful. They didn't even bother to have Lowe mention his original reason for not killing Blackbeard--Teach's consorting with the Spanish--which you'd think would be, you know, perhaps worth a word or two. . . . Maybe they're trying to tweak as they go, but if so, it's not working very well, in my opinion.

  2. This was all in the can before it aired - so no tweaking going on, I'm afraid...

  3. Dominick Grace16 July 2014 at 15:22

    Maybe they SHOULD have tweaked.....


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