The second episode of the period thriller “Crossbones” aired on Friday, June 6. In “The Covenant,” Blackbeard wants to get the coveted navigational chronometer back to England so the Brits will stop looking for him. James Balfour, Kate’s disabled husband, has managed to recreate the chronometer.
Nenna and Charley bring in a ship containing an old friend of Blackbeard’s, Captain Sam Valentine. Blackbeard wants Valentine to get the chronometer back to William Jagger, the man who supposedly killed Blackbeard and sent Lowe to finish the job. In return, Blackbeard wants “a hell burner or two.” Valentine seems amused. “You thieved it in order to return it in order to prove that you don’t exist?”
Later in the episode, it’s revealed that a hell burner is an empty ship packed to the gunnels with gunpowder, rocks and iron shards, set to detonate with a timing mechanism. Per Sam Valentine, “It’s a weapon of indiscriminate destruction.”
Valentine refuses. He wants piracy to stay exactly the way it is, with English ships as “easy prey.” When he starts telling stories about Blackbeard to a group of pirates having a good time and Blackbeard shows up, the stage is set. To quote Blackbeard, “Sam has seen his final sunrise.” What follows is an intricate ruse set to get Blackbeard what he wants.
This episode sees a new character emerge, the pirate Finnegan, Sam Valentine’s first mate. He’s a man of few words, but you have to keep your eye on him. Finnegan is played by Irish actor Kevin Ryan (Copper).
In an almost comic-relief scene, one of the “ladies” from the island’s brothel sends Fletch on a quest for sponges. When the pitifully innocent Fletch asks what they are for, she responds. . .“bastard thwarting.”
In “The Covenant,” we learn more about the Kate and James Balfour story. James Balfour is actually the Earl of Kinross, a betrayed Jacobite and a traitor as far as the English are concerned. The tortures he sustained in Newgate Prison when he refused to give up the cause are the reason he’s in a wheelchair. Kate lied, cheated and schemed to get him out of there, which is how they ended up on Blackbeard’s island.
The episode features the usual treachery, blood and guts, as well as a stimulating performance by Stuart Wilson as Captain Sam Valentine. In a quick scene on the beach, Blackbeard once again sees the bloody blonde lady who haunts him. This leads to an attack on his life at an altar of skulls and bells.
“Crossbones” stars John Malkovich, Richard Coyle, Chris Perfetti, Yasmine Al Massri, Claire Foy and Peter Stebbings. If you missed the episode at its usual airing time, Friday night at 10 p.m. eastern on NBC, you can watch it at the NBC site. Episodes of “Crossbones” will be available online until Sept. 21.