Black Sails (USA) 2014/15/16

black-sails-season-2I’ve watched the first two seasons and have seen no drop off in terms of episode quality; if anything the script, character development, and pacing have gotten stronger with each show. There are thrills, spills and wenching (even a brothel) on display. This series has captured my eye and drawn me into its world. It must be commended for not trying to do too much in terms of the budget. The sets, costumes, and especially the ships transform the screen into a window of 18th century Caribbean life, and the realism is a big plus for the show.

Almost every character has been cast perfectly, and except for a few scenes and dialogue they have been developed so that their motivations and personality dovetail nicely with the actions they take – very refreshing! Yes, it is strongly influenced by Game Of Thrones, and yes, for a pirate show sometimes things can get surprisingly slow paced and dialogue heavy, but those are things that makes it satisfying to me. I also enjoyed the (unexpected) shout out to classical literature, i.e. the Marcus Aurelius reference. All in all this show easily deserved the Emmys it received, and if things keep going in the right direction it should win quite a few more. The fact is that Black Sails delivers on both character intrigue and visual splendor. If the CGI of the first sea-battle is a little off then I’d suggest lowering your expectations.

black sailsThis isn’t Pirates of the Caribbean. (Thank goodness) The characters, which I’ve seen described as “bland” by critics, are more complex that you’ll realize at first. Remember, this is a prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” as well as a show that uses historical characters. There’s a lot of groundwork to be done. For example, let’s take Captain Flint, the main protagonist and anti-hero. At first glance he’s a surly Captain without a lot of depth. But what he’s looking for is a way out of ‘the life’. Flint is willing to sacrifice everything for that one big score that will secure a future that isn’t dominated by Imperial law or subservience. He’s the slightly nasty Han Solo of the pirating world. He’s also the pirate whose treasure is at the heart of Treasure Island. If that isn’t intriguing enough…

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…then there’s Charles Vane, a ruthless brute with a soft heart for Nassau’s leading lady. Plus Jack Rackham, a shrewd and intelligent quartermaster who, history tells us, becomes an infamous pirate captain in his own right. Then, of course, there’s John Silver, a weaselly rogue and self-serving thief who will eventually become the one-legged pirate of fictional legend: Long John Silver. These are only a few of the characters Black Sails offers us. There is so much to look forward to in Black Sails when thinking of character development. So many roads the writers can take and a lot of interesting story lines that could be intertwined for this show to keep going. There is so much room for movement here that I’m itching to find out how Black Sails explains the fate of each character.

Visually, I found that Black Sails meets every expectation I had of pirate life in the 1700s. Nassau and it’s seedy bars, whorehouses and its self-regulating economy are captured brilliantly. There is a rough, self-serving edge to life on the island and I found the economics of trade to be an interesting aspect of this show. There is also the specter of outside influence, that constantly threatens this rogue’s idyll, that makes the viewer grunt in approval at the pirate way of life. The money and production is American, the cast is mostly British-Canadian-Australian while the location filming is at Cape Town Film Studios in South Africa. With the huge crime rate in that country I hope the crew stay safe.

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