Black Sails

This isn’t a formal review of the new Starz adventure, merely a collection of my thoughts I managed to jot down while watching the premiere on a Sunday afternoon. 
In the opening title screen, they give a brief synopsis of what pirate life was like and why they were pirates in the first place. These were men who were bent on not trading/selling their goods, legal or not, with any form of government. Self-made free men who operated outside the normal system of capitalism yet still relied on its principles to get rich themselves. Because of this they were outlawed on all sides and almost forced into this crude lifestyle. 
Alright, enough of all of the backstory. 
From the opening, Black Sails establishes quite quickly the brutality of the life of a pirate from two angles. 1) Those that board other’s ships  2) Those that get boarded 
Sails wastes no time showing what it was like for ships that came across one another in the open sea to engage in combat with the result being the losing ship getting boarded, most of its men being killed violently and the Captain being tied to the mast and gutted. 
Just another Tuesday for some of these guys. 
This is just in the first 8 minutes. During the credits, I happened to notice that Bear McCreary is doing all of the music composition which was a sigh of relief because I’m very familiar with his work on The Walking Dead. Seems that he is getting very popular these days. The video below is simply the score, but it sets the tone quickly for what this show will be like in the coming episodes. 
From there, it’s pretty cut and dry with character introduction and plot exposition which is expected in a series premiere. It’s part of the work in starting to watch a new show by wading through all of the information dump that is the first couple of episodes. Sails manages to do this better than others by creating both serious and amusing situations for introducing characters. Here are some of the main players (in no particular order):

A young John Silver, no “long” moniker yet, who is a cook on the boarded ship in the opening and manages to slyly talk his way into a job on the main pirate ship named, Walrus. It’s unclear throughout the first episode, where his allegiance lies and what type of character he will be. I hope he will be a somewhat decent pirate (IRONY) for this show, but if not, I’m at least hoping he’s balanced by someone who chooses to be good. Couple things I’ve noticed about him:

1) His hair/wig is horrible. It’s like the costume department was trying to a “Johnny Depp, hair in the eyes” type of look, but then chose to mix it with Soul-Glo.
2) The guy’s teeth are waaay to white to be a pirate. He must be sponsored by not only Soul Glo, but Sensodine as well. Granted, he does look untouched by the pirating world, but they appear to be resisting to weather him around the edges for fear of taking away a pretty face that the lady viewers can connect to.

Captain Flint is the main protagonist, however, I feel that there will not be a clear cut “good guy” and “bad guy” for this show. He is searching for a long lost treasure worth over $5million. Factor in pre-Reagan inflation and we are talking a lot of money for these men. His one lead is the very same item that John Silver finds in his possession. The ensuing episode is predominantly he and his first mate attempting to locate it.

Flint is slowly losing the support of his ship due to being out at sea for too long without much to show for it. A pirate by the name of Singleton is attempting to outvote Flint as Captain, which creates a nice minor arch for the first episode.

There are several other characters Sails introduces; the Quartermaster, who is my favorite character so far. He is clearly on Flint’s inner circle and spends the entire episode trying to win back votes for his Captain. It actually seems that Sails using him as the vehicle in which to introduce new faces and plot points with without overwhelming you with information as you watch him meander around the island of Nassau meeting people you know will be integral to their plans down the line.

How do I know this?

Because it’s Starz and if you have a pretty face on any of their TV shows, you are at least guaranteed a 4 episode story arc.

Another character of note is Miss Eleanor Guthrie who is the go-to for selling and trading all things on Nassau. She basically serves as the fence for every pirate. She runs the operation which is funded by her father who is a dignitary and cannot actually show involvement in the every day affairs of pirates. Needless to say, that changes rather quickly in the first episode.

The last person of note, is Captain Vane. Yes, you read that name correctly, c’mon, we’re talking STARZ here. They aren’t known for their deep symbolism and social commentary on economic geo-politics. He is introduced halfway through the episode and seems to be at odds with Capt. Flint for some reason or another. Couple things are clear; he wants Flint’s men, his ship and for Flint to not be in power. Hopefully they expound on why later down the line. It’s not important right now, but it would help get away from the paint-by-numbers villain portrayal they have done so far.

All of that being said, it takes patience with a show like this. Everything is not going to be told in the opening episode and to go into Black Sails expecting it to hook you right away is the incorrect way to watch it. I was skimming through a review of this episode from someone else and they didn’t have high praise for it but also didn’t bash Black Sails. Their rationale was that people did not fall in love with Game of Thrones right away. In fact, it took that show a good season and a half to get any sort of public traction. I expect the same for Black Sails, but maybe not as long because of it’s serious but not too serious nature.
It was a solid first episode with good character introduction and set up of major and minor story arcs. I don’t really care for any main characters yet, but I do want to see Flint succeed on his quest to find the treasure. He eludes later in the episode that he sees a future of all the pirates uniting under one flag in an all out war against all who oppose. Knowing that this is a very likely possibility in the future of the show, got me hooked already.
Black Sails is in truth, uncharted territory (I hope you’re picking up on all of my sea/pirate/ship puns. You have no idea how hard it’s been NOT doing a booty reference) because it hasn’t really been done yet. A pirate show of this magnitude is intriguing to me no matter what. Add in the fact that it’s on Starz, a prequel to Treasure Island, a small replacement for Spartacus (RIP) and is anchored (another one) by good acting so far and it’s not hard to watch this show. I’m excited to see several more episode of Black Sails. You better believe I will apply the 4-episode rule.


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