I started watching this series some time ago but I never managed to get past episode 3. On a rewatch, and with determination on my side, I pushed past this magic mark into unchartered territory…..
Black Sails tells the story of Captain Flint (Toby Stephens) and his crew (including a certain John Silver, before he was Long) and their chasing of the legendary Treasure that made their eventual Island so tempting. Flint is obsessed, just like that other old time captain of the sea Ahab, with catching his white whale, the Spanish treasure galleon Urca de Lima, a legendary ship with untold riches aboard. It is a visually impressive recreation of a piratical life and the business of stealing on the seas but also the lifestyle that grew up alongside them. This series gets down, dirty, gritty and wild as we follow the pirates around their adventures and downtime. At only 8 episodes for the first season it is attractive and not too time consuming to watch it all and hugely fun. There is a good ratio of action to exposition, of adventure to plot development.
With plenty of negotiating the high seas, blood, guts, gore and sex it could be thought that there is no substance to this series and that would be incorrect. There are numerous factions and power struggles going on to keep things interesting; machinations and permutations of controlling parties, usurping and plotting aplenty. This series might not be quite as realistic and gritty as The History’s Channels Vikings but this one is done with a certain level of authority and enjoyment and no small amount of ability, particularly in getting the look right. I can imagine that getting numerous pirate ships and galleons looking realistic whilst on board and, more importantly, when sailing took a serious amount of effort to do it right, and I believe that it has been achieved so far.
There are loads of interesting characters throughout; smarmy, conniving John Silver (Luke Arnold), the reasonable Mr Gates (Mark Ryan), the seemingly principle less Captain Vane (Zach McGowan) and his slightly wilder crew, Jack Rackham (Toby Schmitz) attempting to work his way up the chain using his higher intellect (and plummy speech) to play his way up, trying to outsmart everyone. Eleanor Guthrie (Hannah New) trying to maintain the status quo after her father has thrown a spanner in the works. And let us not forget Captain Flint with his plans and his ultimate goal. With all these players in place it is easy to see that there can be a load of plots and interactions that can be exploited in the future.
Black Sails Season 1 is a highly enjoyable first series and I’m very eager to watch the next one straight away, which is always a good sign that the series has done its job. Is that Season 2 on the horizon? Ship ahoy!