Black Sails Review Episode (1×01) “I”
Lots of complex characters, beautiful sets and costumes, strong female characters, and realistic multi-cultural mix of actors.
Not enough action to get the ball rolling.
Starz’ New Pirate Drama Black Sails Gets Off to a Slow Start
This week, Starz’ long-awaited new series Black Sails debuted after much fanfare and hype. The pirate drama is set in 1715 and contains many characters from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island as well as real historical figures. At the heart series is Capt. Flint (Toby Stephens) who’s in danger of losing his position as captain to one of his crewmen, Singleton, thanks to the recent lack of profits. He and his crew arrive at the former British colony of New Providence Island in Nassau, which is now a lawless territory controlled by pirates. Richard Guthrie is a man who set himself up as governor of the island, and he allowed his daughter Eleanor (Hannah New) to control what trade comes in and out of this part of the New World. Along for the ride is John Silver (Luke Arnold), a man who from the onset is a mystery. The only thing we know about him is that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to survive. Aside from Flint’s crew and Silver, we also meet Capt. Vane (Zach McGowan) and his motley crew, and Richard Guthries’s beautiful daughter, Eleanor. Over the course of the episode we discover that Vane and Eleanor had some sort of romantic relationship and she’s currently involved with a local prostitute named Max (Jessica Parker Kennedy).
Black Sails have been heavily promoted since the pilot was shown during last year’s San Diego Comic-Con. Starz promised that this is a grittier version of the pirate stories people may already know, and that it does not contain the light comedy of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean. Everything the cable network said of the series is true. All the characters in the series are opportunistic people hell-bent on forging their own way in the world. In the first episode, “I,” Flint is set up as the hero of the series so far, and if that is so then John Silver looks to be the villain. Silver is a handsome young man who manipulates way aboard Flint’s ship as a cook, when in fact he is in possession of stolen property that Flint needs. The Captain’s Log Flint searches for throughout the episode is supposed to take his crew to the fabled treasure aboard a Spanish ship that will see them back to prosperous days. It’s obvious that this paper is the MacGuffin that all the characters will be searching for throughout the season. Though I don’t believe the series did much to make audiences interested in that aspect of the plot.
“The most important element on a ship is trust.”
While Flint’s desire for the captains log becomes known later on, John’s motives aren’t as clear. Silver seems to be the most dangerous man in the series so far and the least likable. There’s something smarmy about it makes him look like he’s a very dangerous man despite his lack of violence towards other characters. Despite this, I have a feeling Capt. Vane will usurp that title very soon once Zach McGowan gets more to do with the character. Silver teams up with a local prostitute, Max, who is one of the most complicated characters depicted in the pilot. Max may be a prostitute, but she seems like she wants more than that in her life. Aside from her partnership with Silver, the only thing we know about her is that she has feelings for Eleanor. Eleanor Guthrie, on the other hand, isn’t much of a mystery. She’s just a badass bitch. Eleanor runs her father’s business. While he resides in the lap of luxury, Eleanor lives in town amongst raucous pirates. Not only can Eleanor handle the men on the island, she also seems to be very good businesswoman. In fact, the only person who seems to ruffle her feathers is Capt. Vane. Unlike Capt. Flint who is having difficulty keeping his position, Vane seems to be respected and feared among his crew.
“I’m not just going to make you rich. I’m not just going to make you strong. I’m going to make you the princes of the New World.”
Aside from the opening and final scenes of “I,” and a couple of love scenes, the episode wasn’t as action-packed as I’d expected. What “I” did manage to do was introduce the characters and set up the story arc for the entire first season. Despite the episode being a little bit slow, it did pique my interest enough to make me tune in next week. There might not have been loads of action, but the few fight scenes we did see were well done, and the murderous characters lead you to believe that anyone could die at any time. Not only that, but the series has a high production value that make it easy to delve into this treacherous world. Even though the episode was more character than action driven, I honestly didn’t feel the hour passing and was sad to see it end.
What did you think of Black Sails? Will you be tuning in next week? Sound off your thoughts in the comments below and be sure to tune in next Saturday for episode 1×02, “II.”