The hunt for treasure is on!
Going into the show that’s been dubbed Starz’s Spartacus replacement, the biggest hope I had for it was that the writers jumped away from the mysticism surrounding Pirates of the Caribbean. Don’t get me wrong. PotC is a great series of movies, save for the final installment (which is a debate I think I’ll save for another day), but “Black Sails” looked like it would delve into the actual lives of pirates, that dark, gritty, dirty side history dictates is there. Cue I, episode one, which made its Starz debut January 18th.
From the opening sequence (which includes one of the best themes on television today) to the very last moment, I was hooked. Here are my reasons why.
Reason One: This version of pirate life is far from the campy PotC. It lives up to the gritty, dirty hype and makes it even more bloody. It’s filled with what you’d expect from pirates; lying, backstabbing, and deceit. Each and every character is made both likeable and hateable, neither heroes nor villains. Every situation, so far, is entered into with very selfish reasons in mind. No man, or woman, is safe from the other.
Reason Two: The characters themselves are all extraordinarily well played. There are a few, of course, who stand out in my opinion. Toby Stephens, who plays Captain Flint, brings a gruff, sullen man to life. There is so much more to the man’s motivations than we know and it goes much deeper than a quest for treasure. He has many secrets, including the lovely Miranda Barlow, a woman many believe is a witch.
Zach McGowan (can we all say, “Keep your shirt off!”) gives what I believe is the most interesting performance playing Captain Charles Vane, known by his reputation of being morally depraved, brutal, and deadly, as we see in the first episode when he helps a mutiny on Captain Flint’s ship along. He’s vicious and dangerous, but Zach turns what could have been a very one dimensional character into so much more. He gives a heart to the man, an incredibly vulnerable side that ends up playing very prominently in several decisions he makes. I can’t help but want to pick up the very broken man and hug him.
Mark Ryan and Toby Schmitz play Flint’s and Vane’s quartermasters respectively. Both men seemingly act as their captain’s brains when a decision is made using less than such. Ryan makes Mr. Gates a very vocal presence in Flint’s life. And his interactions with Billy Bones, the Walrus’ bosun, are always very father/son. I find myself wanting to see more of them. Schmitz’s Jack Rackham is scary smart (I’d go so far as saying well-educated) and, at times, very very slimy. It’s his relationship with the horribly under-utilized Anne Bonny, played superbly by Clara Paget that I adore. It’s both very cute and very frightening.
And lastly, I can’t say enough about Sean Cameron Michael’s portrayal of Richard Guthrie. At first, I’ll admit, I was rather bored with the cliche of a father who put his business and greed ahead of his daughter. But he’s officially brought on the wow factor in episode four. His interactions with both Mr. Scott and Miranda Barlow are very telling of the man he is.
And now, for a few things I wish could be improved upon.
One: The treatment of the tortured Max, played by the Jessica Parker Kennedy. How much more can one girl take?
Two: Eleanor Guthrie’s language, especially in episode one, left me shaking my head. I get that she, played by Hannah New, is trying to survive running her father’s business on New Providence Island. I get she needs to be strong and put forth this tough, no-nonsense attitude. But the way she expresses herself and the words that come out of her mouth made me cringe.
And finally, three: How is there only FOUR episodes left this season???? Thank God the show has already been renewed. Oh and, please, let there be more shirtless Tom Hopper.
So, with all that being said, if you aren’t watching “Black Sails” I ask you this. Why the hell not?
Black Sails, where do I begin. I first caught wind of this series last summer. It intrigued me and I told Stephanie about it. ‘Should we do a page?’ Well we did long before the ads hit the mainstream media. Maybe it was foreshadowing but we knew it was going to be amazing and we weren’t wrong. After all, it’s pirates, sailing ships, plunder and rum, how could it go wrong? Add a top notch cast led by Toby Stephens, who plays Captain Flint and breath taking scenery the show delivers a full bore broadside attack.
It has started a little slow, some have complained but this is a huge ensemble of complex characters. To me, this series started like a ship careened, that is on her side being scraped of barnacles. The amazing cast, of characters, if you will are those barnacles. Each layer exposes more of the plot and subplots that each character brings to the show. It takes time and energy to let us see into the complexities and how each character somehow find themselves tied to the other.
That said, where do I begin? Our first meeting brings us Captain Flint (Stephens), Captain Charles Vane (Zach McGowan who plays Vane’s treacherous and brutal side understatedly. He’s quiet and deadly and those are the ones you have to look out for. He has a very soft side that he rarely shows and when we see it, I hate to admit, made me tear up! I have to agree with Stephanie’s assessment however that Charles just needs to remain shirtless. Sorry guys, us girls have to stick together and we know a good looking man when we see one! Oh and of course the cowardly John Silver (Luke Arnold), who one minute has me convinced he’s a good guy then the next I’m smacking my forehead for falling for it in the first place!
We also meet Mr. Gates, (Mark Ryan) and Jack Rackham who will later be known as “Calico Jack” Rackham. (Toby Schmitz). Neither Captain’s could make it without their devious quartermasters. The tactics taken by each man are as different as night and day and those differences make us both love and distrust them. Especially Jack. The ‘Snidely Whiplash’ of the Caribbean. He could sell poo to a blind man and make him believe it was roses.
The rest of the characters are no less complicated and complex. I am really beginning to like Richard Guthrie(Sean Cameron Michael) who is not quite the man his conniving daughter Eleanor (Hannah New) made him out to be. Max, (Jessica Parker Kennedy) John Silver’s on again off again lover and go-between that turns just about everything on its ear. Tom Hopper’s Billy Bones is coming into his own and yeah, a little more shirtless Tom won’t hurt the scenery either. Did I mention breath taking scenery?
This ship of Black Sails has her hull cleaned and re-pitched. With four episodes to go she’s got her sails filling and is picking up speed. It’s going to be a wild ride to the end and I’m not ready for it to be over yet. I am certain there will plenty more questions to be answered next season.
If you aren’t onboard with this rollicking, rum soaked and scallywag bunch, it’s not too late! I’m sure Captain’s Flint and Vane can always use good crewmen!