Starz’ Black Sails is an adventure television series set in the high seas during the Golden Age of Piracy. In Black Sails’ 1715, the civilized world considered pirates as hostis humani generis or enemies of mankind and in retaliation, they had their own creed…war against the world.
A former member of the English society and now Walrus Captain James Flint (Toby Stephens) leads this war against the world. On paper, the mostly idealistic yet stubborn as a mule Captain Flint and his smorgasbord crew raid merchant ships in pursuit of wealth beyond their wildest dreams. In reality, their raids sometimes earn “just under $8 per man” after injury payments, a far cry from the promised shower of riches. The good thing is, this amount is more than enough to make the men get pissed drunk and fornicate with whores once they dock in Nassau.
The first season of Black Sails focuses mainly on Captain Flint’s almost Quixotic dream of raiding the largest Spanish treasure galleon in the Americas, Urca de Lima. Urca de Lima carries cargo in excess of $5 million, wealth that will make Captain Flint and his men not only rich but princes of the new world. In his pursuit of Urca de Lima, Captain Flint has the confidence of Walrus’ Quartermaster, the charismatic Hal Gates (Mark Ryan), the unwavering support of Nassau’s main middleman, the cunningly intelligent Eleanor Guthrie (Hannah New) and the renewed backing of his crew led by Walrus Boatswain Billy Bones (Tom Hopper). The only hiccup in the plan is the missing page on the Captain’s Logbook of the merchant ship they just raided. The page is not just an ordinary page; it shows the schedule and course of Urca de Lima. Here, the newly-acquired cook of Walrus, the smooth-talking John Silver (Luke Arnold) comes in as an important part of the journey. Just before Captain Flint’s men boarded the merchant ship, John stole the page from the cook who had ripped it off from the Captain’s Logbook.
Throughout the season, Black Sails shows daily hardships faced by pirates in their chosen profession in vivid details. Pirates are a disciplined lot who do backbreaking work that puts their lives on the line every second, on or off shore. The food is sometimes undercooked and the pay is a pittance, but they have freedom that their former jobs did not afford them.
Although pirates follow their own code, resentment among the crew is not unheard of. The fickle-mindedness of the pirates rivals the seas’ unpredictable temperament and sometimes even exceeds it. This opens to much politicking, power grabbing and gossiping in the Walrus that I sometimes thought that it was Philippine Congress in action, but the tattered clothes and lean bodies of the pirates made me snap out of that thought immediately.
The drama in the high seas is mirrored by events in Nassau. Charles Vane (Zach McGowan), the Captain of the Ranger, known to have a crew with animalistic tendencies, has unresolved issues with Eleanor. This problem with Eleanor has made the lives of Vane’s group miserable. In order to weather Eleanor’s wrath, and with the help of the prostitute Max (Jessica Parker Kennedy), Ranger’s Quartermaster Jack Rackham (Toby Schmitz) and Anne Bonny (Clara Paget) had to resort to brothel management. The presence of a brothel in Black Sails ensures that exposed breasts are almost always in every scene in Nassau. Black Sails does not shy away from sex scenes either, both consensual and forced, but it has nothing like Jamie and Claire’s prolonged coupling in another Starz series, Outlander.
The first season of Black Sails has only eight episodes, but they are enough to steer the show to the right direction. It has fast-paced action sequences that include swordfights, cannon attacks, ship sinking and a lot blood and gore, most of them in close-up shots. The plot involves characters who make snap decisions so the premier season covers a lot of ground in a short time. Its main characters, Captain Flint and Eleanor, are strong individuals with human flaws, and this combination makes them interesting to follow because they have something more to offer the audience.
Black Sails is more than just swashbuckling pirates and whores with bouncing breasts; it is also about politics, freedom, business, and the dream to live in a safe and prosperous world.
Captain Flint – He is fearless as he is fearsome. Also, he is a dreamer and a voracious reader. On the flipside, he might not be a good friend to Thomas Hamilton (for taking Hamilton’s wife away from him) and Hal Gates (for murdering him), but these just make his character all the more irresistible. He also knows how to spice and roast a pig. He is after my lechon-loving heart, and for that I have mentally added Captain Flint to my collection of hot men in power fictional characters, Dougal (Outlander), Ned (Game of Thrones), Fran (El Príncipe), and Obergruppenführer John Smith (The Man in the High Castle).
Eleanor Guthrie – She is a woman with four balls. She has a goal and she uses everything in her possession in order to achieve that goal. I will wait for the day when Eleanor sails with Captain Flint and see who is more stubborn and bossy between them.
Hal Gates – He was a loyal friend to Captain Flint to a fault. He was a good negotiator (during a roundtable discussion with Captain Flint, Eleanor, Vane, and Rackham) and a competent Quartermaster.
Worst Character: John Silver – He is the luckiest thief and liar on earth. People who knew his secret dropped like flies or changed their minds to accommodate his lies. Even Captain Flint and Eleanor listen to his advice. He is not even that charming.
Favorite Moment: When Captain Flint discovers that the riches of Urca de Lima are within sight. It vindicates Captain Flint and his decisions during the chase for the Spanish galleon.
Worst Moment: When Dufresne (Jannes Eiselen) bites the neck of an officer of the Andromache. Blood oozes out of the vein (?) shot up-close for a good five seconds. It reminds me of Rick Grimes’ neck bite in The Walking Dead. Just ugh.
Nagging Question: Did Captain Flint kill Billy Bones? I will miss his muscles.
My favorite quote comes from the first episode, “thievery is punishable by death as is false accusation of the same”. The pirates of 1715 had better laws than the Philippines of 2015.
Another quote I like is “good cooks are in short supply, even for criminals”.