You may immediately think of Pirates of the Caribbean when I say that this show is about pirates searching for gold. You’re probably already imagining the eccentric and swashbuckling buccaneers doing their ridiculous and over-the-top stunts whilst shouting their stereotypical pirate phrases like “Ahoy, matey!”, “Aye aye captain” and “Avast ye”.
Fortunately, Black Sails avoids all these clichés by having intimidating, shrewd and intelligible pirates who will ruthlessly eliminate anyone who stands in the way of them and their treasure.
The show acts as a prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic, Treasure Island. It revolves around the tales of Captain Flint who is notorious for being the most powerful, fearsome and vicious pirate throughout the West Indies. Upon learning that there is a Spanish galleon carrying a massive amount of gold, the infamous pirate seeks to pursue and obtain this ultimate prize as it will not only guarantee him wealth, power and respect, but also the chance to change history. However, standing in his way are terrifying rival captains, prying seductresses and the biggest obstacle and threat of all, the young, smooth-talking and cunning John Silver, who has recently joined Flint’s crew impersonating a cook.
At first, Black Sails is quite slow-paced as the first few episodes are introducing you to all the characters, providing you with historical information about The Golden Age of Piracy and establishing the setting of the bustling and debauched 18th-century Nassau.
However, as the show progresses, its plot becomes much more complex and interesting.
It gradually reveals the characters’ hidden agendas, their sorrowful backstories and their stakes in getting the gold, which makes you realise that the show is much more than about a treasure hunt. Those who you initially think are simple are actually multi-layered and those who start out as simple develop many layers later on. Also, unlike some TV shows and movies that have pointless and extraneous characters, every character in Black Sails affects the plot in some way and so they are all important.
Moreover, it’s not only the characters’ motives and actions that make the show entertaining, but also the well-written dialogue. There are many eloquent and meaningful speeches (filled with foreshadowing) that not only give you an insight into the characters’ mentalities, but also show them questioning their dangerous lifestyle, their morality and their brutal society (full of betrayal, scheming and deceit) that will not hesitate to eradicate them if they let their guard down. The show’s creators also cleverly make the dialogue have much importance which compels you to listen. For example, there are cases when a character is just explaining their plans to someone else, compromising with their enemy or trying to make a powerful leader their ally. These moments could easily come across as boring and lead to you not paying any attention at all, but that doesn’t happen because the dialogue captures and holds your attention and makes you tense or excited to see the outcome of the conversation as it can massively determine what happens next. Black Sails clearly demonstrates that it does not always have to have action in order to engross their audience as its dialogue does that job just as well. In fact, I found myself memorising some lines word for word because they were so riveting and impactful.
Aside from the fascinating characters and memorable dialogue, another aspect that the show excels in is making you feel immersed in its atmosphere of piracy. One moment, you’re witnessing a chaotic naval battle with loud gunshots, frequent explosions and piercing screams of pain, the next you’re seeing a sturdy ship trying to survive a violent storm and then you’re watching the pirates wildly revel in their plunder. Even the soundtrack has a pirate-like feeling as it has rocky, soothing or sad renditions of sea shanties.
The last thing I would say is that, even if you’re not a fan of historical drama and prefer the TV shows that are set closer to our time, you should still give Black Sails a watch because it manages to addresses modern-day issues and topics through the context of The Golden Age of Piracy.
So, get ready to watch a show that will make you look at pirates in a completely different way as it leaves you in triumph, tears or tension with its amazing episodes, scenes and cliffhangers.