‘Black Sails’ Series Premiere Gives the World of Pirates a Fresh Look

Published 1 year ago by

black sails season premiere flint 1 Black Sails Series Premiere Gives the World of Pirates a Fresh Look

[This is a review of the season premiere of Black Sails. There will be SPOILERS.]

If you’re under the impression that Starz’ new ambitious series Black Sails is just Pirates of the Caribbean with more nudity, then you’ll be disappointed. Sure, there are beautiful men and women who bare all for a premium network that demands it, but the fantastical notions of ghost ships and cursed treasure are nowhere to be found. There are pirates aplenty, but their romantic nature is stripped down to a more personal and gritty reality that’s worth your attention.

Ever since the departure of their hit series Spartacus, and after the cancellation of both Boss and Magic City, Starz has been in search of a new flagship. Da Vinci’s Demons found success in ratings, yet critical acclaim is something it sorely lacks. Executive producer Michael Bay (Transformers), along with Human Target writers Robert Levine and Jonathan E. Steinberg look to right the network’s ship by giving viewers a new take on a classic legend.

The series premiere, simply titled ‘I.’ begins in 1715 with Captain Flint and his band of pirates laying siege to a merchant ship off the coast of New Providence Island. At first glance, this band of not so merry men appear to be your typical killing, marauding, and cutthroat pirates from tales of old, yet under the gruesome layer of blood and filth, these men and women live a complex life.

black sails season premiere max eleanor Black Sails Series Premiere Gives the World of Pirates a Fresh Look

Flint, portrayed by the talented Toby Stephens (Strike Back), is the spitting image of what a proper sea captain should look like, but he’s a man losing control of his men. Black Sails triumphs at laying the groundwork for a complex political system where a captain can be voted “out of office.”

Pirating and Accounting are two words that don’t come together easily; however, Flint’s ship does have a financial adviser, and it appears that $8 profit for every man will get you kicked out of the captain’s chair swiftly.

Again, this new series is attempting to showcase the inner workings of pirating during the early part of the eighteenth century. This complex system of stealing, buying, and selling takes us too Nassau, where we are introduced to the women of Black Sails.

It’s no secret that like most premium networks, Starz enjoys giving its viewers gorgeous bodies to feast their eyes upon, but these goddesses are not always essential to the plot. But Black Sails, like Game of Thrones, gives its heroines both beauty and strength.

HBO’s True Detective could learn a few things from Eleanor Guthrie (Hannah New) and Max (Jessica Parker Kennedy). These women are not playing the “nagging wife” role, but instead choose to forge their own destinies. The plight of strong female characters on television is an article for another time, but Black Sails is pointing their ladies in the right direction.

The other leading men include a Han Solo-like character named John Silver (Luke Arnold). From the very moment he flashes that devilishly-handsome smile, it’s clear that this is a man who is consumed by greed and selfishness. Where Flint seems to be trying to fulfill a kind of destiny, Silver just wants to be remembered in the history books.

black sails season premiere flint Black Sails Series Premiere Gives the World of Pirates a Fresh Look

If there is an antagonist to Flint and Silver, it would have to be the fearsome Captain Vane, played by the Shameless star Zach McGowan. Vane’s primary motivation is to destroy the fragile stability of Flint’s crew by slowly usurping power. Vane’s efforts may never come to fruition as Captain Flint wins back the respect of his men by defeating his rival, Singleton.

All this setup brings us to the most important question of any new series premiere, which is: Why should you care?

Black Sails is by no means a perfect show, but its gorgeously crafted world mixed with solid performances warrants a second viewing. The motivations of these men and women are still unclear, but like its intricate political and financial systems, this series should give us more character development as the season progresses.

Captain Flint is a man driven by purpose, almost like Captain Ahab chasing his white whale. Will the captain catch this wealthy Spanish Galleon by season’s end, or will he loose the respect of his crew before getting the chance?

Due to a positive screening at the 2013 San Diego Comic Con, Starz has already renewed Black Sails for a second season months before its premiere.

Can this series stand out amongst the many genre-based giants dominating the television landscape, or will it fall into obscurity, like so many others before it?


Black Sails continues with ‘II.’ next Saturday @9pm on Starz.

Follow David Griffin on Twitter @griffinde
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  1. ell, I watched the first episode, and was mixed feelings. I want to like this show, but need to give it another watch of a couple more episodes before I can give it a total thumbs-up. It was not bad, but I hope it does not turn into just a titties and cute face-ies show (nice though they were)showcasing women that all look glamourous (in those days good-looking ones would all be raped to death, but most women on an island that is a pirate den were probably pretty grungy-scrubby anyways).

    • Oops..”ell” should be Well”. Guess I need to type better or look up words in the dickshunarey! Maybe I was trying to talk like an English pirate???

  2. this show was too light for starz and the plot was too conventional, pirates looking for a treasure? really?! come on! also it’s ok modernizing tv shows based on other times but those scenes with that blonde girl were beyond stupid. I certainly won’t be watching this show again.

  3. I liked the premise but the gratuitous t&a and lesbian scene added nothing, and took away from an otherwise good show.

  4. I have to wonder how many of these “premium” shows are watched more for nudity and not the story. I watch a lot of these shows that feature nudity and I never see where it adds to the plot. Do they have a t & a quota or something?

  5. I thought the first episode was slow and boring after the first 10 mins. I realy dont care about the characters or their motivations. Wish their was more diversity in characters like Spartacus. Ill give it 2 more episodes to see if the pacing and character developement improves before I let it go. Just give us the Caesar spinoff already

  6. That blonde girl just seems to be a poorly conceived character. And thank God that guy was killed at the end of the first episode.

    Starz has had some pretty weak shows, and to me this one isn’t starting out too strong. I appreciate the sets and the fight scenes, but that’s about it so far. I’ll keep watching though, and hold out hope, especially since I thought Spartacus was awful after the first episode and it took me awhile to get into it (a show I ended up loving, and is definitely Starz’s best yet).

  7. I’ve been waiting for this show since the ending of Spartacus and it was well worth the wait. This show is sick!

  8. I liked it , though that lesbian scene did come out of freaking no where and Zach McGowan is totally a bad ass and he got hotter playing a villain :) heres to hoping they get some more character development.

  9. Watched this premiere last night and it was good but underwhelming. I had a hard time not adjusting to the lack of gore if you will during the battle scene but the fight scene with Flint and the Mutineer was spot on. I think it will pick up in the next few episodes I’m sure.

    Also, keep in mind this is a prequel of sorts to Treasure Island with real pirates of ancient lore thrown in.

  10. I watched it and just felt nothing. The storyline is rather boring and it didn’t really supply a “hook” to reel you in to keep watching. It’s a shame really because Starz continues it’s streak on not really supplying a show that will even remotely pull the kind of numbers that they had with Spartacus. Sails had the typical pirates storyline that has been done numerous times and unfortunately the writing on this show is all over the place. I might watch another episode or 2 if there is nothing on but right now there are soo many other shows on that is far superior than this show. Spartacus started off slow but they at least supplied a “hook” in their pilot that had people coming back for more.

  11. Interesting show, but the idea that there were these hot looking women running around looking not much different then todays women was a poor choice. Yes sex sells, but if you’re going to build up a show to be close to authentic, then you really need to dial down the hotties. The women of the time (Especially prostitutes) generally were raised in poverty so the idea that they’d look like healthy models is just foolish. They’ve made many of the pirates look like less than healthy specimens, and they should have done the same with the women.

    • also, the women are completely annoying and unrealistic to the time. they are spoiled and aggressive and feared by men. sorry, but never through history have prostitutes been feared by men, especially pirates. the women are the detractors from the story and also, right, how do they just keep looking so perfect in a hot, humid, rough climate?
      The show is CATERING to women and trying to make women feel powerful. well, then this history is just a mystery. it’s boring b*******.

      • None of Mike Bays films has anything to do with realism, and while I liked the plot and found it entertaining. now they’ve twisted this series to “Dallas” on the water. Chief character and hero is now a FLAMING FLUFFER! I’m dropping starz and won’t watch any more of this poop. What a disappointment! :o(

  12. I thought the pilot was OK. Nothing special though. I really didn’t believe what the characters were saying because the dialogue was in modern English rather than “YARRR ME MATEYS, BRING ME TH’ RUM, YE SCULLYWAGS!”

  13. all hail to blackbeard!!1

  14. The article makes it seem that Starz was in desperate need of a hit, but there’s no mention of “Outlander,” the runaway hit. Sloppy reporting.

  15. Love the series, until a cutthroat alpha male Pirate suddenly in the last episode, is swapping spit with another man. How macho can this be if children were watching. OMG, I want to play pirate so maybe I should make out with the other boys like in Black Sails. Is it a law that each movie or series must show men with men or women with women. Can’t I enjoy a show without watching homosexuality. Seriously, aren’t there aspects of life where men are not groping men and women are not lusting over women. Really, tell me where pirates and homosexual men have in common? When you think of Pirates, what part makes you think of them standing around kissing each other. I regretfully will not follow your show after this! Why not be neutral?


  16. What a put down. They had to make Flint gay. Why disgust 95% of the population to attract 5% of the gay population. Disgusting that you can’t get into a series that they don’t mess it up by trying to force the rest of us to accept their gay agenda by injecting it into everything they put on TV anymore. Starz you miss it. There were NO GAY Pirates and if one showed up in that world he wouldn’t have lasted 5 seconds.

    • LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL… no gay pirates? You reeeeaallly don’t know much about historical life at sea, do you?

      When and why did Winston Churchill say: ‘The traditions of the Royal Navy are rum, sodomy and the lash’?

      CHURCHILL’S description of the Royal Navy is included in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations as having appeared in the book, Former Navy Person, by Sir Peter Gretton. The Oxford Dictionary suggests that Churchill’s phrase should be compared with naval phrases dating from the 19th century – ‘Rum, bum and bacca’ and ‘Ashore, it’s wine, women and song, aboard it’s rum, bum and concertina’.
      It looks as though here, as elsewhere, Churchill took an earlier quotation and improved upon it. In The Irrepressible Churchill, compiled by Kay Halle (Robson Books, 1985), Churchill is said to have used the phrase in 1913, when he was First Lord of the Admiralty. According to ‘an ear-witness’, he was having trouble with some of his admirals at a strategy meeting. One of them accused him of having impugned the traditions of the Royal Navy, provoking the reply: ‘And what are they? They are rum, sodomy and the lash’.

      Edward Hewlett, Bexhill-on-Sea, E Sussex.