[This is a review of Crossbones season 1, episode 2. There will be SPOILERS.]
This question is paramount, due to the fact that even with two strong leading characters, any new series is only as strong as its ensemble (or guest stars for that matter). Look at a show like Almost Human, where Karl Urban (Star Trek) and Michael Ealy (Underworld: Awakening) had some of the best acting chemistry on television, but without an engaging story and poor character development outside of its leading men, the series had some issues.
Fortunately, Crossbones creator/executive producer Neil Cross (Luther) appears to understand the importance of his secondary players. In 'The Covenant,' we learn more about the rum-drinking, opium-smoking political refugee James Balfour (Peter Stebbings).
The Canadian-born actor's scene with Tom Lowe during an examination was stellar. He seems to be a man of great conviction, who was almost beaten to death and has now lost a part of himself that he is desperately trying to get back. Blackbeard has him relegated to fixing old timepieces; however, the man has far more potential, which we will hopefully discover as the season progresses.
Our introduction to Balfour makes Lowe's romantic interest in Kate all the more problematic. James, though troubled from past events, is a "good guy" who wants to make his marriage with Kate work. Why Kate is so enchanted by Lowe still doesn't make sense and is one of the weaker arcs from the first two episodes. Compared to her husband, Kate is developing into a something of a cliche - a woman locked in an intricate but all too predictable love triangle. But this show is still in its infancy, so Kate has time to develop into someone we want to care about.
As for guest stars, Stuart Wilson's (Hot Fuzz) portrayal of the loud-mouthed Captain Sam Valentine was a pleasure to watch. Sadly, the boisterous captain fell into Blackbeard's complex plot to sell off the Longitude Chronometer to the British fleet, which ended up costing him his life. For the moments that he was onscreen, hearing Valentine repeatedly refer to Blackbeard as Edward Teach demystified the man who is obsessed with his own legend. Commodore Blackbeard says he desires to model his town after the ancient Athenian democratic model, yet the legendary pirate's schemes would have us believe otherwise.
After just two episodes, it's difficult to determine where this show is going, but Cross and company appear confident in their direction. Balfour and Valentine are good signs that Crossbones has cast wisely, which should make for an engaging viewing experience on Friday nights.
For those of you who stayed on for this second episode, was 'The Covenant' a positive sign of things to come, or are you abandoning ship before this journey ends?
Crossbones continues with 'The Man who Killed Blackbeard' next Friday @10pm on NBC.