I’ve had an eye on Black Sails since San Diego Comic Con last year – thanks for making me watch the preview at the booth to get a bandana, Starz! My initial impression of the pilot is that this would be the Pirates of the Caribbean movies if all the Disney family-friendly influences were removed. I like where it’s headed. Landlubbers beware, there are spoilers ahead

The show wastes no time in showing the action of the era. Captain Flint and his crew run down a ship with very little effort as we watch the sailors aboard that ship panic. While everyone is preparing to engage the pirates, we watch a cook rip a page from the captain’s logs and hide out below deck. When he’s joined by another man, they fight over the stolen page. It’s only when the pirates knock down their barricaded door that we find the mysterious man, John Silver, has killed the cook and taken his identity in order to join up with the pirates and spare his life.

When the pirates board the ship, there are the expected powder keg explosions, violent montages of dispatching of anyone on the crew who might fight back, and the war-paint the pirates use to terrorize them. I especially liked a moment after the crew was captured and things settled when one pirate went to scare another with his mouth of sharpened teeth and was told to grow up. I enjoyed the organized way the pirates calmed down as soon as the battle was deemed over.

From left to right: Gates, Captain Flint, Billy Bones and John Silver.
From left to right: Gates, Captain Flint, Billy Bones and John Silver.

One pirate is giving the stereotypical gritty horror monologue of the harsh lives of pirates, while another comments that if he keeps up with his bombastic claims, none of them will want to join the crew. A pirate named Singleton wants to take on five people, but is questioned as to whether he wants those people or their votes when he tries to become the captain over Flint. They end up taking only the “cook,” John Silver, and explain to him that he’s to give no one special treatment when it comes to meals.

Gates, Captain Flint’s right hand man, argues with him over three months of chasing down this ship with no profits for the crew, only to come up empty-handed once more. There is discontent amongst the ranks, but things are handled according to pirate code. The ship docks in New Providence and when Gates can’t accompany Flint to his meeting with the English, he sends along Billy Bones.

On the island, we meet Eleanor Guthrie, daughter to Richard Guthrie, who is the man that sells the stolen pirate loot for a profit. The crew, already liking the new pirate John Silver, sends him to an orgy of prostitutes, one of which is Max. She rightly deduces the stolen paper is important to John and they strike a deal to get rich off of selling it. We also meet Captain Charles Vane, who has no qualms about hitting Eleanor when she hits him. He’s the ruthless pirate meant to rival Flint, but all I can see is Jody from Shameless. Vane once loved Eleanor and is planning to collect Flint’s men after they splinter from his restless crew. Max also loves Eleanor, so if you’re looking for lesbians… they are there.

Rival Captain Charles Vane (or as I like to think of him... Jody! from Shameless) and Eleanor Guthrie.
Rival Captain Charles Vane (or as I like to think of him… Jody! from Shameless) and Eleanor Guthrie.

After a mishap involving the English, Billy and Flint have a conversation about the future of piracy. Flint is intent on becoming King of the pirates and uniting them against the encroaching arms of a civilized world, a statement that alarms Billy. When they get to the ship, Singleton has called for a vote for captain and Flint takes a moment to gather himself. He returns with a rousing speech and an accusation of thievery of the missing page they had been searching for.

Rather than stand trial, Flint and Singleton fight a bloody fight – culminating in Flint bashing in Singleton’s head with a cannonball. He hands a blank page to Billy, in an attempt to prove his accusation of theft true, and Billy hesitantly announces to the rest of the crew that it is indeed the missing page. Flint makes lofty promises to his crew and the episode ends.

Like I said, I like where the series is headed and the action sequences are well done in my opinion. Did any of us expect anything less with something Michael Bay has an involvement in? I’m surprised there weren’t more explosions. The series is meant as a prequel to Treasure Island and has already been renewed for a second season because people at Comic Con liked it so much. I have high hopes that the female characters only get stronger as the series progresses and that Max gets comfortable with that weird French accent she fades in and out of.

Filmed in Cape Town, South Africa, the setting is gorgeous.
Filmed in Cape Town, South Africa, the setting is gorgeous.

If you enjoy Pirates of the Caribbean and can stomach violence, give the pilot a look at the very least. Give it a few episodes to really hit its stride and for the actors to settle into their characters and if nothing else, I think it will be a fun series to string together all the crash-bang-boom explodey bits on Youtube and laugh at pirate politics.

Black Sails premieres tonight on Starz at 9 PM EST. If you can’t wait that long, they have the full pilot available to view on their website right now.

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