There are 500 scripted TV show’s being written in the year 2020. With the limited amount of time that we have (maybe a little more in the worlds current state), we have to decide what’s worth our time. What are the “water-cooler” shows that are hot at the moment? How many episodes are in a show? Is it complete? TV is an investment and if it’s not worth investing in, people’s patience and attention will quickly wane.
Black Sails (available through the Starz app, as well as Hulu) is a show based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island”. It’s considered to be a prequel to this novel, albeit loosely. The characters from this book are familiar names, but these versions may be different from the ones you’ve heard of. So, what is it that makes Black Sails stand out, in my opinion, and raise a Jolly Roger above the rest?
That’s the first thing that comes to mind when I think of the fantastic adventure that is Black Sails. This show was recommended to me by a friend and I checked in with him while we watched it, and I found our conversations about this show revolved around the characters. I quickly wanted to learn more about the past of Captain Flint (Toby Stephens) and how the former Navy leader turned rugged and intense Pirate Captain, would lead his crew to the Urca gold. I wanted to see what happened next to the disingenuous Jack Brackham (Toby Schmitz) and fiery Anne Bonny (Clara Paget), presumed lovers (former?) turned co-workers, who get along like toothpaste and orange juice. John Silver (Luke Arnold) plotting from the shadows, the ultimate opportunist if ever there was one.
The most important thing about all of these characters? They matter. Each and every one contributes to the main plot and not a single story thread is left hanging, but concludes on a grand scale. Things that happen in the first episode may pay off in the subsequent episode, or two seasons later. Because of this, the characters you are introduced to in the pilot episode, won’t be the same ones that will be with you at the finish, most hardly recognizable. All of this character development is earned, some through blood, sweat, and tears, others by political manipulation.
All of this isn’t to say that Black Sails isn’t also an incredibly-shot TV show. The fight scenes, with swords clanging against one another, cannon fire being launched from all sides, and knowing that any character can be killed off at any given moment, give Black Sails the intensity that many overly-choreographed shows are missing. It keeps the viewer engaged
So now I answer the always popular question, “When does it get good?”. My short answer is, from the very beginning. The pilot and proceeding episode are both well written and directed, but the action doesn’t really start to take off until the 5th episode of the first season. If you make it to that point and want this show to walk the plank, then so be it!