Black Sails: Episode 1 Review (Spoiler Free)

Black Sails, the new pirate drama from Starz, premieres this week, and even a pirate historian is impressed with the results!

This is a spoiler-free review of the first episode of Black Sails, which premieres on Starz on Saturday, January 25 at 9pm ET. For a complete and spoiler-heavy Black Sails review from TS Rhodes, click here!A war was brewing, the likes of which the world had not seen before. For the first time in history, common men rose up against kings, against the wealthy, against the belief that one class of person was, by their nature, better than another. They created a democracy in the New World.They were pirates.In 1715, the port of New Providence in the Bahamas had fallen out of the power of the nations of Europe. It belonged utterly to the pirates. They were the government. They wrote the laws. Pirate captains were elected by common vote. They could be voted out of their positions just as easily. Woe to the man who disregarded the mood of his crew, for he could find himself alone on an island with nothing to do but count the grains of sand.Honest robbery was the business of the day. Pirates met their prey on the high seas and took what they could. But stealing from a shipmate – sneak thievery -was punishable by marooning or death. And the rank of officer, of captain, was, for the first time not dependent on birth, but on ability. Any man could, with enough strength, enough guile, enough intelligence, become a captain. He only needed the faith of a crew.Starz’ latest series, Black Sails, offers us a pirate world that mixes fact and fiction, Treasure Island and New World history. It’s no secret that the stars of the show are Robert Louis Stevenson’s characters, Captain Flint (Toby Stephens) and Long John Silver (Luke Arnold), twenty years before the events of Treasure Island. But expect to find historic pirates as well, and an accurate re-creation of the pirate port of yore. [Related Article: Black Sails Will Do For Pirates What Walking Dead Did For Zombies]The pirates of Black Sails are grimy and scarred, and the Caribbean waters only emphasize the fact with their pristine beauty. The Golden Age of Piracy was one place where fact was often more thrilling than fiction. Not that the show holds too close to history, when a rough-talking, powerful lady (Jessica Parker Kennedy as “Max”) can be added for maximum financial and emotional entanglement. But it doesn’t give us pure fantasy, either. Black Sails hits some predictable notes. Man of mystery? Two of them. Lesbian love scene? Check. Powerful women? I’ve counted three so far. Single-episode mini-plot? Right on target. And an overarching series plotline that looks like it’ll be filled with all the adventure, back stabbing and hot blooded action that we’d expect from a good pirate yarn.As a historian, I’ve got to tell you that Black Sails can’t turn out the way it really did back in the day. But that’s only got me wondering how it will turn out on-air. I’ve been looking forward to this show for quite a while, and it looks like I won’t be disappointed.  TS Rhodes is the author of The Pirate Empire series. She blogs about pirates at 

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4 out of 5