How wonderful it is to be back with Starz’ Black Sails, the well-researched, well-funded, and well-made and pirate series. I’m enjoying Black Sails even more after my run-in with another pirate series. You can really tell the difference when a network is committed to backing something you know can be good. Unlike that “other pirate series,” Black Sails is setting us up for another enjoyable season.
Picking up this new season, there’s no cheap recap of “so you remember from last season…” Nope, if you need a reminder, the episodes are there, and you can watch them on the Starz website. And if you’ve missed anything, I’d advise you take a gander. It was all good stuff, and this season looks to be even better.
Like last season, we start out with pirates attacking a merchant ship. Last year it was Flint, and he just wanted the money, though he faced stiff resistance. This season’s merchant captain is being more prudent. He gives up without a fight, sure that if he offers no violence, no violence will come to him. Sadly, Flint is the old guard of piracy. This year we’re introduced to Ned Lowe, the new generation of pirates. Lowe, a take-off on a historical pirate, has been referred to as a “murdering sociopath.” The odds are raised again in the violence department.
We pick up with our main characters, Flint and Silver, right where we left off. The pirate ship Walrus is beached on the Florida coast after a hurricane, and Spanish gold from the even-more-badly wrecked galleon Urca is scattered on the tropical sand. Another Spanish Galleon waits nearby, as her crew scrambles to regain the treasure.
Captain Flint and John Sliver have to deal with the fact that Flint’s nefarious doing with against his own crew are ousted, and the treasure is going to be awfully hard to get. Flint’s plan to take the Spanish warship instead is true to form – audacious in the utmost. Silver, as usual at this point, is along for the ride. But we learn up front that he’s 100 percent committed to Flint’s success now – though it is only because of luck and common interest. Silver likes to gamble with his life, and he’s staking Flint for the next roll of the dice. I would too, even though the odds look overwhelming.
A note here on the believability of all this. I’m on this gig as a Pirate Historian, and this year looks even better than last year. It may be a little more money, or a return to existing sets, but a few things that have bothered me before have been cleaned up.
One of these is the fact that, in last season, the ships seemed to be almost empty. People ran around on wide-open decks with no storage containers and few people. This year when we go into the Spanish warship, if’s full of sleeping crew. No, there’s not quite the 100-plus snoozing sailors that would have been historically accurate, but the set looks a lot better. We see right off that Flint really had little chance of carrying out his brash plan. So what was her really up to?
Of course we have to go through all the other characters and say hello. But the summing up goes straight into moving the plot forward, from the fiery confrontation between half-naked Charles Vane and Eleanor Guthrie, over whether the fencing of pirate goods will be conducted like a traditional business or like something entirely new. Vane’ still an anarchist, even though he’s made himself the prime military power on the island.
Meanwhile, Jack Rackham and Anne Bonny are living in the hell they’ve created for themselves. Owners of a brothel, and betrayers and murders of their old crew, Jack has been kicked off the list of pirates in good standing by Vane, his crimes revealed. When he was free to go back to piracy, the brothel gig looked like a dream. Now with his “good name” in the dirt and angry pirates wanting a bit of their own back for friends that Jake’s killed, he’s in a closer version of hell, beaten up on a daily basis, and without the means to defend himself. (No one, of course, is messing with Anne. They wouldn’t dare.)
I’m sorry for the way Jack is shown in this series. I like the historical Jack Rackham mush better, but this character created by Starz is true to him. And, as we seem to be about to enjoy a season of backstories and character development, we may find out an interesting thing or two.
Anne Bonney, it seems, is about to discover that she likes girls as well as boys, courtesy of Max, another character I really like, and whom we don’t see enough of in this episode. We had similar problems in the beginning of last season, and Max had her fair share of screen time.
As usually with the really good episodes of Black Sails, the story tends to circle around. Lowe opens this show, and comes around at the end to confront Eleanor over money and power. Flint moves relentlessly forward towards his mysterious goals, even as we see flashbacks into his past. And Silver takes us back to last season with the question for Flint “Who do you think pulled you onto that beach?”
Yes, like the first episode, the requisite points are hit. Naked women? Check. Gorgeous, dirty men? Check. Extreme violence? Check again. And a lesbian love-scene waiting right I the wings. Plus, now the cinematography is a beautiful as ever, the costumes – already good – have improved, and the real history of pirates isn’t being entirely ignored. And now we love these characters and can hardly wait to see what trouble they’ll get into next as they follow their bloody fortunes in Black Sails.