Top positive review
Adult Version of Pirates of the Carribean
on August 21, 2017
A doomed pirate ship holds a key to great wealth. When a critical page of the captain's log is torn from the book in the chaos of battle by an unscrupulous cook, it becomes a hot item. The cook is murdered for the prize by an unassuming man named John Silver who convinces the boarding party that it is he who is ship's cook and finagles his way into the crew. His new mates are led by Captain Flint, a man who promises his men an equal cut of their plunders. However, small scores and relative failure have turned many away from him and closer to his rival, the devious Singleton who has the votes to oust the skipper. Flint's right-hand man, Quartermaster Gates, works to re-secure the captain's stature with his men and peg Singleton as the traitor who stole the page from the log book. He does so with the support of a key crew member, Billy Bones. The crew lands at Nassau where they must deal with Eleanor Guthrie who has followed in her father's footsteps as Nassau's go-to businessperson intermediary. Meanwhile, Silver, who still holds the page, strikes up an unorthodox and unwanted alliance with a local prostitute named Max who knows his secret. At the same time, a rival captain named Charles Vane hopes to secure the log book page for his own needs, chiefly to discover the whereabouts of the legendary treasure ship Urca de Lima.
Black Sails opens by setting its bar so high that it never quite manages to again top it. A stellar ship-versus-ship attack serves to not only introduce some key characters and story dynamics but to also demonstrate the show's technical marvels in one of the most explosive, immersive, and detailed high seas battles ever to grace the screen, small or large. It's an epic open that will certainly draw its viewers closer but threatens to alienate them at the same time when it becomes apparent that the show is, mostly, landlocked rather than sprawling out on the high seas. That said, the show is a carefully constructed character study that, while detailed, still feels a bit empty and hollow. It embraces the same sort of conniving and complicated plot matters that are the hallmark of all of these historically inspired modern drama television epics, going full-bore for the seedy underside of an already dangerous world. The characters are mostly type with a few surprises thrown in here and there. Most viewers with a general knowledge of the pirate genre (and a reading of Treasure Island under their belts; the show is a prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson's literary classic) and the way modern television works won't find very much new here beyond the impressive outward dressing.
As alluded to above, what's really missing is a sense of adventure. Black Sails isn't so much about pilfering and plundering or exploring strange new worlds along the high seas but instead about the politics, the backstabbing, the manipulation, the real grit and dirt that takes place on land rather than on the sea. In that sense, it's less a pure adventure show and more a stationary drama, a strange choice for a program built around a concept that, in popular culture, generally involves more seafaring adventure and less land-loving wheeling and dealing. It's more interested in being a deeper, more complex character drama and less about floating along the ocean and both seeking out treasure and encountering unwanted dangers. Much of that, likely, stems from cost; were every episode crammed with big, wide open adventure to new places and big vessel-on-vessel action to match, the program would likely buckle under the weight of its pricey demands. Setting it primarily on land and centering it fully on characters rather than mixing in sweeping adventure allows the show to stretch further while standing relatively still.