Black Sails coasts onto screens by riding the new wave of televisual success. This pirate show from producer Michael Bay will undoubtedly draw comparisons to Game Of Thrones due to its sex, violence and political machinations. It’s not as good as the HBO behemoth, but it’s still a captivating piece of stylish television.
Framing itself as a loose prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, Black Sails charts a course for New Providence where we follow Captain Flint (Toby Stephens) as he searches for the Urca de Lima, a Spanish galleon which is loaded with treasure. The only person who knows the location of the ship is John Silver (Luke Arnold), a rapscallion with a penchant for getting in and out of trouble in equal measure. Also caught up in the tale is the ever exasperated Eleanor Guthrie (Hannah New), the ball-busting bar owner who runs the illegal shipping in the Bahaman island. Meanwhile the evil Captain Charles Vain (Zach McGowan) glowers and grumbles his way through the plot causing all sorts of trouble. In fact, he’s so Vain, he probably thinks the show is about him.
Plotting, scheming and duplicitous goings on are par for the course on Black Sails. This South African shot show may not have the layered storytelling of Game Of Thrones, but there is enough complexity in the plotting to nudge it into the upper tiers of modern television. Toby Stephens anchors the show as Flint, the pensive captain who appears to be hiding a lot of information from his not so loyal crew. Special mention must also go to Mark Ryan as Gates, Flint’s confident and Toby Schmitz who offers up some comic relief when things get a little heavy as Vain’s right hand-man.
Another similarity between Black Sails and Game Of Thrones comes with director Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, Centurion). Marshall has helmed two of Thrones’ stand-out episodes (Blackwater and Watchers On The Wall) and his energetic visual verve is instrumental in kicking off the pilot as well as steering the direction of the rest of the show. Black Sails makes the most of the bright South African coastline and its deep blue sea, while some very impressive ships and Bear McCreary’s score add some buckle to the swash.
A fun pirate romp for those who find Disney’s Pirates of The Caribbean too kid-centric, Black Sails is an enjoyable slice of TV. It may not have the depths of Davy Jones’ Locker, but there’s enough here that audiences with find nautical but nice.
Black Sails comes with a selection of short, but interesting mini-documentaries which go behind-the-scenes of the show. They feature just enough content to add an extra little something to your Black Sails experience.