Blu-ray l DVD
CREATORS: Jonathan E. Steinberg, Robert Levine
DIRECTORS: Neil Marshall, Sam Miller, Marc Munden, T.J. Scott
WRITERS: Jonathan E. Steinberg, Robert Levine, Michael Angeli, Heather Bellson, Doris Egan, Brad Kane
STARRING: Luke Arnold, Toby Stephens, Hannah New, Zach McGown, Jessica Parker Kennedy, Tom Hopper, Mark Ryan, Clara Paget, Toby Schmitz, Louise Barnes
Anchor Bay Entertainment
RELEASE DATE: January 6, 2015
I’m terrible at watching TV shows. Just awful. New ones often come around that I really want to check out, and before I know it multiple seasons have come and gone. Seriously—it feels like time travel at times.
Being a huge fan of pirates (I even enjoy the Pirates of the Caribbean movies most people aren’t so fond of), Black Sails on Starz was one such show that immediately piqued my attention but got away from me. This is thanks in part to its fairly brief maiden voyage (season one is only eight episodes). But thankfully I was able to check it out on Blu-ray, and with season two having just kicked off recently, I’m happy to finally be on board.
Set in 1715 on New Providence island in the Bahamas, and mainly in the capital city of Nassau, the first season revolves around a very valuable piece of paper holding the travel schedule of the Spanish treasure galleon the Urca de Lima and the $5,000,000 worth of gold and cargo it’s said to be carrying. As you might imagine, this is something that lots and lots of people, especially pirates, would be extremely interested in acquiring.
Black Sails has all of the dangerous, dirty, ruthless, sexy, and sometimes downright brutal you would expect of a show like this. It features impactful sets and locations, actual life-size ships built just for the show (always an effort worthy of praise), and superb costumes, all of which help to create an exciting and exceptional pirate world.
Yes, some of the characters look better than most folks of that time period likely looked (though even some of the pretty ones take their share of damage as the show progresses), and sure, there’s some gratuitous sex and violence, but these are concessions we’re used to making with period shows and movies such as this. Sex and violence sells, as has been proven time and time again. It’s science. So long as there’s more to the show than just these things, all is gold.
And thankfully it’s not all about mindless action and gratuitous content here; there’s a surprising amount of substance as well. Black Sails features a collection of interesting and varied characters involved in multiple compelling storylines, which sometimes interweave with one another. But do not get too fond of said characters; this is a show about pirates, after all, and they (as well as those around them) will do whatever is necessary to get what or where they want. One minute someone will do something noble and win your approval, only to do something deceptive or despicable a short time later. This always keeps we the viewer on our toes as we try to decide our feelings toward these people.
The series also tries to appeal to the history buffs out there. The show’s primary location of Nassau was once considered to be a pirate stronghold known as the “Republic of Pirates,” and some of the real-life pirates that hung out there, including Charles Vane, Anne Bonny, Jack Rackham, and Benjamin Hornigold, are significant characters on the show. The historically accurate mixes with the fictional, as some of the other crucial characters you meet, such as John Silver, Captain Flint, and Billy Bones, all come from the classic Robert Louis Stevenson novel Treasure Island.
Black Sails season one hooked me early, beginning with Bear McCreary‘s (Battlestar Galactica, The Walking Dead) excellent opening theme, and never let go as each episode was more captivating than the last and the intensifying storyline kept me wondering how everything was going to play out. Some may find the show slow at times—again, it’s not all action all of the time; there’s plenty of politicking as characters position themselves—but I never once found myself bored. I look forward to now diving straight into season two, so long as my terrible TV-watching habits don’t come back to haunt me yet again.
So swill away a large mug of rum or grog or whatever your favorite pirate beverage might be, and be sure to check this one out if you haven’t already.
Black Sails: An Inside Look — A behind-the-scenes look at the show, including some of the history it’s based on and the many characters you’ll meet.
Dressed To Kill — A quick look at some of the phenomenal costumes that were created for the show
Pirate Camp — Another short featurette showing the preparation the actors went through for their roles, including an intense training regiment to get them into the shape of someone who works on the deck of a ship every day and fight training, both with weapons and their hands.
Folklore Is Finished — This one discusses the show’s aim at shedding the clichés of pirates (parrots, peg legs, so on) and presenting a more harsh and realistic pirate story
A Place In History — More on some of the history behind the show, and a closer look at the character Mr. Scott (Hakeem Kae-Kazim), a former slave who now works for the prominent Guthrie family.
Building The Behemoth — The final bonus feature is the best one in my opinion. It’s dedicated to the two ships constructed for the show, one full 140-foot ship and one half-ship, which 300 people worked on building.