Oh, how I’ve missed Black Sails, STARZ’s lavish pirate drama starring Toby Stephens as pirate Captain James Flint. And now it’s back, its premiere episode airing in its accustomed Saturday night spot.
As we enter season two, Captain Flint has been stripped of his ship, and his life hangs (literally) in the balance and at the mercy of his former crew. But he has a plan, and a good one.
I’m excited to see Black Sails; it’s one of the rare Saturday night TV appointments on my calendar. Toby Stephens is great as a pirate of great intelligence, breeding and (when it comes right down to it) idealism. This season, it appears that we will be privy to some back story on Captain Flint and what brought drove him to piracy. In season two’s first episode we see Flint as a young British naval lieutenant (and apparently a shrewd politician), advising on the problems of piracy–and its benefits in providing the masses with a common enemy.
But season two’s opening introduces us to a new pirate player on the Nassau scene, Captain Ned Low (Tadhg Murphy), who is more than ruthless; he’s bloody psychotic, as Eleanor Guthrie (Hannah New) soon discovers. Low joins the already settled rabble and their leaders, including Charles Vane (Zach McGowan), whose agenda beyond sheer ambition is known only to him; Anne Bonny (Clara Paget), a female force of nature in the man’s world of early 18th Century piracy; Jack Rackham (Toby Schmitz), who is not quite as smart as he thinks he is, and is by every definition, the series schlemiel, the young, 20-something, John Silver (who will grow up to be Treasure Island’s Long John Silver). And of course Captain Flint.
At the conclusion of last season, Flint had been a doomed man, scorned by his own crew and condemned to die. But as season two opens, the man has a plan, but can he turn it around and regain his crew and command? Perhaps he can…with the assistance of the wily, and equally bright John Silver.
With its mix of real 18th Century personages and characters out of classic fiction, Black Sails is a smart, complex and intriguing mix: cinematic battles at sea, buckles swashed and rigging treacherous, stories of love and sacrifice for family and flag, the colorful chaos of the wild, free port of Nassau before it was conquered. There are hints of social commentary on our own times: the slave trade, the treatment of women, the politics of rallying around a common enemy.
I watched NBC’s Crossbones earlier this year, and while the story of the equally famous Blackbeard (played with flamboyant glee by John Malkovich) is entertaining and bloody, it does not compare the lavish production mounted by Starz for Black Sails.
I’ll be covering Black Sails throughout season two, and talking about it on Blogcritics’ weekly TV Chat show, Let’s Talk TV Live, which airs Tuesday nights on BlogTalk Radio. In the meantime, check out my interview with Sean Cameron Michael, who plays Richard Guthrie on the series, and a season two trailer from STARZ: