Black Sails Review: “I.” (Season 1, Episode 1)


Black Sails may be a prequel of sorts to the swashbuckling classic film Treasure Island, but there couldn’t be a larger dissonance in tone. Take that romanticized pirate mythology you grew up on as child and chuck it out of your memory.  You won’t be seeing hooks for hands, mimicking parrots, wooden legs and whatever else fantasy pirate lore has accustomed your senses to. This isn’t your standard and traditional portrayal of pirates. Instead, Black Sails offers something far more violent, bloody, and savage that’s more in line with, well, real pirates.

Set during the golden era of pirating, the series’ premiere lays the groundwork for the premise by introducing us to a slew of characters, grounded in both history and fiction. The golden age is currently under pressure as the Royal Navy begins cracking down on pirate export operations, and at the worst possible time, too. Captain Flint (Toby Stephens)  – the most feared captain on all four corners of the sea – is on the cusp of a treasure so rich that it could upset the very balance of society.

Unfortunately, there’s one fatal flaw with his plan. While raiding a ship containing a journal that details the whereabouts of the treasure, a young and cowardice John Silver (Luke Arnold), hiding from the attack, swipes the most important page of the journal from a shady cook also hiding out below deck. Unbeknownst of the page’s crucial nature to Flint’s plan, a game of cat and mouse begins. Making matters worse are the ruthless and restless nature of Flint’s pirates, who are slowly being driven to mutiny. They aren’t rolling in treasure or riches, but rather blindly following around a Captain who’s lately been failing more often than succeeding.

There are several other characters who show up in the premiere as well, although their roles aren’t exactly clear yet. Historical figures Charles Vane (Zach McGowan) and Anne Bonny (Clara Paget) are part of the narrative and seem to be up to something mysterious. Again though, it’s really too early to tell what the show has in store for them. Regardless, they are some of the most brooding and intimidating characters on Black Sails, especially Anne, who shows her expertise with a blade in brutal fashion.