This past Sunday was the series finale for Starz’s pirate drama Black Sails. The show is a prequel of sorts to the famed Robert Louis Stevenson novel Treasure Island which is the origin for many of the modern representations of pirates such as the abundance of peg legs and parrots. Black Sails incorporates real history from the golden age of piracy with the fictional characters of the novel to create a vivid depiction of what life was like for people involved with piracy.
The show begins with Captain Flint’s quest to capture a Spanish treasure ship and introduces other characters from Treasure Island such as Long John Silver and Billy Bones as well as historical figures like Charles Vane, Anne Bonney, and Jack Rackham. The show also creates several fictional characters like Eleanor Guthrie who is responsible for the financial stability of the pirate controlled island of Nassau and Max an incredibly business minded prostitute.
Admittedly, I only found the first season of the show engaging when rewatching it because Captain Flint’s motivation seems to make no sense. Throughout the first season he’s very much the main character and you never find out why he’s committing all these acts of terror against English citizens as well as his crew. However, in the second season they reveal his true motivation which is, in my opinion, one of the best reveals in television history. Every act of violence or pained and tormented expression suddenly made complete sense and you begin to understand why he’s so hell bent on destroying England and the rest of civilization. As the show unravels some of Captain Flint’s layers and you begin to understand him, in my opinion, he becomes such a complex and conflicted character he rivals even Walter White. Toby Stephens is also an incredible actor and is able to imbue the character with so much history, emotion, and turmoil.
The show also has a surprisingly large budget considering nobody watches it and they’re able to pull off some incredible sequences like a two-minute carriage chase that’s visualized in one continuous shot. They also explore just about every aspect of pirate life at some point in the show, like sailing through a devastating storm and then being stranded in the open water without a working sail or navel combat and the way in which pirates instilled fear on their victims, and the cost that such a life of brutality can cause.
In a world with hundreds of incredible shows it’s no surprise that a few gems have slipped through the cracks of public consciousness which makes it all the more miraculous that Black Sails wasn’t cancelled and the creators were able to complete the story they set out to tell.