Black Sails Season 1 Review “III.”

One of the many tricks in the arsenal of purveyors of dramatic television is the runaround episode. All shows have a certain type of story they wish to tell, but the network is often the one who sets the construct of the season. Sometimes, these two things fail to mesh. This issue crops up all the time on network dramas forced to produce 22-24 episode seasons. Entire episodes during the season turn into exercises in throat-clearing as particulars shuffle around trying to position themselves for the next plot point. Mostly, it’s an reasonable strategy for shows forced to fill an unreasonable schedule. It’s one of the big reasons television luminaries of the past decade have been so drawn to cable television. The runs are shorter, the story possibilities expand, and fewer people are around to give you notes. However, on Black Sails, it seems the only part of the cable television landscape they’re willing to exploit is the ability to show nude bodies on screen.

The pacing has been an issue for the show since the beginning, but this week’s episode was the biggest nothing of the bunch. Very little seen on screen during the hour had any connection to the end of the episode of subsequent episodes to come. Instead, the show decided to chase its tail for an entire episode before settling right where we started. If you find the smoky back room dealings of pirates entertaining, then this episode probably worked for you. However, if you are a fan of shows where stuff actually, you know, happens, then you’re probably highly disappointed in the effort here.

The show continues to build toward Flint’s plan to attack the Urca de Lima, but at this point it’s worth wondering if the show will ever get there. The mission has moved at a snail’s pace for the three episodes. With only 8 episodes in the entire season, the show is going to have to set the wheels in motion quickly if it plans to complete the mission within the first season. If that is the ultimate goal of the season, then the show needs to pay it off in a huge way to make up for all of the foot-dragging blandness of the first half of the season.

Ultimately, that’s the real issue with this show for three episodes. The machinations of pirate economy and politics are not entertaining enough to sustain an entire series. When you couple that fact with the bland performances from the vast majority of the cast, you have a mediocre show to add to Starz vast library of them. As I mentioned last week, the only performance that stands out is that of Zach McGowan, but I wonder if McGowan’s performance only stands out because no one else’s performance demands to be noticed.

Regardless of how you feel about the series as a whole, it’s tough to imagine anyone taking enjoyment out of this episode. Having nothing noteworthy happen may be fine for a network drama series filling 22 episodes, but an 8 episode drama about the life of pirates should be noteworthy by the very nature of existence. Unfortunately, the people on Black Sails have found a way to make the world of piracy no more exciting then a first-run airing of Law & Order.