Black Sails Season 1 Review “IV.”

The capacity of Black Sails to engage in landlocked tedium is truly surprising. Having now seen four hours of Flint, Vane, and others stand around and clear their throats, I think it’s fair to wonder why this show exists. The show fails on the basic premise of being consistently entertaining. There isn’t a single noteworthy acting performance. The show’s budgetary constraints have forced it into taking a group of seaworthy people, and turned them into a bunch of landlubbers. I have begun to wonder if this was the series the creators set out to make, or the one Starz would let them make. If it’s the show the creators wanted, then maybe they shouldn’t be responsible for creating television. If it’s the one Starz let them make, then it’s possible we’re missing out on swashbuckling pirate yarn of the first order. Starz has shown it’s not afraid of delivering action in a past time setting (exhibit A: Spartacus), so what gives here?

When trying to assess the ills of the show, you have to start at the top. Thanks to this week’s obligatory sex scene, I watched as Toby Stephens nearly completed transformed into a block of wood. Granted, it’s very difficult to portray what the page in his script wants him to portray. The strong, silent type is always a tricky trope that only the most adept performers can handle. Mr. Stephens is not one of them. He never feels in the moment with his cast mates. Even as he pulls one-legged men from underneath a boat, he does so with a seeming disdain for the proceedings. Either Stephens does not enjoy being on this television program, or he needs some better scene direction. Whatever the case may be, he remains a big drag on the show.

Then again, what isn’t a drag on this show? One of this week’s main plots of the interminable episode (58 minutes!) was the crew of the Walrus cleaning a boat. Yet again, we have the show’s obsession with pirate minutiae taking over it’s need to entertain its audience. Cleaning a boat is certainly a worthwhile endeavor (Flint said so and everything), but a Muppets montage would have fit better here. Instead, we dragged our feet until we got to the inevitable tumbling over of the ship. The audience doesn’t expect, or want, the show to have its characters constantly drinking rum or walking around with talking parrots. However, it’s not unreasonable for the audience to expect a show to lean more towards the parts of piracy that make for interesting television.

After a slam-bang beginning to the series, the show continues to have our seafarers stew on land. With Captain Bryson’s guns headed off into the night, it seems were even farther from our goal of something actually happening. Pacing issues and limp performances are always going to make for a struggling television series. It’s too bad it had to happen with Black Sails. We’re only halfway through the first season of the show; it’s not impossible to conceive of the show turning towards an exciting conclusion. Unfortunately for Starz, I can’t envision a scenario where the ends will justify the means.