Black Sails Season 1 Review “V.”


For weeks now, Black Sails has put its particulars on land. On land, Flint and his crew are bland, interchangeable parts with Toby Stephens portrayal of the pirate captain the most egregious example. They spoke of pirate politics and economics in accents that made some of the words barely comprehensible. Many people (it’s not just me I promise!) quickly became bored with the slowness of the proceedings. The series opened with a big, attention-grabbing action sequence that teased a version of the show we had yet to see again. After watching “V.”, it’s pretty easy to see why Starz was so excited about this episode and next week’s installment. Tonight’s episode doesn’t move the needle a great deal, but it sure was a lot better than what we’ve gotten up to this point.

It’s hard to fully understand how to contextualize this episode. Starved for any semblance of action, I was legitimately excited to see the crew of the Walrus on the high seas. Threatening to become a sequel to this pirate thriller, Black Sails actually let its pirates be pirates for a change of pace. The battle sequence itself was quite welcome, but what was really a treat to watch is these characters come alive. Stephens actually looked engaged in his performance for a change, and Billy Bones stopped his existential crisis for a few moments to get in some quality pirating. The battle aboard the ship featured some of the bloody action we’ve grown accustomed to from Starz. The audience’s avatar for the action was Dufresne who used the rarely seen Zombie Finisher to kill his enemy in battle. It’s the kind of savagery the show hasn’t traded in very much in the first half of the season. As a result, it seemed out of place for the show, but in line with the situation. We’ll probably have a better idea of how to take that moment in the episodes to come (I hope), but in the moment it seemed gratuitous and unnecessary… like violence in most Starz shows.

While the show finally got Flint and the crew off the ground, the scenes back on land were as ruthlessly boring as ever. Eleanor Guthrie’s intention to continue this mysterious trading plan was difficult to understand at first watch. With the show being so insular, it’s difficult to track the machinations of the pirate economy because we never see it. The show isn’t headed to any of the places where trade occurs (nor should it), but I believe it does a poor job of explaining the geometry of what Guthrie is attempting to do. Also, Eleanor’s motives remain as difficult to understand as ever. Apparently, she has no problem selling out her lover for the promise of stability, but she won’t betray her honor (or something) to maintain her current stability. The math doesn’t add up on that one. It makes Eleanor seem like a different character from the one we were introduced to in the pilot. No person, man or woman, would be able to maintain any kind of credible operation for this amount of time with her behavior of late. I suppose the show would like us to believe it’s a one time situation, but it’s hard to imagine previous issues where Eleanor’s temper and stubbornness didn’t damage her reputation with her business partners. I will say this: It’s easier to overlook the troubles on land when you can see ships on the horizon.