While season one of Black Sails (Starz, Saturdays, 9/8C) introduced the characters, the very ahead-of-its-time pirate government and economic system and Captain Flint’s goal of true independence for Nassau, season two found Flint and his crew looking to make the biggest score in history and, in so doing, produce the financial support to make his dream possible, it also looked at Flint’s past and gave us insight into how he became the man he is in the show’s present.
Beginning with tonight’s third season premiere, Black Sails is headed into shipkiller storms – physically and metaphorically.
The teaser for the season premiere finds third surly lads pushing their way into the captain’s cabin of a ship run by a Captain Drummond (or so they think). The man at the captain’s desk takes their intrusion with eerie calm then explains to them why they’ve been motivated by a liar – before taking exception to their drawn swords (reminding me of the expression ‘never bring a knife to a gun fight’).
Thus far, the captain has been in shadows, but now we see a tall, solidly built man with a very, very black beard…
Meanwhile, a small force of black clad men sneaks into a town and slaughter everyone in sight, setting fire to their buildings as they go. One of them stalks into a certain house where he removes his mask to reveal himself to be Captain Flint (Toby Stephens).
The governor of the location has hanged three pirates despite Flint’s warnings and Flint wants to know why. The governor pleads that he’s an honest man – unlike the corrupt official that Flint has dealt with similarly before – and that he hopes Flint can see and respect that.
Flint shoots him and then his wife.
Back on his ship, the newly peg-legged John Silver (Luke Arnold) is not happy. This time, the pirates faced actual trained men and Flint might be about to expose himself to unnecessary danger if this continues.
Elsewhere, Captain Vale’s (Zane McGowan) ship is pursuing what he hopes will be a rich target but turns out to be a slaver. Given Vale’s past, perhaps throwing his cargo overboard wasn’t the other captain’s best idea.
Back in Nassau, Captain Jack Rackham (Toby Schmitz) is having such difficulties getting men to repair the damaged fort that he’s open to Max’s (Jessica Parker Kennedy) suggestion that he, Max and Anne Bonny (Clara Paget) should perhaps exchange some of the gold for less bulky items in case of emergency.
In London, Eleanor Guthrie (Hannah New) is about to be put on trial but is offered another option by Woodes Rogers (Luke Roberts) – but it is contingent on her betraying everything she’s worked for, and everyone in Nassau.
The season premiere is a swirling mass of currents running in all directions – each gaining speed and bringing its own storm. And Edward Teach (Ray Stevenson) may be the least of them.
Flint continues to be willing to do anything and everything to make his dream of a free and independent Nassau come to be; Vale continues to be a curious mix of savagery and unexpected vulnerability; Silver displays intelligence, wit and growing cunning – the loss of part of his right leg earning him even more loyalty from Flint’s crew; Rackham remains the conniver, deal-maker and shadiest of the characters but also one of the most loyal; Max is the total pragmatist who realises her love for Anne would never be condoned away from Nassau; Anne is torn between her love for Max and her loyalty to Jack.
The there’s Eleanor. Eleanor who taught Max everything there is to be known about pragmatism; Eleanor who lost Max because of her own pragmatism; Eleanor, whose pragmatism (here read sense of self-preservation) will not allow her love for Nassau to prevent her from staying alive.
Sure, there are fights – armed and unarmed – and yes, there ships at sea, but the first two episodes of Black Sails build such a whirlwind of intrigue mixed in with the action that it’s almost like being there.
Black Sails may be my favorite of all the original shows that Starz has aired. It’s smart, well and deeply constructed and has some of the most interesting characters on television – certainly, they match up well in comparison with anything currently on the air.
The dialogue crackles – especially when characters are acting the most civilized. That’s when you can most clearly see the all the undercurrents that fuel the show: the desire to build something wonderful out of such dross; the love of comrades who have literally saved each other’s lives; even the animal that is man, lurking just beneath the surface.
Even the action sequences are layered with politics and character moments – as a certain governor discovers first hand in the opening moments of the season premiere.
Interesting side note: Michael Bay is listed as one of the show’s executive producers. Because of that, Black Sails may come to be considered the best thing to which his name has ever been attached.
Final Grade: A+
Photos courtesy of Starz