There are so many reasons why anyone would avoid this show, but they’re also the same reasons other would have the opposite reaction. The Michael Bay produced “Black Sails” is a show that constantly makes you feel like there is something there, just below the surface, something great, but three episodes in an 8-episode season, and we have yet to get to that hidden treasure.
“Black Sails”: Pirates Inc.?
One way that “Black Sails” seems to be differentiating itself from the many, many pirate movies out there is that we see quite a lot of the ‘behind the scenes’ of piracy, if you will. Every single episode so far has featured a business meeting of some sort, discussing the logistics of this journey or that. There was even a potential vote that ended in a bloody sword fight. However, the beaurocracy of Nassau, the pirates HQ, is just not done well enough to become the centerpiece of the show, nor is it meant to be. That would be fine and dandy, if “Black Sails” could find another focus for the show. Also, for a show about pirates, we hardly spend any time on sea at all past the pilot . . .
At the moment, “Black Sails” is trying way too hard to be Game of Thrones: Pirate Edition, instead of maybe focusing on strengthening and developing its characters. Everyone in “Black Sails” is supposed to be tough-as-nails and not to be messed with, but when that’s the case, then what distinguishes one character from another? They’re all pretty much stereotypes, and the few characters who might not be are just not given enough screentime.
“We’re All Super Cool and Badass”
“Black Sails” is full of badasses . . . no, really. Everyone is a badass. First, we have the elusive Captain Flint, who appears cool and aloof, until he bursts into a violent rage and kills everyone. Flint is a character who could be so much more, if only the show takes the time to explore his character a little bit. Instead, we seem to be focusing on one of the most annoying female leads I’ve ever watched: Eleanor Guthrie. Supposedly, Eleanor is a self-made woman who pretty much runs Nassau. However, her decisions are always questionable (e.g. she throws herself at Capt. Vane, her ex, just because he behaved for a few minutes despite years of evidence that he’s still an asshole), and her depth of character is nonexistent. We’re supposed to see Eleanor as a strong, independent woman mostly because she swears a lot, yells a lot, and does little else. Her business decisions are always, always mediocre.
In fact, almost all the female characters are very poorly handled, which shouldn’t be a surprise, but is disappointing nonetheless. For example, Max, the resourceful and clever prostitute, could have potentially been a really interesting and great character. Yet by the third episode she’s beaten down, humiliated, and raped, all on screen, for no apparent reason other than to show how terrible the men of Vane’s Ranger are. It’s not as though these horrible things didn’t happen at the time, but to use such violence just to spice up the plot was a poor choice. The only other female character who seems to have potential is Flint’s lady love, Miranda, but I have a feeling she won’t last long.
The only other character who might have some potential is that of the current antagonist, Charles Vane. The ruthless captain is probably more rounded than most of the other characters, but he’s not given enough screentime, and he’s constantly surrounded by annoying characters, like “Black Sails”‘ laughable Calico Jack, and the impassive Anne Bonny (who’s only line, to date, is ‘I wanna fuck’). But Vane has shown that he’s violent most of the time, diplomatic at others, and even kind of, sort of kind sometimes? He’s hard to pin down and might just be one of the show’s saving graces, if he’s handled well.
Overall, I have serious doubts that “Black Sails” will improve in quality, not when it’s convinced characters like John Silver (wannabe Jack Sparrow) and Eleanor Guthrie can carry the show. Of the main characters, only one has potential, and he’s too busy being dark and mysterious at the moment.