Noob Reviews: Black Sails (Seasons 01 - 04)
Updated: Jan 15
Please be advised that during the review, I have tried to avoid a lot of spoilers. However, there may still be a few included helping explain specific points.
"I have one regret. I regret ever coming to this place with the assumption that a reconciliation could be found. That reason could be a bridge between us. Everyone is a monster to someone. Since you are so convinced that I am yours, I will be it."
Captain Flint | Season 02 | Episode XVIII
What is Black Sails?
Imagine if you will - many a tale of deception, forbidden love, and trials that are not based around fantasy, mythology, or gods; but is merely the desires and deepest darkest thoughts of men.
Set as a prequel to Treasure Island by R.L.Stevenson, Black Sails focuses around an island called New Providence during the Golden Age of Piracy. A time where pirates hunted their prey across the open waters under the black and came into constant conflict with both the British and Spanish naval forces as well as merchants and even other pirate crews. Whether it be fighting for a free pirate nation, schemes with enemy nations to exact your personal revenge, robbing Spanish gold shipments or assassination plots. Black Sails is an epic tale that is thick with intrigue, subplots and story arcs that knit together nicely into a world you have to see to believe.
Do you have any trailers to show us?
- Official Trailer for Season 01 -
- Official Trailer for Season 02 -
- Official Trailer for Season 03 -
- Official Trailer for Season 04 -
When did it come out?
Season 01 was released in 2014
Season 02 was released in 2015
Season 03 was released in 2016
Season 04 was released in 2017
How many episodes are there?
Season one is the shortest of the seasons with only eight episodes, while the other seasons all have ten episodes each. Collectively bringing the total to thirty-eight episodes.
On average the episodes run around fifty-five minutes with the odd few episodes differing slightly, some longer, some shorter but only ever by a few minutes.
Can you give us an overview of the different seasons?
Season 01 - The season that launched an epic tale, the first time we get to meet many of the characters that will shape and define the very core of the Black Sails tale.
Nassau on New Providence island is a pirate haven run by the Guthrie family. Having been established by Richard Guthrie (the father) but the day to day runnings overseen by his daughter Eleanor. The Guthries take the cargo from hunters (pirate ships/crews) who raid merchants out on the open sea and then repackage and sell said load onto 'civilised' lands such as America. They are firm but fair and have been able to turn New Providence into a lucrative commercial property. However, not all is what it seems. Captain flint (one of the greatest and most feared of all pirates) is on the search for additional clues and solid facts to support a story he has been told. The Urca d'Lima is a colossal treasure transport unlike anything seen before, carrying a large portion of Spanish wealth from territory to territory. It just so happens it is going to be heading their way pretty soon. With the right amount of preparation and planning, Captain Flint and the crew of The Walrus (his ship) may be able to steal millions in gold. With the help of Eleanor (and a cut of the gold going to her), the gold can then be used to help the pirates fight the civilised world (the British and Spanish). And make New Providence a free island that rules over itself.
Season 02 - Season two starts off with a bang and sees the crew of The Walrus adapting and trying to overcome the season one finale. A new and exciting (okay psychotic. I will say psychotic) captain arrives on the shores of New Providence. Not burdened by conscience, morals or respect for the established hierarchy. He begins a reign of terror that requires the anti-hero Charles Vane to re-establish himself as the most feared and brutal pirate on the island. Jack Rackham, a somewhat under dog from the first season, makes his way into a position of power as a captain to his own crew and ship alongside his fearless (and feared) partner Anne Bonny.
Season 03 - After a betrayal in season two, Captain Flint begins his war against the civilised world in earnest. With new and old faces returning to Nassau to both hinder and help Flint’s plans. The legendary Blackbeard makes a return from retirement as a married man to take up the mantle of fleet captain once again. And the British dispatch a new governor and quite substantial military force to bring order to the ‘savages’ that are the pirates of Nassau. Unfortunately with the return of the British, comes the arrival of someone with a far darker and more personal mission of revenge on all of those that wronged them in previous seasons.
Season 04 - The fourth and final season of Black Sails lays out the future for Nassau once and for all. It sees the story arcs of our characters come to a close and it bears witness to mighty titans as they clash once and for all. Whether it be the British Governor and Captain Rackham as he seeks to avenge his slain pirate kin. Long John Silver and Captain Flint, two of the strongest allies separated by wealth and love. Or the head of the Guthrie family. The actual head of the Guthrie family. And her quest to reclaim what was lost to them.
Who are some of the actors and actresses in the series?
Clara Paget (Anne Bonny)
Hannah New (Eleanor Guthrie)
Jessica Parker Kennedy (Max)
Luke Arnold (Long John Silver)
Rupert Penry-Jones (Lord Thomas Hamilton)
Toby Stephens (Captain Flint)
Zach McGowan (Charles Vane)
How did you like Black Sails?
First and foremost, it is so hard trying to write this without doing any significant spoilers as I love and adore this series so much. I have watched it many many times, and this review is more like a fanboy letter. I can not stress how exciting and thought-provoking this tale is, how many interchanging stories, character arcs and schemes there are at any one time. Black Sails was written in such a way that it kept you wanting more, whether it be the stories, the twists or the thoughts it provoked. Just as you thought you knew what was going on and could see the next betrayal out of nowhere; loyalties would change all over some small (and at the time) insignificant detail from episodes or even seasons back. I will not lie when I say I got choked up at the end of season four, the way this whole tale came to an end was far from what I expected and yet was beautifully played out.
In addition to the stories, you have the characters, and there are so many I loved and felt a connection to. I wanted to know what would happen to them and cared how they were treated. How their roles played out into the bigger picture. The actors chosen for each of these roles was done so so well that I feel they really did bring life and personality to their parts. That their real-life pirate inspirations back in the day would respect their efforts. I found the ongoing stories of Anne Bonny, Max and Jack Rackham to be interesting. There is a power play there where Anne becomes a love interest for both Max and Jack, and she must choose who it is she wishes to fight for and who it is she wants to love and lay with at the end of the day. But the way it is done, the internal struggling, the self-doubt and Anne's descent into confusion over it all was well written and well played. And don’t get me started on Charles Vane.
Admittedly I loved Flint and Silver, they were really well played but Vane. There was something to him. An edge. A cunning. The way Zach McGowan played him at multiple points in the seasons gave me genuine chills and his savagery when fully unleashed knew no bounds. Yet, on the flip side, he turns his hand to diplomacy, peacekeeper and knight in shining armour for slaves they release from their captors. I will admit this is a spoiler, but when even when Charles leaves the story, the way he does so is so valiant and inspirational, it starts a revolt against the British. His final words a grand fluff you to the British and he meets his end with head held high.
As you might be able to tell I really enjoyed it. With beautiful scenic shots, excellent choreography for both naval and land-based combat and just the whole atmosphere the seasons gave of. From one through to four, they just got grander and grander until that crescendo peaks, and we are done. The credits roll for the very last time.
What overall rating would you give Black Sails?
Without a doubt, I would give it a solid 5 out of 5 bananas.
There are very few flaws with Black Sails, in my opinion (bar it ending). The episodes are just right lengthwise, the story is paced well, and it has so much to give. Whether you are looking for drama, human interest or action-adventure, it can provide for many a taste.
Thank you very much for checking out the review, and if you are interested in Black Sails and would like to check it out for yourself, to form your own opinion, you can check it out here.