Hello! Hope your day is going well. So, I've never seen "Black Sails" - what is really enjoyable about the series and what do you think is not so great? Would you recommend I binge it or take my time with the series?
Hello! Oh man, that’s a big question. I think for me the best things about the series really boil down to the characterisations and the care and fore-planning that goes into the writing. They really should be the bare minimum requirement in any show, but they’re often so lacking. With Black Sails, none of the characters ever stagnate. They’ve all had clear and defined arcs over the 4 seasons. The things that happen to them, or the things that they choose to make happen, all have consequences, both to the story and to them personally. When snippets of their backstories are revealed (sometimes 2 or 3 or even 4 seasons in) they add so much depth to what we know about them already. Things that already made sense are suddenly so crystal clear. Why is he so obsessed with making his name famous? Why is she so emotionally closed off and angry? Why is he so desperate to see Nassau made strong and legitimate and freed from the hypocrisies of civilisation? Every one of them has a different reason for becoming what they are, but they all add so much to the wider story of how very uncivilised civilisation was at the time.
When it comes to the planning of the larger narrative and the character arcs, there’s so many instances of things which were set up with multiple hints and references as early as episode one, that aren’t cashed in on until full seasons later. It makes the rewatch value so high, because every time you notice something else that was hinting at a plot point they hadn’t got to yet. It’s incredibly deftly done.
And the dialogue too is beautiful. It can be quite a wordy show, but the words never feel superfluous or wasted. They all mean something significant to the progression of the story, and they can all be pulled apart and analysed and compared with other instances where similar wording was used. Ultimately, this is a story about stories (in the creators’ words), so it’s fascinating to watch literary characters like Captain Flint and John Silver weaving their own stories, quite deliberately, to achieve a purpose.
Oh, also! It’s super gay. There are at least 5 non-straight characters, and two separate and quite different poly relationships (one m/f/f, one m/m/f). All of those relationships are handled so well and they’re compelling to watch.
What’s not so great is some of the first season. It took a good few episodes to really find its feet and work out how to tell the story it was trying to tell. There’s also a rape plot which is pretty grim, but again they at least wrote it in a way that meant it wasn’t then just brushed aside and forgotten. It had multiple ramifications for both characters and storylines, even a full season on. Some people haven’t enjoyed S4 (the final season) as much as the previous ones either. Some of it has felt a little rushed, but I’m still enjoying it a lot. It does progressively get darker though, which may or may not be to everyone’s taste. But given we all know how we find Billy Bones in Treasure Island, how terrified he is of Long John Silver, and how intensely the frightening presence of Captain Flint looms, it’s not that surprising that the show had to stray into darker territory.
I think S1 (at least up until ep 4 or 5) is worth watching pretty quickly. There’s a lot of important stuff set up there, so it can’t really be skipped, but the weaker parts might be off-putting occasionally. It really does get stronger in every respect as it goes on though. S2 onwards might benefit from a slightly slower watch to digest it all? Though I don’t think it would suffer from being binged.
This got very long, but hopefully it’s somewhat interesting! Thank you for the question. And thank you for putting up with all my pirate stuff on your dash! :)