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The explosive finale of Starz’s Black Sails is but a distant memory. ComiConverse’s James Morgan gives a spoiler free break down of why it is one of the best series on the small screen.
Since its first episode Black Sails leant a darker and more brutal tone to the world of pirates. It has added to the flamboyant portrayals of pirates that Hollywood offers with the Pirates of The Caribbean franchise. Black Sails is created by Jonathan Steinberg & Robert Levine as a prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. The show also mixes real historic figures with the fictional characters. The show brings the violence and sex appeal of Game of Thrones to the world of pirates. The showrunners offer origin stories to all major character who know treasure island and are sure to see where friends and enemies are formed.
Recap: At the end of last season. Eleanor (Hannah New) has been taken into custody by a double crossing Benjamin Hornigold, Captain Flint (Toby Stephens) had lost his oldest friend and companion and had started to lose his mind. Flint, Rackham (Toby Schmitz) and Vane (Zach McGowan) have formed an alliance to use the Urca gold to better Nassau. Silver (Luke Arnold) has lost his leg and is dealing with being in pain on a ship.
Black Sails season 3 really ramped up its storytelling power, it succeeded where season 1 had failed – it started to focus more on pirates being pirates, banding together and fighting to survive. It gives us two new characters who are both very different – Edward Teech aka Blackbeard (Ray Stevenson) a pirate legend and Woodes Rogers (Luke Roberts), new governor of Nassau.
In the show, Blackbeard is ruthless and cunning, but also world weary. He has history with Nassau and is initially disgusted at how domesticated it has become. Ray Stevenson gives a grounded portrayal of a legendary pirate captain making him a character the audience can empathize with.
Flint, for his part, borders on insane seeing visions of his deceased lover, and slaughtering magistrates and noblemen for hanging pirates. Flint becomes a symbol of fear. John Silver starts off struggling to adapt to having one leg and being first mate, he second guesses every move Flint makes creating tension and conflict before, eventually, there objectives align. His character has grown over the course of the show. Initially, he was a coward but now his reputation is growing and shades of his future self are shining through. Jack Rackham has become the richest man on Nassau and has created the reputation he always desired. Vane has become a team player and acknowledges his mistake from previous seasons. He plays a key role in uniting pirates when many have turned their backs. The cast is once again brilliant and the supporting characters help create a fluent narrative.
The fight sequences are choreographed perfectly. Instead of a standard fencing class, they are more brutal and violent because these are pirates. They fight with their fists, their swords and, if they feel themselves getting tired, their guns. The viciousness of the fighting lends an air of authenticity to the show. The style of combat also has the effect of making the viewer feel like they don’t know who has the upper hand, which makes the battles more intense and offers more vulnerability to these characters. The visuals in this season are extraordinary. There is more time spent on the water, and an amazing storm sequence early on.
What this season does well is its continuity and writing, how it links elements from past seasons and characters only mentioned or met briefly. The cast is also highlighted with standout performances from Luke Arnold and Zach McGowan whose characters, John Silver and Charles Vane, shine. There is also a strong focus on these pirates mortality – in one episode they are stranded at sea with no food and in another that are captured and tortured. There are many surprise twists making the season a roller coaster, in one scene you think a character is safe and the next they are dead.
Too often this season unnecessary filler dialogue was added to create cliffhanger situations. Flints motives for pirating also seem forced in an effort to build tension with the new villain.
Black Sails explores in this season. The show visits new locations and adds new supporting characters, but what it really delves into is the humanity of the men and women who have taken up a life of pirating.
Black Sails season 4 is out in February 2017.
James Morgan is a contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @thecamerasuite
A Spoiler free review of Black Sails Season 3.