*Warning: Spoilers for season 1 of Black Sails below*
Reviewers and social media critics have been less than fair when critiquing the first season of Black Sails. By and large, Black Sails has seen a volley of unwarranted criticism. Two major complaints have found their way into various reviews, Facebook comments, and tweets:
“There was too much talking and ‘land based’ activity…”
Why is politicking/talking seen as a negative thing? Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones and Frank Underwood from House of Cards are smart, manipulative characters. Similarly, in the pirate genre, Jack Sparrow is known for the same. None of these characters are known as being exceptional fighters, but rather masters of intellect. In Black Sails, John Silver and Jack Rackham could rival the best of them when it comes to mind games. Even Captain Flint has a penchant for getting what he wants by manipulating and outright lying to his crew. The characters in Black Sails don’t just talk to talk, their interactions are meant to achieve goals.
It’s also unrealistic to expect that every second of the show will be spent on the sea. Historical pirates were not consistently at sea, they often made port where they had dealings with others in the local community to buy and sell goods. Black Sails is accurately portraying a historical aspect of piracy.
Aside from the sex scenes, the rest of the scenes that took place in Nassau involved manipulation of some degree and they were far from boring. To downgrade a show because it’s pirate based and includes on land scenes is to ignore an extremely large facet of the pirate lifestyle. Even Edward “Blackbeard” Teach historically was known for his theatrics more than anything else. Manipulation and fear tactics are an exciting part of pirate culture and shouldn’t be viewed as boring when displayed in pirate entertainment.
“…And not enough action on the sea”
The second part of the common complaint about Black Sails is some perceived lack of action on the water. It’s a rarity for any TV show to constantly involve action scenes. You’d be hard pressed to find any show, on any channel that consistently has action packed scenes from one episode to the next. It shouldn’t be a requirement for any show to have consistent action scenes. There needs to be time for story and character development.
Oddly enough, Black Sails actually does provide more action than you’d find on many other TV shows. Season one had two massive naval battles that showed strategy on the open water and a ton of violence. The scenes of “The Walrus” vs. “The Andromache” and “The Walrus” vs. “The Man o’ War” were actually two of the best naval battles in any form of media. There isn’t any TV show that has had multiple “Ship vs. Ship” battles in one season either, especially on such a large scale.
With all of that said, Black Sails season one deserves a lot more praise than it’s gotten. Sure the show has room to improve in the future, and it looks like it will with an even longer season two. Even though there may be room for improvement, that doesn’t mean the inaugural season deserves anything less than a 9/10. Black Sails is doing for pirates what The Walking Dead did for zombies on the small screen and should be rated and appreciated as such. The blending of the “Treasure Island” pirates with historical pirates is truly fantastic to watch come to life. Black Sails has a little something for everyone and if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s definitely worth checking out.