tv review – Starz’s Black Sails, episode 1.4

Starz show Black Sails has been compared to HBO’s Deadwood and it’s easy to see why: both shows take a more grounded approach to genre material and focus on a group of characters who are all trying to get by in a small settlement. More importantly: so far Black Sails, like Deadwood, is a quality show with impeccable writing, a great cast and outstanding set design. But what sets Black Sails apart from the HBO Western is that its creators are inspired by a work of fiction and never forget its viewers tune in for a specific brand of entertainment: they want to see pirates do pirate’y things. And Black Sails delivers.

Episode 4, ‘IV.’, was mostly about the ramifications of last week’s final scene: because of Eleanor’s actions Vane was left without a crew and Gates took over as the Ranger’s captain. Gates elected Billy Bones as his new quartermaster and the next step was to get the ship in shape for the hunt for the Urca de Lima, a frigate which supposedly houses a large treasure. Meanwhile Billy had growing reservations about Captain Flint, Vane became rather self-destructive after his defeat, Rackham and Anne Bonny tried to get out of the pickle they’re in, Eleanor’s trying to get guns for Flint and Gates, and lady Barlow and Guthrie established a relationship with mutual gain. These are just cliff notes that don’t do the show justice, but illustrate how much Black Sails has going on each episode. Its strength is that the episodes never feel crowded, fractured or aimless, but tight, efficient and like the show’s sailing a steady course. Each part is well-thought-out, relevant and integral to what happens next. Additionally everything that’s happening has a love for pirate history and pirate fiction ingrained in its DNA: there’s a sense of adventure, exotic flavor and unabashed fun to the proceedings.

Black Sails episode 4 is another great chapter in Starz’s pirate tale: all the moving parts worked wonderfully together, raising the stakes for the next episodes. 8/10

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