RIP Black Sails, one of the best shows of the decade.



When I first heard that Michael Bay (of Transformers fame) was going to do a prequel to the Robert Louis Stevenson classic Treasure Island, I was beyond skeptical. I didn’t expect to like it but I thought that it was beyond time that someone tried a series about pirates, so I tuned in.

It would be an understatement to say that it exceeded all expectations. There were times in season 1 when I almost turned it off, but taken as a whole Black Sails has probably been the most consistently good show of the last four years.

While I initially thought it was incredibly presumptuous to attempt a prequel to a literary classic, I now think of Treasure Island as almost a afterward to Black Sails. Stevenson's original ties up some loose ends in a deep, rich and complex story with a long history and many of compelling characters.

The show had all of the political intrigue of Game of Thrones but, despite being a show about pirates, there was far less gore and violence than either GoT or the Walking Dead. It had strong female characters and strong multifaceted characters of colour. Despite having characters who were prostitutes it was less sexually exploitive than GoT as well.

Going into the series, there wasn’t a single actor I’d heard of previously but the cast was a revelation. There wasn’t a single actor in the show, in any part big or small, who I wouldn’t tune in to see again in whatever series they do next.

Toby Stephens (Captain Flint), Luke Arnold (John Silver), Toby Schmitz (Rakham), Hannah New (Eleanor Guthrie), Jessica Parker Kennedy (Max), Clara Paget (Anne Bonny), Tom Harper (Billy Bones), Zach McGowan (Captain Charles Vane), Ray Stevenson (Edward "Blackbeard" Teach) and Sibongile Mlambo (Eme) were just a few of the many standouts.

The show that I didn’t expect to like breathes new life into Treasure Island and demands a new film be made. It also demands that people try more series about pirates and more historical fiction series generally. Last night the show wrapped up, but that means that if you somehow missed it you can now watch it in its 40 episode entirety.


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