10 reasons why you should be watching ‘Black Sails’ right now

Starz ‘Black Sails’ could lazily be described as “Game of Thrones meets Pirates of the Caribbean”, but there’s way more to this TV show than that. In my opinion, Black Sails is one of the best TV series of the last decade. And if you’re not already watching it, here are ten reasons why you should!

Reason #1: Its beautiful sets and costumes

The show is well produced and benefits from gorgeous locations and sets. Onshore, characters are seen in pretty old mansions, vibrant taverns, or gloomy prison cells. On the sea, our pirates are sailing impressive ships and discovering new islands covered with lush and mysterious jungle. The show, supposedly set in the Bahamas, is actually shot in South Africa but is nonetheless breathtakingly beautiful. Costume designers Marina Draghici and Tim Aslan did an amazing job coming up with practical costumes evolving with each character. From Rackham’s colorful and extravagant wardrobe to Anne Bonny’s androgynous and utilitarian outfit, every costume is a masterpiece.

Anne Bonny and Jack Rackham

Reason #2: Its great cinematography

Each shot received a great attention, and some of them look like they could be 18th century paintings. The viewpoint we discover this world is also carefully considered. For example, like the newbies we are, we live the first battle in the show through the eyes of a character whose it’s also the first fight. It’s a clever way to immerse even more the audience in this world.

Reason #3: Stakes are always at their highest

Our heroes need to escape a fight. And a storm. And avoid a mutiny. And starving to death. And being eaten by sharks. Yes, all of this at the same time, because our favorite pirates can’t have a normal bad day like us mere viewers. When you think the stakes can’t be any higher, that’s usually at that moment things get even crazier.

Reason #4: Its clever use of tension and violence

Black Sails has a pretty realistic approach to violence in the pirate world. Most characters resolve to use force only when it’s the last option left. This means, when violence is shown on screen, it’s even more powerful and leave the audience holding its breath, praying for the survival of characters involved in a fight. Thus, the tension we feel watching an episode can be unsettling, and each season is like one hell of a roller coaster for our nerves.
On this note, I may want to warn you the show can be quite bloody, and I must add a trigger warning for rape in season 1.

Reason #5: Its great supporting cast

The casting directors have done a great job, not only for the main characters but also for smaller roles and even extras. For example, the crew accompanying the main pirates is pretty consistant throughout the show, with extras being there from season 1 to the very last episodes. It’s the same for small speaking roles with characters quietly evolving and ending up with a nice storyline, which shows how much care was put into the plot.

Reason #6: Its fascinating pirates’ lore

The show is pretty generous when it comes to depicting the pirates’ lore. Aside from using characters inspired by both real and fictional people, we can find a lot of references to pirates’ customs and traditions. It’s always pretty fascinating to see stuff we usually thought as not significant revealing to be of the utmost importance. Like for example, when to raise your black flag when attacking a merchant ship. This leads to intriguing scenes which help us understand what is at stake for our beloved characters, besides being educative and entertaining.

Reason #7: Its female characters

The cast of Black Sails includes a number of great female characters. While they can be a little cliché in season 1, all of them have compelling storylines and their own agenda — aka they don’t live exclusively for the men around them. We also got to see some queer and/or nonwhite women on screen, which is still too rare not to be noticed.

Reason #8: Its political reflection about privileges and civilization

Black Sails doesn’t shy away from tackling more important and sensitive topics like questioning the privileges some of its (white and rich) characters enjoy. The show also starts a conversation about “civilization” and who’s more civilized: the pirates or the British Empire and its oppression of women, queer persons and nonwhite people?

Reason #9: Its unapologetic queerness

TV shows featuring queer characters which queerness is not the central focus are not that common, even more when we’re talking about the main character. But Black Sails, unlike many shows, displays a variety of queer characters, among them its main protagonists. For example, we learn pretty early in the series that most of the main female characters are either bisexual or lesbian.

But while Black Sails is telling the stories of an ensemble, there still is one central character. And this character is a bisexual man living a polyamourous relationship with a couple. And he’s the most badass pirate you ever encounter. And his storyline has a happy ending. Yep, you read that right. When other TV shows prefer to kill their queer protagonist (Hello The 100) or literally bath in queer-baiting before shying out at the last moment (I’m looking at you Sherlock), Black Sails has the guts to see its hero live fully his non-traditional love story. Bonus points for his friends being supportive when he comes out.

Reason #10: Toby Stephens performance

And here we are, if you need only one reason to watch Black Sails, it’s for Toby Stephens, aka Captain Flint. From young idealist Royal Navy Lieutenant to hardcore pirate leader, Toby Stephens delivers a performance of a rare intensity. It’s an understatement to say his character is far from easy to play right but the actor is on point in every. single. scene.

Toby Stephens as Captain Flint

He mades us love this lost pirate who doesn’t shy away from treason and murder if it helps his cause. (SPOILERS) He mades us shiver for Flint’s life more often than not. And he also mades us cry of happiness when Flint finally finds peace. (/SPOILERS
I would be very surprised if we don’t see more of Toby Stephens on the little or the big screen very soon, because, damn, this man can act.

Despite its qualities, Black Sails has been relatively underrated and I hope more and more people will (re)discover this precious gem of a TV show!

Have you seen the show? Did you love it? Please share your thoughts in the comments!