Why I Fell in Love with Black Sails, and Why You Should Too

Two weeks ago, I was a normal woman with a variety of interests.  Today, my life is consumed by thoughts about Black Sails, an impossibly compelling Starz production that demands a rewatch.

Over the course of four seasons and thirty-eight episodes, viewers are introduced to a world that combines pre-Treasure Island characters with historical pirates from the Golden Age of Piracy in 1715.  What seems like the premise of a rollicking pirate adventure is exactly that…with the addition of challenging political themes and philosophical debates.  If you’re looking for a television show that is equal parts entertaining and thought-provoking, then Black Sails is the show for you!

Do You Need More Proof?

1. Captain James Flint is one of the most complex characters I’ve ever seen represented on popular television.  Despite knowing little of his motivations until halfway through season 2, he is dramatically intriguing from the very first episode. Phenomenally performed by Toby Stephens, Flint is a ruthless idealist whose pursuit of a free Nassau destroys almost every relationship he values, and I love him.

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2.  One of Black Sails‘ central themes is that oppressed people are easily villainized because the only options they have to claim their freedom are so often villainous.  Intentionally choosing diversity, Black Sails creates main characters who are enslaved, queer, crippled, and poor.  It is, actually, a history told from the perspective of the oppressed.

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3.  Queer relationships are respectfully represented throughout the series.  Lesbian, gay, and bisexual relationships are represented amongst the main characters of Black Sails, and multiple relationships are shown as polyamorous.  The show does an impressive job of normalizing these relationships while also portraying historically accurate consequences.

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4. In a story world that is traditionally male-dominated, Black Sails intentionally puts women in leading roles of various kinds.  One review I read (that I unfortunately cannot remember and therefore cannot credit) said that this show “demonstrates that it’s possible to depict a world that devalues women without constructing the show itself that way too.”  As such, we have female pirates, prostitutes, business leaders, and princesses, all of whom reveal a part of what it meant to be a woman in the early 1700s.

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5. All of the characters are both flawed and lovely (with one exception for me personally).  Everyone is selfish and desperate, which naturally leads to shifting alliances and betrayals on a regular basis.  Despite this, the show constantly asks us to see from their perspective and have pity.  We are refused the baser joy of loving to hate a character, and instead are shown how to do the better thing: love a hateful character.

If you would like to watch Black Sails as I review episodes, you can find it online at Starz and Hulu.

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