Black Sails: 1.1 - Pilot

Shiver my timbers, spoilers ahoy

Yet again, the little screen imitates its big brother as pirates set sail from the multiplex to cable TV courtesy of Jerry Bruckheimer, Michael Bay and those good people at Starz. Thankfully, the family friendly contrivances of Johnny Depp and crew have been replaced by marauding guttersnipes, backstabbing and orgiastic action. This opening pilot is directed by Neil "The Descent" Marshall who looks to do for this nascent series what he did for Game of Thrones in the excellent battle for Kings Landing.

And woosh, we're at sea in one of the King's ships as it comes under attack from ruthless vagabonds. The excellent opening puts the viewer right into the middle of things as we cower with the few left alive as they barricade themselves in a hold, only to be blown apart and captured. They are offered the opportunity to join or to die, and one, John Silver, offers himself as a cook (the one who has stolen what his captain tried to destroy before the ambush).imageNow it just happens that this is in fact the missing page from the captain's log that our pirate leader had been searching for and now finds missing. Worse news is to come when the expected haul from their bushwhack amounts to very little and mutiny in the ranks builds with the aid of one his more ambitious mates. Our captain Flint has been coming up empty recently - and he has kept from his crew the real quarry they are chasing, a super galleon with extensive riches.

Returning to port, we are introduced to Flint's backer, Eleanor Guthrie who agrees a loan so he can buy off the mutiny. We also meet a rival captain, played by Zach Magowan, who is aiding the mutiny against Flint in an attempt to become Guthrie's pirate of choice. Silver gets to meet several of the working women of the area and gains a partner in his scheme to understand what he has stolen. Once he does he is looking to find a buyer....imageAnyhow, the first episode concludes with the mutiny fought through and some lusty girl on girl action which ensures that even if it did get very talky and plotty in the middle we ended as we began with sex and action. Black Sails meanders a bit when it gets into its exposition and is most happy when staring at flesh and carnage. I am not sure Stephens is a very believable pirate leader and I know that Hannah New as Guthrie is far from a budding Judy Dench, but the point is the action and the way our recent expectations of this genre are surpassed with the adult nature of the show.

We'll see where it goes but this was really good in places whilst not holding together too well as a whole. Do pirates really pay for orgies for their recently kidnapped conscriptees? Where are all the curling tongs and make-up sets hidden for all the gorgeous women on show? And why am I bothering to take it that seriously as this will be at best a guilty pleasure rather than a landmark in TV drama. Black Sails was enjoyable and patchy, but is certainly worth catching again.

Black Sails is without a UK premiere date yet, it can be seen on the Starz website, if you are in the right region or have the right software

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