A pirate's life for me.Black Sails
is a historical drama
airing on Starz, produced by Michael Bay
(but don't let that deter you) and created by Jon Steinberg and Robert Levine. A prequel to Treasure Island
, the series focuses on Captain Flint, his allies, and his rivals during the Golden Age of piracy. It's meant to be a good deal Darker and Edgier
than Pirates of the Caribbean
and its like, and take up the mantle of Starz's signature show after Spartacus
reached its end.
The series became extremely buzzy after the airing of the pilot at Comic Con, and thus was given a second season order well before the first began. Though it was technically set to premiere on January 25 (before the editing of this page) Starz released the pilot a week early through specific outlets.
- Action Girl: Anne Bonny and Eleanor Guthrie.
- A Man Is Always Eager: Being a Starz production, usually played straight. Sometimes horrifyingly straight.
- Averted, on a couple of occasions, amazingly enough as both Flint and Jack have sex with their (female) partners, despite being less enthusiastic about those particular proceedings than said partners. Its clear that they are doing it for their partners in that instance.
- Anachronism Stew: Rackham's sunglasses are pure Rule of Cool, befitting the man IGN called a "Nassau hipster."
- Apologetic Attacker: Flint kills Gates, whispering his apologies and looking genuinely distraught while he does it.
- A variant. When the bulk of his crew is taken from him and his influence is all but destroyed, Charles Vane seeks out his one-time captor Albinus, who has retired from piracy and set his own crew to work harvesting and selling timber. He convinces Albinus to loan him a dozen men, and then plays on the crew's discontent in an attempt to shame the rest into joining him as well. Albinus administers a terrible beating and, just before dealing the coup-de-grace, leans down and tells Vane "I'm proud of you."
- Artistic Licence History: Some liberties are taken with chronology.
- Hornigold apparently knows about the collapse of the Jacobite rebellion and James' flight to France approximately nine months before James even got to Scotland in the first place.
- Anne Bonny is a key member of Charles Vane's crew, and the lover of his quartermaster Jack Rackham, in 1715. Historically Rackham and Bonny didn't meet until 1718, by which time he was a captain in his own right. She may never have met Vane.
- In 1715, she was probably still Anne Cormac; her husband James Bonny is nowhere to be seen in the series. Also, she has a Cockney accent and seems much more working-class than the well-spoken Rackham: in real life, Mary Read was the Cockney one - Bonny was a wealthy lawyer's daughter from Ireland.
- The pirate colony seems well established and even beginning to decay in 1715, when in fact it was just getting started.
- Badass Beard: Flint wouldn't be the same without his waxed 'stache and beard.
- The pirate who may or may not be Blackbeard has a huge one.
- Bald Black Leader Guy: Mosiah, who seems to speak for a sizable number of the black members of Flint's crew until Captain Vane murders him.
- Batman Gambit: At the end of the pilot, Flint devises such a plan to stop Singleton's attempt to seize captaincy. He notices that someone was in his quarters and must have fiddled with Vazquez's log, so he presents Singleton as the culprit before his crew. He knows that Singleton will choose a duel rather than a trial by the crew. After he kills Singleton, he pretends to find the missing log page on the corpse and hands a blank page to Billy Bones as 'proof'. At this moment, he has no guarantee that Bones will support him since Bones, over the course of a night, has pulled a gun on him, called him out on his crap and openly wondered if Singleton shouldn't be captain. Flint hopes that with Singleton dead, Bones will see no other choice but to lie for him. Flint is correct.
- Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Downplayed aversion. After Vane punches Eleanor, she has a bruise on her cheek for the rest of the episode, and the one after that. It isn't very large, but it's indicated Vane didn't hit her as hard as he could have.
- Big Bad: Captain Vane appears to be shaping up to be this.
- Birds of a Feather: Flint and Eleanor. Both proud, driven and (most likely) unhinged given their obsession with achieving their goals. They're also The Not-Love Interest to each other, as their reliance on each other makes up the crux of the storyline.
- Bi the Way: According to Hannah New, Eleanor and Max are most likely this or pansexual. Anne Bonny ends up bedding Max as well.
- Body Horror: The syphilitic pirate whose face is rotting away...
- Bowdlerize: The preview version has all of the swearing muted and all of the nudity and blood blurred out.
- Cradling Your Kill: Flint snaps Gates's neck when he goes to reveal Flint's deception to the crew, possibly costing him the Urca. Flint clearly didn't want to kill Gates, but felt he had to. Afterwards, he holds Gates's body and cries because of how much the treasure is costing him.
- Cruel Mercy: In the finale, Vane decides to let Rackham and Bonny live rather than have them killed for killing their own crew-mates. Instead, he'll tell everyone what they did ensuring no one will ever sail with them again. They'll simply have to run a whorehouse, and never be pirates again.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: In the finale. Once the Man o' War turns its cannons to face the Walrus and the Ranger, it defeats both in seconds. Flint knew this, and was trying to disable its rudder to prevent that from happening.
- Darker and Edgier: Than more recent pirate fare.
- Deadpan Snarker: Jack Rackham, particularly during the negotiation between Flint and Vane.
- Democracy Is Flawed: Pirate crews operate as a democracy with its leaders elected and any major decisions voted on by all crew members in an open vote. A lot of conflict on the show stems from this and it means that captains like Flint and Vane have to be very careful about their crews' wishes. Flint almost gets replaced as captain in the first episode because he tried to maintain secrecy about the treasure galleon. Rackham gets in serious trouble with his crew because he lost a lot of their money and even Vane will not be able to protect him if the crew votes to punish Rackham. Even a captain as feared and respected as Vane loses his crew and ship when Eleanor tells his crew that they will not be allowed to join in the treasure raid if Vane is their captain. Eleanor's plans to maintain her power base on the island run into major problems because even captains friendly to her fear that they will not be able to sell her scheme to their crews. Billy experiences this on a matter as silly as having prostitutes present on the beach when the ship is beached for careening and repairs. They cannot afford the distraction but the crew outvotes him.
- Didn't See That Coming/Out-Gambitted: Eleanor Gutherie manages to masterfully create her own empire, with a consortium of captains as her allies. Then in the finale, Vane storms the fort with a consortium of psychos no one even knew about, and manages to ensure he is her top partner.
- Dirty Coward: The cook on the merchant ship in the beginning episode obviously thinks of John Silver like this, although Silver sees himself as an opportunist. The cook is a hypocrite because he himself is hiding and abstaining from the fighting on the pretext that he is a cook and thus it is not his job to fight.
- Doomed by Canon: The fates of Historical Domain characters Charles Vane, "Calico" Jack Rackham, and Anne Bonny. note
- Given that John Silver eventually becomes Captain Flint's Quartermaster, things don't look good for his current Quartermaster Gates. And they're not-Flint killed him.
- End Of An Era: The time for the pirates of New Providence Island is running out. A British warship has arrived in the Caribbean with an arrest warrant for Robert Guthrie. Without a safe haven on the island and the ability to sell their loot through the Guthries, the pirates will not be able to maintain their ships or pay the crews. Flint has predicted this long ago and is pursuing the treasure galleon as a way to raise enough funds to avert or at least manage the coming disaster. Gates supports the plan as a One Last Job before he has to give up piracy. Eleanor is about to lose her freedom and independence so she does not hesitate to throw her support behind them.
- Fate Worse Than Death: Referenced almost by name. When Captain Vane discovers that his former quartermaster's lover dragged him into a plot to kill the last remaining members of Vane's crew, he decides to let the quartermaster live. After all, everyone already knows he betrayed his sworn brothers because of a woman; the quartermaster will never sail beneath the black again, which Vane reckons will "sting worse than death."
- Friend in the Black Market: The Guthrie family are this.
- Follow the Leader: Despite its grittier aspirations, it probably wouldn't have been greenlit without POTC's success.
- Foregone Conclusion: The plot of the first season of Black Sails revolves around the crew of the Walrus trying to track down and capture an extremely rich Spanish treasure vessel. This is the same treasure that Treasure Island revolves around.
- Full-Frontal Assault: Charles Vane is mercilessly beaten, buried alive, and left for dead. He climbs out of his hole in the dead of night and, naked and covered in mud, stabs Albinus to death and assumes command of his crew.
- Gambit Roulette: The scheme to capture the treasure galleon is dependent on dozens of different things going right and a single failure can derail everything. Flint lampshades this to Billy when they are chasing the Andromache and he tells him that there is a one-in-three chance at best that they find their prey on the open sea and if they do find it, they have to catch it and then defeat its crew. If they cannot do so, the rest of the plan becomes moot since they need the Andromache's guns.
- Good Scars, Evil Scars: Mosiah's black crew mates all seem to have extensive ritual scarring, and support Flint (at least after being bribed by Gates). Singleton challenges Flint's authority and wants to be voted in as captain, and also has many terrible scars across his face. Of course, since they're all pirates (and supporting or opposing Flint doesn't necessarily make one good or evil) this is all rather ambiguous.
- Guile Hero: John's method of operation.
- Historical-Domain Character: Take a shot for everyone who's also in Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag: Charles Vane, Benjamin Hornigold, "Calico" Jack Rackham, and Anne Bonny.
- Historical Plot Armour: the real-life Hornigold eventually went to work for the British as a pirate hunter and died in a shipwreck during a hurricane. Also Rackham and Anne Bonny are immune until Mary Read arrives.
- Historical Villain Upgrade: There is no doubt that the real Anne Bonny was a badass and a pirate. A taciturn Dual Wielding killing machine, though? Not so much.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: In episode five the Walrus's marksman is able to hit with two out of three shots using a flintlock musket, at a range of several hundred yards, from one moving ship to another. Improbable doesn't really cover it.
- The Lad-ette: Definitely Anne Bonny, and Eleanor to a degree.
- Lovable Rogue: John Silver seems to be attempting to invoke this trope, although he's not averse to murdering someone in order to seize an opportunity
- Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Flamboyant thinker Rackham and gruff fighter Anne.
- Oh, Crap: Several of these during the finale.
- Flint and the crew of the Walrus as the giant Spanish man'o'war prepares to unleash a fifty-gun broadside on their ship.
- Rackham and Anne, twice. First when they hear someone has taken over the fort with them very much suspecting who was responsible, and than when Vane shows up in the brothel.
- Outlaw Couple: Rackham and Anne, in line with their historical backgrounds.
- Only Sane Man: Billy Bones and Gates support Flint but think his plan is somewhat crazy. Mr. Scott fills a similar role for Eleanor, trying to discourage her from loaning money to Gates because pirates are a poor investment.
- Plot Armor: As long as the series treats Treasure Island as canon, any characters named in the book will have this until the book says otherwise.
- Rape as Drama: Max is raped by one of Vane's crewmen, but since it happens when she's being taken away by Rackham to be murdered, this actually saves her life. He rapes her again the next episode.
- Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Hamund is established as a particularly horrible bastard by the fact that he makes a point to rape Max, despite having just been told she'll make it more enjoyable if it is consensual.
- Setting Update: A rare reverse example, in that it pushes the setting of Treasure Island BACK in time. Word of God is that the show begins about twenty years before the timeframe of the novel - which would place the events of Treasure Island about 1735; the book is in fact set in 1760. (It's understandable that they'd want to bring in all the famous pirates who were around in the 1710s, though.)
- Shout-Out /Call Forward: As a prequel to Treasure Island, it has several to the book-notably that John Silver's job on the ship is as ship's cook, much like his position in the novel.
- Billy the bosun's full name is listed as being Billy Bones, the pirate whom Jim Hawkins gets the treasure map from at the beginning of the book.
- They Really Do Love Each Other: Anne Bonny and Jack Rackham would have to be the strangest Odd Couple of all time, but it's clear with each passing episode that they're devoted to each other. One of Bonny's batman gambits relies almost entirely on her faith that Rackham would chose her over the rest of the crew.
- Villain Protagonist: Probably Captain Flint and definitely John Silver, according to canon. Probably every pirate, in all honesty.
- Would Hit a Girl: After Eleanor punches him, Vane floors her with a right cross. The conversation that follows makes it clear that this was necessary to maintain his authority with his crew, but he shows absolutely no hesitation or regret.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: John Silver refuses to tell Flint the Urca's entire course, convinced Flint will kill him if he does. When Flint points out he could do that once they do capture the Urca, Silver comments he's hoping "they'll be friends by that point". Ultimately Silver proves useful to Eleanor, so she tells Flint she expects Silver to survive.
- As of the end of episode 7, the crew, headed by Dufresne, the new quartermaster, decide to kill Flint after the Urca's prize is captured. This is shared with Mr. Gates, who, in light of his recent misgivings with the captain, consents to the plan.