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Series / Crossbones

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Crossbones is an NBC historical adventure series created by Neil Cross (Luther, Doctor Who). It stars John Malkovich as the legendary pirate Edward Teach, a.k.a. Blackbeard and is set in 1715 on the island of Santa Campana, where he has set up rule as leader of the New World's first functioning democracy. As the series opens, Blackbeard's crew launches a fierce raid on an English vessel in an attempt to capture a valuable navigation device: a longitudinal chronometer. When the ship's physician, Tom Lowe (Richard Coyle), destroys the device, he is taken prisoner and brought to Blackbeard so he can be convinced to reassemble it. What Blackbeard doesn't know, however, is that Lowe is secretly an English spy and assassin assigned to kill the Pirate ruler.

The show is loosely based on the book The Republic of Pirates by Colin Woodard. It premiered May 30th, 2014. The trailer can be seen here.

The show was cancelled on July 24, 2014 after one season.

Compare Black Sails.

This series provides examples of:

  • Alternate History: This show tells a story where Blackbeard never died, but instead secretly lived out a life in semi-retirement as the ruler of the Pirate Republic. As far as this trope goes, it is Truth in Television to an extent, as Blackbeard intended to do just that before his death.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: From Fletch: "I don't want to get my neck stretched, or stabbed through the vitals, neither. Or have my eyes torn out with hot pokers. Or called a monkey."
  • Captain Colorbeard: Blackbeard, obviously, but as you can see in the poster, by this time he has aged a bit and prefers to wear a white goatee.
    Blackbeard: We don't use that name now
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Based on the trailer, Blackbeard and company seem to have a knack for it.
  • The Dreaded: Blackbeard seems to have gained this reputation, and he doesn't dispel it.
    Tom Lowe: Many legends cluster about you. People fear you... you haunt their dreams.
    Blackbeard: Not all unflattering legends about me are untrue
  • Faking the Dead: The premise of the show is that Blackbeard faked his death. How exactly it happened has not yet been revealed.
    • In episode 3, Jagger tells Kate that the man he killed was a decoy made to look like Blackbeard.
  • False Flag Operation: Blackbeard (by way of contacts in the local brothel) hires two of Valentine's men to kill him, allowing him to both frame Valentine for murder and preserve his image as a democratic leader (by being unable to stop his execution after a jury convicted him).
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: Neither the English crown nor Blackbeard's pirates are painted as entirely good or evil.
  • Kansas City Shuffle: In episode 3, Jagger's ship is pursing Blackbeard's ship, the Reaver, when Jagger realizes that Blackbeard's not aboard. He sees a smaller boat sailing away in the opposite direction and gives chase. It turns out to be a decoy packed with explosives. Meanwhile, Blackbeard and Lowe have snuck ashore to rescue Kate.
  • Pirate Girl: Blackbeard has a few in his crew, including his own daughter.
  • Play-Along Prisoner: Lowe, who allows himself to be taken prisoner so he can get closer to Blackbeard and learn his plans.
  • Shoot the Dog: Lowe shoots Valentine while he is hanging
  • Skinny Dipping: Kate has a penchant for this, doing so most mornings
  • Slave to PR: Blackbeard has this threefold: To the outside world, he wants to be dead, to the enemies who know or suspect he is alive, he wants to be a mythic figure of terror (he is quite intimidating, but more pragmatic than evil), and to his fellow pirates he wants to be a political visionary of republicanism (he likes the idea, but is still power-hungry and will go to wide lengths to preserve his position).
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story
  • The Watson: Fletch, to an annoying degree. He pretty much exists to ask Lowe questions. This is lampshaded in the second episode:
    Lowe: "Go and be useful".
  • What Might Have Been: Hugh Laurie was the first actor attached to the role of Blackbeard.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: John Malkovich plays Blackbeard (who was originally from Bristol, England) with a vaguely Germanic accent which is impossible to place. It does make Blackbeard seem more enigmatic.(I suppose Malkovich could have meant it to reflect the fact that Blackbeard spent his adult life among pirates from different countries.)
  • Wretched Hive: Santa Campana.