Black Sails

Posted on Feb 24, 2021


The Storyline

Black Sails courtesy of

A so-called “ship’s cook” by the name of John Silver, comes into possession of a piece of paper from the real cook, with information on it that he knows is very important, but not quite sure why?

His ship captured by the notorious Pyrate Captain Flint and his crew, Silver hides the piece of paper, only to discover that it’s worth much more than he realised, and sets in chain, a motion of events that will change their lives forever.

And so begins the legend of Captain Flint, Long John Silver, and Treasure Island

The Review

I have been meaning to watch this for a long time now, and due to another enforced so-called “lockdown”, I had the chance to catch up on a lot of things, and watching this has been one of them.

Based on characters created by Robert Louis Stevenson, it follows the adventures of Pyrate Captain James Flint and his crew, as they go in search of treasure and freedom on the high seas.

Set twenty years before the events of Treasure Island, a man claiming to be the”ship’s cook”, comes into possession of a piece of paper from the real, dying cook, with information on it that he knows is very important, and life changing, but unsure as to why?

His ship is captured by Flint, and Silver quickly hides the piece of paper, only to discover that it’s worth much more than he could have imagined.

Once Flint finds out what Silver has in his possession, both join forces in the search for treasure, power, and a different life than the one they lead on the high seas, and before it.

I love the mix of real Pyrates with fictional ones set during the golden age of piracy, and found myself looking up fact from fiction in relation to the historical context of the characters and period. It’s one of my favourite era’s of history; full of uncertainty, fear, hope and adventure.

Everyone in it acts their hearts out, with some not even having to try, because they’re simply that good. I do have my favourite characters though, who generally steal the scenes they’re in, but when all my favourites are in the same scenes, then it’s like a master-class of acting styles in action, to watch and learn from.

I loved the complexity of Flint himself, played brilliantly by the excellent Toby Stephens. His Flint is dangerous, fiercely intelligence, with a dark intensity; that in his presence, you’d think twice about questioning his orders. And yet there is a troubled, insecure, vulnerable side to him, as if controlled by two personalities within himself? He always tries to do the right thing, even if he betrays his ideals to do it. It’s his inner anger though, that betrays everything he loves and sets out to do. You just want him to succeed and make things right in the world, but alas, not everyone agrees with him, and doesn’t always go his way.

Black Sails courtesy of Amazon

Silver, played by the incredible Luke Arnold, is another who eats the screen up. His character is as complex and as clever as Flint’s, and a force to be reckoned with. Every scene with him in it, has him thinking six moves ahead, every character a piece on the board to outmanoeuvre. The acting abilities of Arnold are something to behold in this, and him and Stephens play off one another extremely well indeed.

Another incredible character is the notorious, and all very real Irish Pyrate, Anne Bonny, played by the wonderful Clara Paget (her actual full name is Lady Clara Elizabeth Iris Paget, and is the daughter of Charles Paget, 8th Marquess of Anglesey and Georgeanne Elliot Downes). Every scene she’s in is pure bliss, her character tough, yet deeply insecure and a little broken.

One of her lovers, Captain Jack Rackham, aka Calico Jack, played with relish by Toby Schmitz, is the comedy element at times, and always puts a smile on your face, and yet, he’s also an Artful Dodger type, too. Clever, a fast talker, and a schemer. You wouldn’t trust him in the slightest.

Consisting of ten episodes per series of four, it’s full of political intrigue, the stories twisting and turning with each chapter, much like the characters themselves, keeping you hooked for the next part.

The set pieces are stunning, the ships incredible, as are the fight and battle scenes. The whole thing is a work of art, and I treasured each episode that came on.

As for the ending? Well, it’s not how I would have left it, knowing what little we do of Flint from Treasure Island, but it does tie up all the loose ends neatly. Even another character shows up in the final scenes, who I was waiting for throughout the whole thing.

Black Sails cast courtesy of Screen Rant

Definitely one for adults only, with graphic themes of violence and sex, I highly recommend this for anyone who loves a strong story that grips from start to finish.

What would Robert Louis Stevenson think of it and what was done to his characters and story? I’ve no idea, probably shocked at a lot of it, and not impressed with some of it, but in all, I’d like to think his story was done well, and given the justice and respect it deserved, so hopefully he’d like it? From the opening title sequence, to the music (I downloaded the soundtrack, it’s that good) and set pieces, Black Sails is quite simply one of the best things I have ever seen…

And on that note, it’s time I reread the book again, around forty years after I first read it.

Yo ho ho, and a bottle of rum,
it’s a Pyrates life for me…

Black sails is available on Amazon Prime and Starz and is also available to buy from all the usual outlets.