Story Spotlight: Black Sails – Jonathan E. Steinberg, Robert Levine

I hated John Silver at first. Not the character so much as the writing behind the character. He just seemed so derivative. Maybe he is, ultimately, but the show eventually reveals much more under the surface.

I also hated Jack Rackham. And Charles Vane. And Anne Bonny. And Eleanor Guthrie. They all seemed so repetitive. So stereotypical. In hindsight, maybe that was by design. It’s quite possible that the show’s creators wanted to trick viewers. Perhaps they wanted people to settle into something comfortable, then rip that comfort out from under them. Or perhaps the writers simply realized they had bland characters and remedied this. That would be even more impressive.

Whatever the original intent, the series as a whole doesn’t disappoint, least of all when it comes to characters. In fact, I’ve been thrilled with all of them. Each one possesses a subtlety and nuance unlike any other. Each one stands out as uniquely genuine, even among so many others in such a large ensemble.

But the characters aren’t the only shining light in this Treasure Island prequel. The storytelling is quite good for the most part. I find it riveting and original, carefully wrought and purposefully laid. While several minor info dumps do occur here and there, the plot development is exquisite overall. And the masterful weaving of historical fiction throughout just adds to the plot’s richness. Of course, character development is at the core of this phenomenal storytelling, so the two go hand in hand.

One minor irritation, though. As seems to be the Starz way, Black Sails leans a little on gratuitous sex and violence. But not much. I might just be grading on the curve, though. I might just be comparing it to Spartacus. Anything would be tame in comparison. Either way, I can’t bring myself to penalize Black Sails in this area.

Oh, and the opening sequence is amazing.

5 out of 5 stars

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