Last week it was International Talk Like A Pirate Day – and this week it’s time to take to the seas with the buccaneering Black Sails
Tuesday 25 September, 9pm, HISTORY® (CH 270). Also available for 30 days in Catch Up > Channels > HISTORY
It’s a show that started its voyage as an adventure epic but, while it’s definitely still that, over the seasons Black Sails has quietly become one of the most nuanced, representative, expertly performed and downright exciting things on TV.
As the final season heads for harbour on HISTORY®, here’s a quick pirate primer on everything you need to know…
What is it?
Welcome to the Golden Age of piracy! The waters around the Bahamas are teeming with buccaneers, but the imperial powers – in the form of the British and Spanish fleets – threaten to crush the region’s pirates and impose civilisation upon them. In return the pirates essentially declare war on, well, everybody.
So this is history?
Only sort of. The pirates are a mix of real-world figures – Anne Bonny, Jack Rackham, Blackbeard – alongside characters from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, but a couple of decades before that story takes place. Among the latter group are our more-or-less leads, the canny, complex Captain Flint and quick-thinking Long John Silver.
Who’s in it?
Toby Stephens (Die Another Day, Netflix’s Lost In Space) plays Captain Flint, with relative newcomer Luke Arnold as the young John Silver. Hannah New is powerbroker Eleanor Guthrie and Jessica Parker Kennedy (The Flash) her sometime girlfriend Max. And posing various threats to our heroes are the likes of Ray Stevenson’s Blackbeard and Luke Roberts’ pirate-hunting Woodes Rogers.
What’s happened so far?
The big plot driver across the first three seasons was the Urca de Lima gold. This is a Spanish fortune coveted, for different reasons, by practically everyone in the show – but it has now been secretly buried by Flint, and is effectively out of the picture. Now a far worse conflict has taken its place: the British Navy, led by Rogers, is determined to pacify the chaotic town of Nassau once and for all. The battle at the end of season 3 ended in victory for the pirates, with Blackbeard’s help, but the threat remains.
How about the characters?
Flint and Silver’s relationship has been tested, as Silver’s popularity and fame grew, and the finale appeared to set them on a collision course. Can the old allies avoid it? Or are they doomed to fight it out? Elsewhere, Eleanor is now firmly aligned with the British and Woodes, while Blackbeard’s tendency not to play well with others makes him an uncertain ally, even for his new best friends Anne Bonny (Clara Paget) and Jack Rackham (Toby Schmitz).
What can we expect from season 4?
Without getting into too many spoilers, expect huge clashes between the opposing sides and some devastating choices for practically every major character as they enter the series’ end game. The “civilising” influence of the British fleet is bad news for all the show’s fiery women, as well as many of the outlaws, escaped slaves and non-conformist types that inhabit Black Sails. The fight for the future of Nassau and its denizens will be bitter and bloody…
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