The doldrums of the Black Sails off-season stretches on as its fourth and final season is still months away. On the show, when Flint’s crew is becalmed, they hallucinate, eat eels, and shark-wrestle. When we’re becalmed from the show as viewers, we revisit earlier seasons. Maybe some of you eat eels too, but best keep that to yourselves.
Black Sails is a show that teaches you how to watch it. Its meticulous plotting and character development reward repeat viewings, and it can be easy to forget what it was like experiencing it for the first time. So I, Inverse’s resident Black Sails expert – who has seen each season more times than I should probably admit – enlisted Jasminne Young, a pirate queen newcomer who recently watched Season 1 for the first time. We discuss the ins and outs of the show’s beginning from both perspectives.
Lauren: For first time viewers, Season 1 can be confusing to keep track of all the characters and motives. But anything you’re vague about gets addressed in Season 2. That’s why it’s better in retrospect, once you’ve seen what comes next. As a newcomer — give or take knowing some huge spoilers, because you transcribed this Season 3 interview for me — how have you found Season 1? Who were your favorite characters?
Jasminne: I love pirates, both in fiction and history, so that was my initial attraction to the show. But I actually really enjoyed Season 1 and became invested, so I am very excited for what Season 2 has in store. I really appreciated the detail in every scene. The locations, characters, costumes, specks of dirt on people’s faces all captivated me and kept me watching. Flint’s character, although slightly lackluster at first, became a personal favorite. I liked that there was always something bubbling under the surface of his exterior demeanor.
Lauren: He’s really one of the best characters on TV. It’s absurd he hasn’t gotten any award nods. You’ll find out his backstory soon. Also, you initially told me that part of what piqued your interest in the show was my article on how it handles queer, non monogamous, and otherwise non-traditional relationships. What are your thoughts on that element so far?
Jasminne: I actually like the queer dynamics of the show. There are subtle homophobic remarks towards Eleanor Guthrie and Max which, unfortunately, makes the show more realistic. But overall, there is a silent accepting approach to queer friendships and romantic (pirate sex-filled) relationships. You see this with Anne and Jack and their somewhat open or polyamorous relationship. There’s also, in my opinion, a subtle sexually charged energy from Billy towards Flint. That is, until Flint kills him. I’m just starting Season 2 and I can’t wait to finally watch all of the things I’ve been spoiling for myself.
Lauren: It’s so interesting that you pick up on a vibe between Billy and Flint. This is a minor spoiler to say that Billy is the only major character whose sexuality is still a mystery by Season 3. (The spoiler is that he’s still around by then, but if you’re familiar with Treasure Island, you know he’s got to stay!).
Thanks to my spoilers (sorry!) yes, you know Flint is not straight. As for Billy, Season 2 implies that he might be interested in a woman (Abigail Ashe) but their flirtation mostly happens off-screen; it’s possible her crush was one-sided. Otherwise, Season 1 made a point of showing how Billy stands apart from the crew in his lack of caring about the “fuck tent,” and unlike all the other main characters, we’ve never seen him intimate with anyone. There is a portion of fans who think a relationship between Billy and Flint could or should happen. It might be too weird because of their animosity — not to mention, Flint really is in no headspace for any relationship at this point. On the other hand, that might be a clever way to explain why Billy, of all people, will end up as the one Flint will entrust with his map when we get to Treasure Island. We’ll have to see what Season 4 brings on that front. But that’s an intriguing observation.
Now, you mentioned how you liked historical pirates before getting into the show. How have you found the depictions of real figures like Charles Vane, Anne Bonny, and Calico Jack? (We haven’t heard them call Rackham that yet aside from one reference in Season 3 episode 8, but that’s who he is). Are they how you would have pictured them or wanted them to be?
Jasminne: I was actually mostly familiar with Jack and Anne. Calico Jack used to be one of my favorite pirates because he was known for his outfits, which I thought was hilarious. They haven’t touched on this too much in the show, but then again I’ve only watched one season, so maybe I have some pirate fashion tips to look forward to. What originally drew me to the pair was their pirate “love story.” Honestly, I must have discovered them after watching Pirates of the Caribbean! Historically, the couple sailed around the Caribbean, then finally had a child. So far in Black Sails their romance is very subtle but the loyalty and attraction is palpable. I kind of like that depiction because it seems more believable than if it was an Orlando Bloom/Keira Knightly kind of relationship where they dramatically make out every 10 minutes or get married on a ship in the middle of a battle. The writing on Black Sails gives a more realistic approach to the decisions the characters make, and that’s what really draws me to the show.
I like that the drama builds and when it escalates you can follow the reasoning as to why a character did what they did, why a fight broke out, etc. The show does a good job of reminding the audience that there is no doubt that these lives are intense and above-average, but in between these moments of great action the characters still have to take the right steps and go to great lengths in order to achieve what they desire.
Lauren: Oh, just you wait on Jack’s fashion. There will indeed be more to come. His relationship with Anne is one of the most well-developed relationships on any show. Subtle is a good word for it — it’s all in the quiet gestures. There’s a moment in Season 3 when instead of kissing her on the lips or cheek, he kisses her hat. That casual intimacy speaks to a deep-rooted knowledge that’s far more romantic than a passionate kiss. We also see it in their minor interactions that showcase a shorthand of communication, like their body language or his facial expressions whenever Anne indicates her desire to solve problems with murder. Not to give anything away, but their communication shorthand has a really nice payoff in Season 3 episode 6. They’re still mostly side characters in Season 1, but it lays the groundwork to some excellent future moments.
What are you most looking forward to as you continue the show?
Jasminne: I’m looking forward to the introduction of new adventures! I’m wondering if this is when they will start to search for Treasure Island. Also, the lush within me is definitely excited for more budding relationships and steamy pirate moments, particularly with this thing between Anne and Max.
A release date for Season 4 has not yet been announced, but we can likely expect it in winter of 2017.