Inverse Recommends

Now That Shōgun is Over, Netflix Has the Perfect Historical Epic to Fill Its Absence

Meet your next historical epic obsession.

Inverse Recommends

America has a case of Shōgun fever, the worst case since 1980. FX’s historical epic manages to balance the complex traditions of feudal Japan with a fish-out-of-water story that, this week, built to an epic finale. Its combination of the political intrigue of the golden era of Game of Thrones with its real historical inspirations kept fans coming back week after week. But now the finale is over and done with, what’s next?

The obvious answer was quietly added to Netflix just a few days ago: a sweeping historical epic with the same level of violence, intrigue, and dedicated performances. The best part? It’s not a miniseries — there are 38 whole episodes. Here’s everything you need to know about Black Sails, and why it’s the perfect post-Shōgun watch.

While Game of Thrones was dominating the TV landscape in the mid 2010s, an ambitious drama was attempting to mimic its success. But instead of a fantasy world completely unknown to new viewers, Black Sails used a very familiar setting: early 18th-century piracy.

The series follows Captain Flint (Toby Stephens), a fictional character from Treasure Island, and his crew as they traverse the high seas of the West Indies. Over the show’s four seasons, Flint’s crew pursues a massive treasure, plans a robbery, deals with the British Empire, and even reckons with their captain’s true past.

Along the way, real-life pirate figures like Anne Bonny, Ned Low, Israel Hands, and Blackbeard appear, years before they’d appear once again (albeit, in much more comedic iterations) in HBO’s Our Flag Means Death. Much like Game of Thrones, it doubles down on violence and nudity while also juggling multiple storylines all at once. As the opening title card says, “The pirates adhere to a doctrine of their own... war against the world.” The Wild West of the Seas still operates by a code of solidarity, and it’s fascinating to look at how this brutal-yet-civilized system works.

Ahsoka star Ray Stevenson plays the real-life pirate Blackbeard aka Ed Teach in Black Sails.


But the element that makes it so worth watching, much like Shōgun, is how real it feels. Black Sails was shot in South Africa on actual ships. Sure, the CGI that’s occasionally used can ruin the illusion every now and then, but Black Sails has the grimy, gritty realism that keeps the suspension of disbelief alive.

Black Sails is what would happen if you gave Shōgun room to breathe and made it even more swashbuckling. It still has the rich characters, high stakes, and well-staged fight choreography (blockbuster director Michael Bay serves as executive producer), but adds the classic cable drama feel of the mid-2010s — full of torrid romances and grimdark plot twists.

There are plenty of historical drama shows, but only a handful manage to fully tell an immersive story without becoming a cliché period drama or a shlocky action-adventure show. Shōgun may be the latest addition to the list, but it joins some great company.

Black Sails is now streaming on Netflix.

Related Tags