selenak: (Ship and Sea by Baranduin)
[personal profile] selenak
Other than "to write meta and fanfiction for me", of course.

What's it about?: Pirates and their fences, both fictional and historical. It's nominally set around 1715, so it should fit right into Age of Sails fandom. Alternative accurate descriptions would be: Treasure Island/Historical RPF crossover, or "Deadwood on water".

But I haven't watched DEADWOOD and I haven't read TREASURE ISLAND, either. And/or I don't even like pirates. What's the allure?: Emsemble-tasticness. World building. Character growth. People don't stay static, they change. Ditto for relationships. Of which there are a lot of interesting ones, between women and men, men and men, women and women. Lots of shade of grey and moral ambiguity, but no cheap cynicism or grimdark gratitiousness.

When you say relationships, you mean...: All kinds. Lethal feuds, practical business partnerships, friendships, sexual affairs, platonic love, mentor/protegé.

But the sex is heteronormative, right?: Wrong. Four of the main characters in present day are bisexual. Another important character who so far has been only seen in flashbacks is also bi. Actually, for all we know, other characters are bi as well; nobody's said "just the opposite sex for me!" yet, and in this show, you can't assume just because it's the tv default.

Fine, but what about the plot? I take it it's not about who gets together with whom.: There are some red threads - the gold of the Spanish ship Urca, for example, who controls the trade in Nassau, whether or not it's every pirate for themselves or something united, whether or not British control over New Providence gets reestablished - which touch in different ways on everyone's lives, depending on their take on those issues. Also, I wasn't kidding about the "all kinds of relationships", I mean, all the canon bi is nice, but several of the non-romantic relationships are just as key. Those shifting allegiances sometimes come without and sometimes with sex. One of the key partnerships pushing the "who rules Nassau and how?" plot forward is between a man and a woman whom neither the show nor the fandom ships. They're both involved with other people was far as romance/sex is concerned.

Are they all white, despite the historical likelihood?: No, though most of the main characters are. There are two important pocs among the regulars, Max (female) and Mr. Scott. The other pocs in the cast are background and supporting.

If it's Age of Sails and TREASURE ISLAND is somehow involved, doesn't that point to mainly male characters? Are there more than one or two women around for more than set decoration?: I'm glad you asked. Why don't I tell you about the characters?

Important characters of Black Sails:

Captain James Flint: The closest thing the show has to a leading man. Played by Toby Stephens. (Which means he's not Tall, Dark And Brooding but Medium, Ginger And Brooding.) Has a gigantic chip on his shoulder because of his Mysterious Past, which gets hinted at in season one and more thoroughly revealed via flashbacks in season 2. Is very good at manipulation and lying; this, not surprisingly, doesn't encourage trust in his crew. (Let alone among characters not in his crew.) Is a big picture type swinging wildly between megalomania and soured idealism. Good at planning, though the capacity for obsession can be somewhat counterproductive.

Eleanor Guthrie: The local trade boss/ kingpin/fence. Came to the job because of her no-good father but surpassed him and made the business empire her own. Has plans for Nassau that go well with Flint's. (That would be the platonic partnership of season 1.) Also has a tendency to put business & Nassau above both her love interests on the show, which does not sit well with either. Other than said love interests, about which more in a moment, and Flint for business, another important relationship of hers is with her trusted right hand man, Mr. Scott, who practically raised her.

Max: at the start of the show, one of the prostitutes in the local brothel, in love with Eleanor. (By the end of s2, she's in a very different position, power wise. Emotion wise too.) Is also very good at spotting non-sexual business opportunities. Can be manipulative, but is a very loyal partner to have if you've proved you're worth her time.

Captain Charles Vane: also obsessively in love with Eleanor. They have an on/off thing (due to Eleanor; Vane's the obsessive here and would prefer it to be on all the time). Flint's main rival for the "most feared Captain" title. Has a shorter temper and tends to more personal physical violence, but turns out to be not incapable of long term planning as well when the occasion arises. Stars in most of the Mary Sue tales written so far. (He does have a great butt.)

John Silver: at the start of the show, a young guy on bord of a ship Flint's crew captures and really good at talking fast and making himself useful. Cheerfully and openly committed to Looking Out For Number One. Smart, but not always as smart as he thinks (he still has a lot to learn, which he does, he's really good at learning). The best thing about Silver is that if you stick him in a scene with any the driven, serious characters like Eleanor or Flint, you get entertaining dialogue gold. He also is quite good in scenes with Max, with whom he makes a business partnership both at the start of s1 and in later s2.

Anne Bonney: an intense woman of few words (and these likely swear words), a lethal blade and a capacity for total commitment. Originally in Vane's crew, but her one true loyalty is to Jack Rackham, about whom more in a second. During the course of s1 and throughout s2, she also developes a close relationship with Max.

Jack Rackham: at the start of the show, Vane's quartermaster. Fast talking, not a good fighter (that's Anne's job) and somewhat resembling Jack Sparrow of Disney fame if Jack Sparrow were stuck in a more realistic canon with the odds stacked against him. His one true loyalty is to Anne, but that's tested (mutually) in s2.

Billy Bones: The closest thing the show has to a good guy without any shades of grey. Totally committed to the welfare of the crew, whom he sees as his brothers; one constant dilemma of his is whether Flint is more a danger or a possible solution for said brothers. Billy, played by Tom Hopper (if you've watched Merlin, you might remember him as Percival), is a firm fan favourite.

Miranda Barlow: the one person on New Providence who knows all about Flint's Mysterious Past, because it's her Mysterious Past as well. At the start of the show, the few of Flint's crew who know she exists think she has Flint in some kind of sexual thrall, while Eleanor's no good father who has some access to London gossip thinks Miranda and Flint are guilty adulterous lovers who ran away together. They're all wrong. Miranda is a bit enigmatic in s1 when the Mysterious Past is just hinted at, but in s2, where it's revealed, she really comes into her own. There's a quiet fierceness and steely grace to her that's very compelling (and able to cut through everyone's pretenses if she wants to).

Mr. Scott: used to be owned by Eleanor's no-good father and raised her. Very devoted to Eleanor, but no, he's not a Magical Negro; in later s1, when he disagrees with Eleanor on a key point, he also has to reevaluate how he identifies vis a vis other poc who are still slaves. In the end, he finds a way to be his own man without letting the Guthries define him.

Then there's an important character whom I can't describe without giving away one of the big s2 twists, so his entire description shall be hidden behind a spoiler cut:

Thomas Hamilton: Miranda's husband, and James' lover. For verily, not only does Black Sails male bisexuality in addition to female one, but it does polyamory as well. Even more refreshingly, and going directly against the cliché of the bi or gay character being the cynical man of the world, wearing guyliner and leather trousers, while the character who discovers his sexuality through him is the straightlaced hero, Thomas is the idealist to end all idealistis, practically Galahad reincarnated, and utterly unashamed of his sexuality, while the more worldly, hard bitten Lieutenant James McGraw - Flint before he becomes Flint - is the one who still has to figure it out, has to lose his inhibitions, and gets seduced by Thomas' idealism as much as by the fact he's played by Rupert Penry-Jones. Also, neither man's relationship to Miranda is unimportant to them; theirs was truly a triad where everyone cared for every member, and the enigma of Miranda's and Flints' relationship in s1 is that they're not lovers who ran away together but two widow(er)s grieving for their third with survival guilt and some unspoken issues with each other. Once they have an air clearing conversation in s2, they're each other's strength and touchstone untl the dastardly plot which took Thomas away from them in the first place kicks in again.)

Okay, so far, so good. But what about the violence?: Well, these are pirates, so of course, there there is some. There are no freeze frame gore & blood extravaganzas a la Spartacus here. Also, the show tends to do its action set pieces at the start and at the end of each season, with another actiony thing (but not as big as the ones at the start and at the end) happening in the middle. This reliably leads some viewers to complain there's too much talking and negotiating and they want pirates fighting, but this show, see the point about world building as one of its virtues mentioned above, remembers that the pirates had to fence their plunder somewhere, and this is why Eleanor is such an important power player. Also, this is a show that avoids the "soldiers/minions/any type of subordinates do what they're told no matter who their leader is" cliché. The fact that crews can depose their captains, and that their captains can't take their loyality for granted if they don't bother to explain (truthfully) what the hell is going on, is an important plot point in both seasons. Incidentally, s2 shows this is also true for the whores of the local brothel. If they have doubts whether or not the current madam's allegiances are endangering them, they say so. And the show doesn't vilify any of them for disagreeing with their respective leaders. This is a show where you have to earn leadership, and constantly.

Before you get off on a tangent, back to the violence. What about sexual violence? I heard there was rape!: In early season 1, there is indeed rape. It happens in episode 3 and is implied to go on (i.e. we don't see it, but know it happens because we see the aftermath) through the next two episodes until a radical event puts an end to it, to put it mildly. No rape happens in s2.

I knew it! Why should I put myself through this?: Well, no one has to, obviously. But here's why I don't think the s1 rape is a reason not to watch the show: a) It's plot relevant, and not in a "man avenges woman" way. One of my criteria for whether or not a rape is gratitious in any fiction is whether the storylines would happen without it the same way. Here, they wouldn't. Because it happens, and happens the way it does to Max, Eleanor deposes Vane - who's morally responsible for it - as Captain of his own ship - triggering his entire storyline from this point onwards - , and Anne turns against her own crew and kills eight of them. This in turn means her's and Jack's ostracisation by the other pirates and being stuck on land, it leads to Max gaining the ownership of the brothel through them, and it leads to the Max-Anne relationship of s2. If Anne hadn't saved her, Max would have had no reason to stand by her when Anne goes through her existential crisis in later s2. Ownership of the brothel in turn allows Max to not only co-own the ship that will eventually get the Urca treasure but also to buy into the trade shares which make her the new boss of Nassau after Eleanor's fall. And b) it's not filmed in a tiltillating way, on the contrary. As opposed to the consensual sex scenes, which show plenty of skin and can get lengthy, the rape scene itself is short (just makes it clear what happens) and doesn't expose the actress. Whereas the aftermath, where we see her and other women dealing with what happened to her, gets plenty of screentime. c) The raped character does not lose her own agenda, or becomes defined as The One Who Got Raped.

How about character death? Character death does happen. Your name in the credits does not a safe series life make, in other words. New characters also happen. Next season, i.e. season 3, we're promised Ray Stevenson as Blackbeard!

Most people aren't gen leaning like you. What ships other than the ones you've already listed does this show offer?: Well, Captain Flint's ship is called the Walrus, the one with the Spanish treasure which everyone is after is called the Urca... Okay, okay. Look, why don't I combine a listing of possible ships with some pictures in order to show off the cast?

By all means. Bring on the pretty and interesting and both!

Captain Flint. Canon ships him with the Hamiltons, Thomas and Miranda. Fandom is also sizing up Billy (as an idealist, he'd remind Flint of Thomas, plus there's much tension between them due to Flint's general manipulativeness with the crew), and Silver (when they finally share lots of scenes in early s2, it turns out they have a hilarious odd couple dynamic).

John Silver. Still has a few decades before he becomes the most famous pirate of them all in Treasure Island:

Other than Flint, fandom is also speculating about Max for Silver, mostly because one of the very few things we know about Mrs. Silver in Treasure Island is that she's a woman of colour. Otoh, Max and Silver so far haven't flirted once (though they have a nice smart partners vibe going in late s2), and Max outside of work has only shown interest in women, so it's really just Treasure Island related speculation.

Eleanor Guthrie: her one true OTP is Eleanor/Nassau, which is why the relationship with Max floundered and the one with Charles Vane isn't doing so well, either. (She didn't choose them in critical situations.) (Which is not a surprise if you watch the show because Eleanor/Nassau OTP!). Here's one reason why they fell for her in the first place:

If brunettes with a reddish tinge are more your type, here's Anne Bonny:

Whom canon ships with Jack and Max, which occupies her plenty, so fandom doesn't add anything else.

Speaking of Max, hands down the most gorgeous woman of Nassau:

and this is Jack:

Meanwhile, meet the Hamiltons (or: Flint has great taste!):

The Trio in the good olde days. Miranda totally looks like the cat who's got the cream here:

Mmmm, canon polyamory.

Charles Vane, showing his best side:

Okay, fine, Charles Vane:

And finally, Mr. Scott, not impressed:

Okay, I'll have a look. Can I skip ahead to when the bi action starts?: No, you can't. This is a continuity heavy show, and you'll be completely lost of you don't start with the pilot. Otoh, the pilot already has some f/f action (Max/Eleanor).

And where can I watch this show?: The first season is out on DVD. No idea whether or not it's also not Netflix. The second season should follow suit soon, now that it's wrapped up.

In conclusion: get thee to a viewscreen!

Date: 7 Apr 2015 19:08 (UTC)
yvi: Kaylee half-smiling, looking very pretty (Default)
From: [personal profile] yvi
Hmmm, it isn't on Netflix (US, Germany or any other region), but on Amazon. Sounds good!

Date: 8 Apr 2015 00:25 (UTC)
nenya_kanadka: Reality has a homoerotic bias (@ homoerotic bias)
From: [personal profile] nenya_kanadka
This does sound interesting! I'm not sure all the actors are to my taste, and I'm not sure about the rape plot (even though I believe you that it's not one of the titillating sort) but I am becoming curious. Hmmmm.

Date: 8 Apr 2015 10:06 (UTC)
From: [personal profile] wee_warrior
I know Charles Vane from Shameless (US). His character over there is a very mellow, friendly, New Agey truck driver. That's... a bit of a contrast, heh. I miiight try it? Probably not before the next hiatus, though, since lots of shows I watch are starting again over the next three months.


Date: 12 Apr 2015 04:32 (UTC)
xworks: xworks icon (xworks_main)
From: [personal profile] xworks
Just wanted to say thanks for the manifesto. I was completely unaware of Black Sails until a few weeks ago when I got a free Starz preview. I'm not sure what made me watch it but I'm so happy I did. It's an amazing show on so many levels. Cannot wait until Season 3:)

Date: 13 Apr 2015 02:34 (UTC)
msilverstar: (Default)
From: [personal profile] msilverstar
Someone (not me) in my household got Amazon prime, so I intend to exploit the hell out of it. Black Sails ahoy!

Date: 5 Feb 2016 07:48 (UTC)
thalia_seawood: (Default)
From: [personal profile] thalia_seawood
Finally started watching the show and like it so

Nice that the women look real, you see pores in their skin which is so rare on film - usually it's all makeup-prettyness (even when makeup is subtle).

And women have agendas of their own, are competent in various ways.

Mark Ryan plays Gates - he once played Nasir in Robin of Sherwood, the cool 80ties series.

Date: 24 Oct 2016 16:12 (UTC)
meridian_rose: pen on letter background  with text  saying 'writer' (Default)
From: [personal profile] meridian_rose
Good promo post :) This was not what I was looking for googling various Black Sails things for reasons, but it was an excellent read.


selenak: (Default)

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