Sunday, February 16, 2014

Black Sails 1.4: The Masts of Wall Street

If you think of most of the action dramas on cable television these days - whether taking place in the present, like Banshee and Strike Back, or in the past like Da Vinci's Demons and Vikings - the story moves along pretty quickly, sometimes at blinding speed (in the case of Strike Back), with every episode whipping the narrative forward around sharp and dangerous curves.   In contrast, Black Sails is dangerous, all right, but it's story almost seems to stand still at times.   And that's a change of pace for television that I very much like.

In episode 1.4, much of the action centers around a ship in the sand, and the pirates' attempt to make it more suitable to their needs.   The ship stands there, like a majestic skeleton to a nearly forgotten past, except in Black Sails it's very much happening.   The ship, of course, as would be any massive sailing ship, is an emblem and enabling technology to the life and pursuits of the pirates.   In a world before planes, the sailing ship was the only way to move across great distances.   But in Black Sails, this distance is as much political and economic as physical.

Richard Guthrie provides us with some important back story, including the way Flint and Miranda got together and its social context, but also his take and opposition to Flint's vision of a utopian pirate island untrodden by the monarchies of the day.  We already knew that Flint and Miranda are cultured people, and that money is the lubricant of this whole on-the-margin society, but in 1.4 we get a taste of the economic sophistication of many of the major players.   The pirate leaders and their colleagues, male and female, are in many ways more akin to The Wolf of Wall Street than any show now or ever on television, and that makes Black Sails worthy of note as well.  Or, looked at in other way, we could say that the pirates represent the 99% in the Occupy Wall Street of that day.   The ship in the sand stands at the fulcrum of those two forces.

Any way you look at it, Black Sails is as much a feast for the intellect as it is for the eyes, and a pleasure to see on television.

See also Black Sails: Literate and Raunchy Piracy ... Black Sails 1.3: John Milton and Marcus Aurelius


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