'Black Sails' review: All aboard for high-seas adventure

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black-sails-cast-starz.jpgStarz is setting sail with a new drama when "Black Sails" launches Saturday (Jan. 25). 

The swashbuckling adventure combines real-life pirates from the 18th century, like Charles Vane ( Zach McGowan), Calico John Rackham ( Toby Schmitz) and Anne Bonny ( Clara Paget) and characters from Robert Louis Stevenson's classic "Treasure Island," like Captain Flint ( Toby Stephens) and John Silver ( Luke Arnold), with new fictional characters like Nassau proprietor Eleanor Guthrie ( Hannah New) and her right-hand man and woman, Mr. Scott ( Hakeem Kae-Kazim) and Max ( Jessica Parker Kennedy).

At first glance, the high seas adventure might appear to be more along the lines of former Starz program "Spartacus," which often seemed like a pornographic movie with fighting and a large budget. Like its predecessor, "Black Sails" does not shy away from violence and sex.

But four episodes in, "Black Sails" is actually spinning a cleverly-crafted tale of intrigue, secrets and deceit surrounding a race for an enormous cache of gold in a Spanish galleon. The island of New Providence is populated with interesting characters that become more three-dimensional with every episode and, to our pleasant surprise, the sex is fairly minimal.

toby-stephens-black-sails-starz.jpgThe violence isn't as minimal, but the show is about pirates, so a certain level of violence is to be expected. This is not a Disney movie, after all. And if this Michael Bay production were on HBO or Showtime, would we even be talking about the blood-and-sex of it all?

Perhaps, but Starz as a network conjures up certain ideas, so we're pleased to report that "Black Sails" goes more the way of the Golden Globe-winning "Boss" than "Spartacus."

What it boils down to is that executive producers Jonathan E. Steinberg ("Jericho") and Robert Levine ("Harper's Island") have created a complex world of rich characters that have more to them than meets the eye. They found talented actors to cast and filmed in the beautiful location of Cape Town, South Africa. On top of all that, there's an intriguing through-line in this hunt for the Spanish gold. It makes for an enormously fun ride.

Through the first half of Season 1, we can't wait to find out what happens next, which is a mark of a good television show. It's also nice to know Season 2 is already underway, so there's no worry about investing in a show that gets canceled right away.

All aboard for "Black Sails," which airs Saturday nights at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Starz.
Photo/Video credit: Starz