• Network: Starz
  • Series Premiere Date: Jan 25, 2014
  • Season #: 1
Metascore
57

Mixed or average reviews - based on 27 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 12 out of 27
  2. Negative: 2 out of 27
  1. Reviewed by: Jeff Jensen
    Jan 17, 2014
    83
    Not even a guilty pleasure, Black Sails is arrrrrr-estingly good. [24 Jan 2014, p.65]
  2. Reviewed by: Andrea Reiher
    Jan 27, 2014
    80
    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.
  3. Reviewed by: Ellen Gray
    Jan 24, 2014
    80
    While it looked like a Starz show, with all the pretty, naked people and bursts of horrific violence, it also felt like a show for grownups.
  4. Reviewed by: Tom Long
    Jan 24, 2014
    75
    Alliances are made and broken, power shifts go this way and that, blood is spilled, and wenches keep wenching. It’s oddly addictive, and the cast--made up mostly of British, Australian and Canadian actors--is as sharp as you’d expect from pay cable.
  5. Reviewed by: Mark A. Perigard
    Jan 24, 2014
    75
    Filmed in South Africa, Sails is awash in lush scenery, bloody expensive sets and brutal action. You’ve probably never seen a sword fight like the one that caps tonight’s episode.
  6. Reviewed by: Diane Werts
    Jan 23, 2014
    75
    Bloody pirate battles? Check. Graphic sex scenes? Check. Shoreside conniving/intrigue? Intense.
  7. Reviewed by: Lori Rackl
    Jan 21, 2014
    75
    A winsome opportunist (Luke Arnold), a ruthless captain (Toby Stephens) and a tough-talking tavern owner (Hannah New) are just a few of the colorful characters involved in a brutal power grab in the 18th century Bahamas.
  8. Reviewed by: Robert Lloyd
    Jan 27, 2014
    70
    While the series, which opens with a ship being boarded and taken, does have its moments of big, noisy action (see: Michael Bay, above), it spends a lot of time on land, as well, with the main characters taking care of business, making plans, laying traps and working on their surprisingly complicated personal relationships. There is also, tedious to relate, an abundance of female nudity.... Other than that, Black Sails' depiction of daily life among the pirates is plausibly authentic and workaday, and the Nassau through which they roam feels real and well-peopled.
  9. Reviewed by: Tim Goodman
    Jan 21, 2014
    70
    Better dense than dumb, however, and the move by Black Sails into something unexpected--better acted and better written than you might have guessed--is its own little treasure.
  10. Reviewed by: Vicki Hyman
    Feb 13, 2014
    67
    The era is a rich vein to mine, and to their credit, the creators are light on pirate cliches--I do not believe one "aargh!" is uttered--but at the same time, there's a little too much emphasis on pirate economics and labor disputes than is necessary, and the sprawling cast and hierarchy a little hard to keep straight.
  11. Reviewed by: Curt Wagner
    Jan 23, 2014
    63
    While its glimpses into the democratic world of piracy are interesting, Black Sails could cull a few plot barnacles and give viewers more action.
  12. Reviewed by: Gail Pennington
    Jan 23, 2014
    63
    Steinberg promises that Black Sails, with no parrots and no peg legs, will be pirate-cliché free. Unfortunately, the female characters don’t escape sexist stereotypes. And that keeps Black Sails from being as much fun as it might have been.
  13. Reviewed by: Rob Owen
    Jan 24, 2014
    60
    Through its first two hours, Black Sails is entertaining enough but not nearly as addictive as "Spartacus" came to be through its first season; perhaps in time that will change.
  14. Reviewed by: Jeff Korbelik
    Mar 27, 2014
    50
    The drama is nothing more than a video game, with a story secondary to the blood and sex.
  15. Reviewed by: David Hiltbrand
    Jan 27, 2014
    50
    The scenery, the spectacle, the set design, the costuming, and the camera work are all winning, but the pacing of the series (which is planned for a second 10-episode season) is nettlesomely slow.
  16. Reviewed by: Matt Roush
    Jan 24, 2014
    50
    Black Sails opens promisingly enough with a sea battle, followed by threats of violent upheaval aboard the Walrus, captained by the arrogant, aloof Flint (Toby Stephens). Too soon, though, the action moves onto land. And while Starz staples like graphic sex and savagery are hardly uncommon occurrences in the bustling debauchery of New Providence Island, Sails becomes stubbornly becalmed by its landlocked third and fourth hours, as tiresome wheeling and dealing triggers a bout of Restless Sea Legs Syndrome in the impatient viewer.
  17. Reviewed by: Joanne Ostrow
    Jan 24, 2014
    50
    The cast is stunning, the music enticing. Yet Black Sails lands too quickly on an island (shot in Cape Town) and the best parts of the spectacle--the open sea vistas and the claustrophobic shipboard scenes--run aground.
  18. Reviewed by: Mike Hale
    Jan 23, 2014
    50
    Much of the time in the early episodes is spent on the preparations for this mission [for one last big score] and on laying out a complicated network of alliances and animosities, and it gets to be a slog. Helping to keep us interested are Mark Ryan, providing a comic touch as a grizzled quartermaster, and Luke Arnold as a not-so-charming rogue named John Silver, not yet Long.
  19. Reviewed by: Todd VanDerWerff
    Jan 23, 2014
    50
    Black Sails is a handsome illusion at times, but it rarely finds its way beyond that.
  20. Reviewed by: Alan Sepinwall
    Jan 23, 2014
    50
    Like most of [Starz's] shows, though, it's all flash and no substance, and the flash fades pretty quickly, no doubt right around the point the production accountant realized just how much it costs to film extended sequences with ships in water.
  21. Reviewed by: David Wiegand
    Jan 22, 2014
    50
    [Viewers] figure there will be sex and nudity, blood and violence. Black Sails has most of that, but there isn't enough action in the first four episodes. If you give us a pirate series, we want to see ships going at it on the high seas.
  22. Reviewed by: Hank Stuever
    Jan 7, 2014
    42
    At times Black Sails feels like it wants to be taken seriously as a complicated, premium cable drama (a la “Game of Thrones”). At other times, it feels more like cheesier, more niche material (a la “Spartacus”).
  23. 40
    Black Sails is rigidly unspectacular, and it comes at the worst possible time for a show like this not to be very good.
  24. Reviewed by: Brian Lowry
    Jan 23, 2014
    40
    This South Africa-lensed production might tempt adventure-seeking viewers to plunge into its crystal-blue waters, but despite some handsome aspects, the show ultimately proves as hollow as its CGI-rendered ships.
  25. Reviewed by: Sara Smith
    Jan 17, 2014
    40
    Black Sails is exactly like the 18th-century Caribbean pirates it brings to life: dirty, amoral and worth stomaching only when there are no women around.
  26. Reviewed by: Tom Gliatto
    Jan 27, 2014
    38
    In its zeal to avoid Johnny Depp-style silliness, any sense of pirate fun is lost at sea. [3 Feb 2014, p.44]
  27. Reviewed by: Maureen Ryan
    Jan 23, 2014
    30
    What's mystifying is why Starz and the creators of Black Sails seem to think that, given the expanding array of options available to consumers, any content creators can get away with peddling fare that can't even manage to be consistently mediocre.
User Score
7.7

Generally favorable reviews- based on 167 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 38 out of 46
  2. Negative: 6 out of 46
  1. Jan 27, 2014
    10
    This is really a decent pirate show... If you like the style and atmosphere of Starz's Spartacus series you'll certainly fall in love with this too - raw and real experience of a pirate's everyday life including brutality, violence, sex and nudity. Cast seems to be fine and especially Toby Stephens works quite well as Captain Flint. Visuals, music and costumes are amazing both on sea during the action as well as on the land. Big budget works pretty good and I have to admit that this shows looks very promising after the first episode.
    Hint: Don't take mainstream (full of unsound and empty arguments filled with "political correctness") reviews too seriously
    Full Review »
  2. Jan 25, 2014
    10
    I love the first episode, violence and sex. It could get worse and it could be better. There are some characters that are just not believable. I am looking forward to the next one. Full Review »
  3. Jan 25, 2014
    10
    This show is well worth your time. It's is bloody and savage. The main character is educated but brutal when he needs to be. He is very believable as a pirate captain. Full Review »