Black Sails: The Complete Second Season begins where we left off, as the Walrus crew is stranded with an army of Spanish soldiers standing between them and the precious Urca gold. And with their crimes against their brethren no longer a secret, Flint and Silver must join forces in a desperate bid for survival. Meanwhile, Eleanor Guthrie struggles to maintain her grip on Nassau, as a new breed of pirate arrives in the form of Ned Low, a man for whom violence isn't just a tool...it's a pasttime.
As blood is spilled, and tensions mount, Charles Vane must decide which he values more; Eleanor's life, or the respect of his men. And unbeknownst to all of them, a prize of immeasurable value has already been smuggled onto the island...one whose discovery will alter the very landscape of their world, and force everyone in Nassau toward the ultimate judgment: are they men, or are they monsters?
I was surprised how much I enjoyed Season One of Starz's 'Black Sails' when I first took a look at it earlier this year. I also tend to be wary of anything that airs on the Starz network, as they have a bad history of canceling shows after just one or two seasons. But since Season Three is already shot and ready to premiere in 2016, viewers can sit back and enjoy what turns out to be a second season that is even more action filled and entertaining than the first.
When we last left the former Captain Flint (Toby Stephens), he was stranded on a beach after losing his ship to a Spanish vessel. He's also learned, however, that the gold he and his crew (who now want to hang him for his crimes) were looking for is also not far from his location on the beach. Flint soon decides, however, that the real prize for himself and the crew he hopes to win back is not the gold but rather the large Man O'War Spanish ship not far off the coast. Teaming up with new ally John Silver (Luke Arnold), Flint comes up with a plan to capture the vessel for himself and spends the first couple of episodes devising a plan that will lead to him being captain of his men once again.
Season Two also spends a good deal of time in flashback sequences that relay how Flint came to be in command of a group of pirates to begin with. We see a younger Flint (also played by Stephens) being enlisted to aid wealthy aristocrat Thomas Hamilton (Rupert Penry-Jones), who hopes to rid the Bahamas of its piracy problem. These flashbacks fill in a lot of the gaps about how Flint became the man we now know in the series.
The other characters in 'Black Sails' aren't having a great time of it either. New Providence Island's consortium chief Eleanor Guthrie (Hannah New) has her hands full when a new, ruthless pirate named Ned Lowe (Tadhg Murphy) arrives in Nassau and makes it quite clear that he isn't going anywhere unless someone forces him out. This leads to Eleanor having to make an uneasy alliance with the equally brutal, but perhaps more trustworthy pirate Charles Vane (Zach McGowan), who, in turn, will eventually have to chose between loyalty toward Eleanor and loyalty towards his own men's interests.
Lest we forget about him, that rascally Jack Rackham (Toby Schmitz) is still around and still spending his days as a brothel owner in Nassau. However, Jack is not the most popular man in town these days, as word has gotten around that he killed members of his own crew. Jack is also suspicious of a new sexual relationship that has developed between his girlfriend Anne Bonny (Clara Paget) and brothel worker Max (Jessica Parker Kennedy). Jack suspects that Max is using Anne to turn her against him, so he decides to propose an alliance between all three of them – one that will involve obtaining a new ship and a new crew and heading back to the high seas.
One of the coolest things about Season Two is how it seems to be such a smooth continuation of the first season. Little, if any, time is spent trying to bring the audience back up to speed or playing to viewers who didn't see the first batch of episodes. I think the chemistry between the actors is a lot better this season as well, particularly the relationship that develops between Captain Flint and John Silver. This season doesn't skimp on the action either. After the premiere episode last season, a big chunk of the episodes were landlocked. There's a lot more at-sea fun this time around, and a lot more going on in Nassau as well.
I gave Season One a high recommendation and feel the same about this Season Two set. This is really one of the better shows on television right now and isn't getting anywhere near the buzz or attention that it deserves. Even if you're not into pirates or period pieces, you should give 'Black Sails' a look…it's really entertaining stuff.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
The packaging for Season Two matches the design for Season One. In other words, it's pretty awful. Once again the three 50GB Blu-rays are housed inside the super-tight sleeves of a five-sided glossy cardboard fold-out which slides inside a slipcase with a lenticular 3D cover. The discs are so tightly packed in each sleeve it's nearly impossible to get them out without getting fingerprints on them, and it's even a challenge not to bend or rip the cardboard sleeves themselves. About the only thing nice I can say about this design is that it won't take up much space on your shelf.
There are two inserts in this release: one containing a code for an UltraViolet copy of Season Two, and the other a promo for Season Three, which comes to Starz in 2016. The first Blu-ray in the set is front-loaded with promo trailers for Season Three of this series and for Power, which also airs on Starz. The main menu is a montage of footage from Season Two, with menu selections across the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-rays in this release are Region A locked.
'Black Sails' is shot digitally using Arri Alexa digital cameras, and each episode on this set is presented in its original television aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The picture quality here is quite stunning when the scenes are outside and in the daylight: full of detail, color, and depth. It's when the show goes indoors or does nighttime footage that it suffers a bit. As I mentioned in my Season One review of the video, the filmmakers appear to take advantage of as much natural lighting as possible, so scenes shot on sets and or at night come across as a bit flat, with black levels suffering just a tad as a result. Season Two also continues the 'shaky cam' style of Season One, which I suppose adds some realism to those shots at sea, but can become a distraction on dry land.
Overall though, these episodes look quite good in HD, and don't suffer from any major glitches such as obvious aliasing, banding, or excessive noise.
The featured audio for each episode is an English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track that comes across as absolutely stunning in its performance. For starters, while the dialogue is primarily all up-front, it's delivered cleanly and distinctly and properly balanced with the sounds (both soundtrack and ambient) around it. However, it's the immersive quality that makes these episodes so much fun to hear. Whether it’s the noises of the waves splashing up against the ship, the boom of cannon fire, or just the murmuring of people in a crowded bar or on one of the town streets, the lossless tracks make you feel like you're surrounded by and involved in the world presented on screen. Directionality is present as well, and really fun to hear during some of the ship battles and bigger action sequences that take place during the course of these 10 episodes. As far as any glitches, I didn't notice a single dropout or hint of muddiness to this reference-quality audio. It's easily the most appealing part of this release.
In addition to the lossless track, 2.0 Dolby Digital tracks are available for each episode in Spanish and French. Subtitles are available in English SDH and Spanish.
Note: All of the bonus materials listed below are contained on the third disc in this release.
Season Two of 'Black Sails' doesn't tread water off the success of the first season and provides viewers with a sophomore run that is in every way more entertaining and more action-packed than the first time around. The visuals are impressive, the stories are engaging, and the actors are building up some wonderful chemistry with each other. It all adds up to some great fun on the high seas and is highly recommended.