Netflix's latest show is ‘Game of Thrones’ with pirates — and it's perfect for binge-watching

(L-R) Tom Hopper as William Manderly, Toby Stephens as Captain Flint, Mark Ryan as Hal Gates and Luke Arnold as Long John Silver in Black Sails now streaming Netflix
(Image credit: AJ Pics / Alamy Stock Photo / Starz)

The debut of “Game of Thrones” in 2011 changed the television landscape, and in the wake of HBO’s epic fantasy series, a whole load of imitators appeared hoping to strike gold of their own. Many of these were highly forgettable, but one that left an impression was “Black Sails.” 

This historical series set during the Golden Age of Piracy premiered on the Starz network in January 2014 and enjoyed a successful four-season run before concluding in April 2017. Earlier this week (Wednesday, April 17), the complete series of “Black Sails” arrived on Netflix, and with 38 episodes in total, it’s the perfect pick if you’re looking for something relatively meaty to binge-watch.  

The show’s Netflix debut has sparked a fresh wave of interest in the very-grown-up series — like “Thrones”, swearing and nudity are common in “Black Sails” — so if you’re looking to hop on deck and set sail into a world of cutthroat piracy, here’s all the details you need... 

What is ‘Black Sails’ about?  

“Black Sails” is a prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson's “Treasure Island” with the events of the show taking place two decades before the classic novel. 

Taking place in the early 18th century, in the city of Nassau on New Providence island in the Bahamas, “Black Sails” follows Captain Flint (Toby Stephens) and his crew of pirates as they look to evade the authorities, plunder as much loot as possible and go down in history as the most feared pirate gang of all time. Throughout the crew’s many quests, there’s plenty of bloodshed and salty-sea adventures to enjoy. And there’s a whole load of cursing too!

The show’s first season sees Flint and his allies on the hunt for a Spanish treasure galleon known as the Urca de Lima. Along the way, Flint brushes shoulders with real-life pirates including Jack Rackham (Toby Schmitz), Charles Vane (Zach McGowan), Anne Bonny (Clara Paget) and Blackbeard (Ray Stevenson), as well as many fictional characters including Long John Silver (Luke Arnold). 

Here’s what critics say about ‘Black Sails’ 

“Black Sails” debuted to good reviews back in 2014. The show holds a respectable 81% score on Rotten Tomatoes. However, it was season 2 that received the most praise. The sophomore season holds a 100% rating on the review aggregation site.  

“Black Sails is a dark and complex tale that is not afraid to explore why these pirates are so desperate,” said James Rampton of the Independent. Meanwhile, Luke Holland of the Guardian labeled the show “tense” and “rewarding” and praised its “underdog” spirit. 

Robert Lloyd of the Los Angeles Times was also largely positive about the show’s first season: “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. These things draw you in as much as the slow-blooming intrigue.”

However, Variety’s Brain Lowry was less impressed with the show’s debut season arguing that “Black Sails never quite takes off, developing into a tired treasure hunt with indifferent casting and stock characters.” Although, many critics do argue the show improves in later seasons, so don't jump overboard after just a few episodes.  

Should you stream ‘Black Sails’ on Netflix? 

If you’re looking for a Netflix show with multiple seasons that you can get lost in then “Black Sails” fits the bill perfectly. Its reputation among fans is as strong as ever, and it taps into the same compelling mix of character-driven drama and big-budget spectacle that made “Game of Thrones” such a juggernaut series in the 2010s. 

Of all the “Thrones” imitators, “Black Sails is arguably the best to date, and its arrival on Netflix should bring the show a fresh wave of popularity. Plus, with the finale in the can already, you can watch without fear of unresolved plot points or a weak ending (unlike "Thrones", the final episode of "Black Sails" was warmly received). 

Meanwhile, if you want even more Netflix options, the streaming service has just got one of the best spy thriller shows of all time, so you’re spoilt for choice right now. 

More from Tom's Guide

Rory Mellon
Entertainment Editor (UK)

Rory is an Entertainment Editor at Tom’s Guide based in the UK. He covers a wide range of topics but with a particular focus on gaming and streaming. When he’s not reviewing the latest games, searching for hidden gems on Netflix, or writing hot takes on new gaming hardware, TV shows and movies, he can be found attending music festivals and getting far too emotionally invested in his favorite football team. 

  • Fox Tread3
    April 18, 2024 - This is a TV series that I would give four out of five stars, (I reserve five stars for classics like Game of thrones, and Lord of the Rings productions). Black Sails in my opinion is the silver standard that so few TV series or even films match. The acting, directing, writing and plot are of the very best. There are some characters that I like more than others, but the actors playing them are top notch. My particular favorite is Toby Schmitz as Jack Rackham, other than that character, my next favorite is Clara Paget as Anne Bonny. The plot over four seasons makes sense and is believable. I also feel that the final episode gives a lot of "closure" that fans will appreciate. I never got tired of the intro scene and music at the beginning of each episode. The music may or may not, (you decide), be as stirring as the Game of Thrones, but the sculptures in ivory(?), are certainly interesting and dramatic. I really liked this series, I'm glad it ended on a high note, and that Netflix is offering it on their service. If there is a demand to resurrect the series, I can only hope that it will be of the same quality of the original series.
  • SirDigitalKnight
    We do not see it listed anywhere on the Netflix App. It would be nice if you listed exactly where it is available to view as not everyone that visits your website lives in the same part of the world. Thank you.
  • Fox Tread3
    SirDigitalKnight said:
    We do not see it listed anywhere on the Netflix App. It would be nice if you listed exactly where it is available to view as not everyone that visits your website lives in the same part of the world. Thank you.
    Ahhh.. yes.. the great "Regional divide":rolleyes: I have feeling that the person that wrote the article is thinking in terms of the U.S., or, heaven forefend, Canada. So my fellow British cousin and member of the former British Empire. You may have to wait for Netflix to offer the series in you country and/or area. I would like to think that anyone interested in adult entertainment, and, may even be pretty broad minded as to the relationships portrayed in the series. Will have an opportunity to watch what I think is a really good series. Wishing you the best, and as us old Trekkies say.. "Live long and prosper!🖖🏻"😊