This isn’t a terrible show by any means. It’s shot in gorgeous locations, has astonishingly detailed sets and costumes and features an avalanche of British acting talent as well as David Hoflin, a Swedish actor with an Eric Northman vibe (Yay!). The story is interesting but a great deal of the action is cerebral in nature, battles of wits, etc. The language employed in the dialogue is superb and I’m so pleased they do not underestimate the viewer’s acumen or vocabulary. But for all this show has going for it, its weak point is oddly enough its highest billed star John Malkovich. When he was younger, Malkovich was a master of playing scary smart villains (see Con Air) but as of late his talents have been blossoming in comedy (see the RED movies). He’s just better at being funny now, so his performance as the evil incarnate pirate Blackbeard makes the character seem a bit ridiculous. You shouldn’t ever be able to snicker at Blackbeard but it’s hard not to when Malkovich gives him an effeminate accent and tries to menace people with a head full of acupuncture needles.
Fortunately the real main character is not Blackbeard but Tom Lowe, a British agent of some sort on a mission from the Crown, posing as a surgeon to infiltrate Blackbeard’s island republic, Santa Compaña. The good doctor is played brilliantly by Richard Coyle and oh happy day, we also have Claire Foy playing the wife of an exiled Scottish nobleman. There’s a rich cast of characters like Nenna, a stunning woman who is also a cut-throat pirate and talented thief, and the somewhat inept surgeon’s assistant, Mr. Fletch. I also particularly enjoyed seeing Julian Sands as the vindictive William Jagger. Lots of plots and subplots are nicely juggled by the narrative and there’s enough of interest going on to keep me watching.
Unfortunately, a show about pirates implies plenty of action, but as I must reiterate, much of it in this one plays out in the minds of the two leads. One character even points this out as Blackbeard and Lowe walk side by side on a beach, saying it may look like they’re not doing anything, but make no mistake, they’re two sharks circling each other. But despite this attempt to “hang a lantern on it” (“A screenwriting device where special emphasis is put on an obvious narrative flaw, so as to render it invisible.” – http://hangalanternonit.blogspot.com/), doing so certainly doesn’t make the fault more entertaining. Amongst the other characters there’s also lots of maneuvering and double-crosses, as well as not one but two very predictable love triangles. The writers try to add interest by having everyone chasing after a mechanical device that would allow ships to “navigate this great emptiness with a precision never before known”, and thus avoid pirates like Blackbeard and other hazards.
I was four episodes in when I first wrote this and I’ll admit that I nearly gave up after the pilot. I only carried on out of morbid fascination and also because I hate it when people write reviews after only watching a single episode. Worthwhile but with quite a few flaws (such as historical inaccuracy and the aforementioned difficulty with the character of Blackbeard), this was cancelled after one season, so we’ll never know how it all turned out. – BETHANY
For more on Crossbones, visit: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2400631/?ref_=nv_sr_1
Edward Teach, a.k.a. Blackbeard, as “Commodore” of a pirate republic.
Tom Lowe (Richard Coyle) and Mr. Fletch (Chris Perfetti).
Filming on location in Puerto Rico (image courtesy of http://www.thelocationguide.com)
What all the fuss is about. It looks very steampunk, doesn’t it?
Yasmine Al Masri as Selima El Sharad, an agoraphobic scholar who seems to have a Stockholm syndrome relationship with Blackbeard.
Nenna Ajanlekoko (Tracy Ifeachor), who’s very quick to draw a blade.
Charlie Rider (David Hoflin, center), Blackbeard’s second in command.
Rose, one of Santa Compaña’s ladies of the night (played by Natalie Hoflin, real life spouse of David Hoflin, above).
Claire Foy as Kate Balfour.
Julian Sands as William Jagger.
I came to the small screen only to get cancelled?
Photos courtesy of P + M Image Nation, Mr. Cross, Universal Television and NBC