Review: What NBC's CROSSBONES Gets Right and Doesn't…

With a heart full of excitement and hope, I was front and center for the premiere of NBC’s Crossbones, a pirate drama featuring a well-manned cast starring John Malkovich, Richard Coyle, Tracy Ifeachor, Yasmine Al Massri, and Claire Foy.  I mean, you couldn’t have found a more devout pirate fangirl than me.  There are days where I still dream about being a freaking pirate for God’s sake, and I don’t mean the pretty shit either.  By the time the hour was up, I felt hopeful, but slightly disappointed because pirates are such rich subject matter.  Plus, this is the network that has graced us with Hannibal.  They’ve got Mads Mikkelsen’s big shoes to fill, but I know they can.  They kinda sorta did… He’s why it’s complicated.

Being nerdy and black wasn’t always so fashionable, so I spent a lot of time reading copious amounts of books, and for awhile, I only read about pirates.  I was fascinated by Sir Francis Drake, Anne Bonnie, Mary Reed, Black Ceasar, Stede Bonnet, but none really captured as much fascination for me as Blackbeard.  I know a thing or two about the guy, so it’s fair to say that I had somewhat high expectations for Crossbones.  They didn’t quite meet them.  Notice I said “quite”.

What Crossbones Episode 1 Got Right:

Nenna and the Other Female Pirates:

One of the first pirates that we meet is Nenna (Tracy Ifeachor), a badass black woman pirate sporting a chic short ‘do and enviously sculpted biceps.  Oh, and she rocks a sword and fights with the best of them.  Matter of fact, she’s one of three female pirates holding it down on the show, and they all bring something unique to the show.  We didn’t see too much of her, but the fact that she’s badass enough to rock with Blackbeard was enough to prove that she deserves to be there.  I do hope they delve into each woman’s backstory at some point.  I would love to know more.

John Malkovich as Blackbeard

John Malkovich brought a certain je ne sais quoi to the show, a slow burning sultriness and sensuality that masked a deep intelligence at war with the capacity for stunning cruelty.  He’s an excellent choice for the role.

An Air of Adventure

Despite some of the more troublesome aspects of the show, they definitely got the ambience correct when it came  to capturing life in a Caribbean country in the time golden age of piracy.  They captured a place that was at odds identity wise because there were so many different cultures in one place.

Richard Coyle is Everything

Richard Coyle is Tom Lowe, the swashbuckling, utterly duplicitous, and roguish British spy tasked with taking out Blackbeard.  Coyle does a bang up job of finding a way to MacGuyver his way out of shit on the reg; being a sort of the James Bond of pirates.

Oh, and he can basically have my panties.  So there’s that…

What Crossbones Got Wrong

Here’s where I say this with love.  I like the show, but I know I could LOVE the show if they didn’t play their cards so early in the game.  Also, they should know going into it that having a Blackbeard without, well, a beard, was going to be amass a substantial amount of doubters.  Fine, he doesn’t have his eponymous beard, but we need a little more fearsome.  Right now, he’s entirely too nice.

Another issue I have with the pilot  is the unwillingness to take some real risks to start.   Everything was just so and because of that, things had a tendency to get slightly boring in some parts.  Add to that the little love story they have brewing between characters, and I start to lose interest.  There’s no love on the seas when you’re robbing and stealing from one of the greatest empires.

Also the machine at the root of all this intrigue really doesn’t seem all that vital to the story.  There were other directions the showrunners could have gone with the story, still keeping Lowe as the British spy, and a host of locations and historical intrigues the producers could have used as a good base for the story moving forward, but people are risking their lives for what’s just a really advanced clock.  I’m not convinced that was the best route.