Image Credit: ‘Black Sails,’ Netflix/Starz

Stumbling onto a hidden gem TV show once it begins streaming on Netflix can feel like coming across buried treasure, so it’s fitting that the latest series to get the “Netflix bump” in popularity is the pirate drama Black Sails.

The adventure first aired on Starz back in 2014 and ran for four seasons. Part prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s lit classic Treasure Island, part historical fiction, the series drew from real people and places of the past to tell an epic story set during the “Golden Age Of Piracy” filled with sea-faring scallawags, scandal, and sex (it was a Starz show, after all!).

Black Sails ended its run in 2017, but nearly a decade after its premiere, its found a second life on Netflix, debuting on the platform this month—and quickly sailing into the streamer’s TV Top 10.

And as new fans of the show are coming to learn: The pirate life? Yup, it was pretty queer!

Black Sails: Gayer than you remember?

Not unlike Max’s more recent pirate comedy Our Flag Means Death, Black Sails uses the well-argued belief that homosexuality was common on the high seas as a jumping off point to explore a sort of fluid queerness in a number of its characters.

Of course, painting a portrait of LGBTQ+ characters during a unique period of world history wasn’t entirely the point of the show, but it’s notable how seamlessly same-sex attractions—and even a little gender f*ckery—were threaded into its many intersecting plot lines.

In simplest terms, Black Sails is set during a time when a sense of lawlessness ruled the oceans and the British colonial empire was hard at work trying to put an end to to it. The hub of all pirate life was the Bahamian island of New Providence—and the city of Nassau, in particular—where Captain Flint (Die Another Day‘s Toby Stephens) and his crew call home, and they’d do anything they had to to protect it.

After a young merchant sailor named John Silver (Luke Arnold)—whose name might ring a long bell, eh!?—has his ship overtaken by Flint’s pirate vessel The Walrus, he joins the crew, and becomes the audience’s eyes and ears aboard as they hunt for a legendary Spanish galleon.

Ever since its premiere, there’s been debate over whether Black Sails was just “queer-baiting.” And while it might not be a show that announces its themes outright, or even seeks to portray its characters as proudly queer individuals, it delves into how queerness informs their lives in thoughtful, complex ways.

Meet the queer pirates of Black Sails

Over the course of four seasons, the fearsome Flint is one of Black Sails‘ most fascinating characters. If you have read Treasure Island, you know it’s the infamous pirate’s long-buried treasure that the young Jim Hawkins is after, accompanied by a much-older Long John Silver.

But what you don’t learn in the 1883 novel is that Flint *minor spoiler alert for Black Sails* initially turned to a life of piracy because of his love for another man, Thomas Hamilton (Rupert Penry-Jones). The two had a passionate relationship, and it was Hamilton that introduced Flint to the paradise of Nassau—a place the sea captain would do anything to protect.

Image Credit: ‘Black Sails,’ Netflix/Starz

Another key queer relationship on Black Sails is that between Eleanor Guthrie (Bridgerton‘s Hannah New), a woman who oversees the flow of goods on New Providence, and Max (The Flash‘s Jessica Parker Kennedy) a sex worker on the island. Some have argued their entanglements were included just to excite certain straight male viewers, but at least the series was interdsted in sapphic, stories, too.

And then there’s Anne Bonny (Clara Paget), drawing from tales of a real-life female pirate who is said to have initially disguised herself as a man to join Calico Jack Rackham’s (Toby Schmitz) crew. Anne’s gender play storyline doesn’t go nearly as deep as nonbinary pirate Jim Jiminez (Vico Ortiz) on Our Flag Means Death, though she does explore her sexuality later in the series’ run.

Image Credit: ‘Black Sails,’ Netflix/Starz

Anyway, it’s no surprise that Black Sails is finding a whole new audience now that it’s on Netflix—after all, it’s full of hot people and booty—in more ways than one! But, come for the sexy pirate eye candy, stay for the impressively told stories of love, vengeance, and sexuality. Your buried treasure awaits!

Here’s what queer viewers have to say about Black Sails:

All four season of Black Sails are now streaming on Netflix. You can also watch the first episode for free via YouTube:

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