Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L. (emo_snal) wrote,
Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L.

Black Sails, Archer, and the Shadow of GOT

Black Sails
   I started watching the series Black Sails a few weeks ago on someone's recommendation here. I had watched an episode years ago but that particular episode involved no sailing or piracy and I'd written it off as a lame land based drama. Watching from the beginning I found there actually is a satisfying amount of sailing and piracy. I got through about half of Season 2 before I found I was usually more in the mood to re-watch Archer than the next episode of Black Sails.
   As a former tallship sailor, they had to measure up to a very high level of sailing accuracy for me and ... I'm pretty satisfied with it. Sailing was pretty accurately depicted, and the sail commands made sense, to a point. Clearly they had a sailing expert on hand as a consultant and they must have asked him "what can they yell now that would make sense?" and he gave them things but it was a bit unrealistic that they were always busy doing complex bits of re-rigging, when in fact a lot of the time once the sails are set they'd either be mostly idle or doing not so picturesque things like sanding / painting / stitching sails, etc.
   I was kind of annoyed that all the pirate captains other than the main characters are portrayed as goofy dandyish fops who if someone takes over their business meeting by talking out of turn look helpless. I don't really picture that kind of guy as a pirate captain and it seems very weird to me that they're portraying them as such. Also the whole storyline about the good guys being pirates because they just want what's best for the good people of Nassau really makes me roll my eyes.
   I feel like what really made me start to lose interest was when more than once it seemed like a major character was about to die, he was ruined and had been beaten to a pulp by minor characters, was lying on the ground as they pointed a gun at them, and I thought to myself "pfft, you're not Game of Thrones, he's not going to die" and sure enough, he miraculously kills all his attackers and gets away. I feel like that was the magic of Game of Thrones, it wasn't a particularly amazing story, the sex and nudity (after all Black Sails has that too), it was that they broke that sense of main characters being utterly invincible.

   Relatively recently the released a new season of Archer that takes place in space. After the last season, which took place on a Pacific island in the 30s, I wasn't sure I'd watch another season, but since I like most of the space series they were going to be parodying I decided to watch it. It was fairly alright, though I feel like each of the main characters has driven such a groove into their established behavior that they weren't very funny any more. After I finished the season I decided to watch the very first episode of Archer again to compare how it used to be.
   Normally I'm not a fan of re-watching anything. I watched the first and then the second episode of the first season of Archer and I was laughing out loud numerous times (which the recent seasons certainly haven't come close to causing). The characters are more nuanced in the first episode than they are in Season 9, which is probably the opposite of how it should be. In the beginning Archer himself is a _funny_ self centered asshole, in season nine he's just an asshole. Cheryl is a believable sort of crazy, not batshit bunkers as she's been for the past few seasons. Same thing with every other character, they began as believable and funny, they ended up such extreme versions of themselves its not funny any more. And also there were just, OTHER characters -- in Season Nine there is not a single reoccurring character beyond the core group of main characters, and the same has been true for the last few seasons.
   So it's become like a sitcom, we have these five actors and they're going to keep having "humorous" situations forever. Tying this into Black Sails above, that seems to be the problem with most shows, and I suppose practically speaking it relates to having actors on contracts and you either have them or you don't, but clearly GOT broke out of that mold, and clearly it worked for them. Instead of worshipping GRR Martin or paying the directors of GOT gazillions for new series (directors who, popular opinion seems to be in concensus that the last two seasons didn't live up to the standards of the series, and this period in the series also incidentally was a time when very few main characters died until the very last episode or two), perhaps other series should take note that making main characters actually vulnerable to dying might actually bring some tension into situations where they seem in danger...

Tags: media reviews

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