Review: Crossbones

Crossbones is a new NBC series starring John Malkovich as Blackbeard and set in the island of New Providence from where the pirate has been acting in secret. After watching Black Sails and loving it, I was excited to see this but I was completely and sadly disappointed.

You know I usually give TV series a 3-episode window to win me over or bore me to the point of annoyance, but I rather hammer nails into my feet than sit through another episode of this show.

First of all the premise is terrible. According to it, the British navy has come up with an overly complicated 18th century GPS but they fear pirates getting their hands on it. So they send in ‘Lowe, Tom Lowe’ on the ship it’s on to make sure they don’t get their hands on it and to erase all evidence. Oh, but that’s not all, Mr. Agent 00 has also been tasked with killing Blackbeard, who’s apparently hiding on New Providence island under a different name after his supposed death.

The series opens with pirates attacking the ship Ye Olde GPSe is on and Lowe destroying it and poisoning the engineer, but not exactly killing him. The pirates need the man so they spare Lowe’s life because he’s the ship’s doctor and he assures he can save the life of the man. By this point, I was already sniffing the faint stench of “this is too convenient.”

I looked just as bored by the end of the episode!
I looked just as bored by the end of the episode!

On New Providence, we’re immediately introduced to the rest of the players: the female administrator aka ‘The Love Interest’, Blackbeard Malkovich, his badass female cohort and a handful of interchangeable nameless pirates. Things quickly turn sour when the engineer dies and Lowe has only a couple of minutes to memorize the cipher to the engineer’s encrypted journal so he can once again save his neck.

At this point the series lost me, because I could already see how it was playing out: a ripoff of Black Sails. My brother in law made the comment that summarizes my experience with Crossbones, “Black Sails did it first and did it better.” From a stronger opening to better writing and characters, successfully mixing historical fact and Treasure Island fiction, Black Sails is the Pirate show you should watch, even without Malkovich.

Sadly, that’s what attracted me to Crossbones, “It’s a pirate show with Malkovich as Blackbeard!” I said excitedly to my sister and brother in law. But the truth is, John Malkovich sucks as Blackbeard, at least this depiction. He’s too passive and lacks energy and even looks bored with what’s happening. This might be nitpicky but: couldn’t they have given Malkovich an actual beard…or make it black?! Blackbeard doesn’t have a white goatee.

The only 'strong' moment in Malkovich's performance and it lasts about 20 seconds
The only ‘strong’ moment in Malkovich’s performance and it lasts about 20 seconds

I have often seen Richard Coyle in crappy direct-to-dvd films, so I wasn’t really impressed with his casting and he proved me right the moment he opened his mouth. He’s as convincing as Malkovich’s Blackbeard. In fact, you can accuse the entire cast of not being convincing enough. It’s almost as if they know the premise is terrible and can’t be bothered to even sell it right.

The series also looks considerably cheaper. It’s set on New Providence but you won’t see many open areas. Almost every scene takes place in small rooms and they make sure to crowd them in as much as possible, so you focus on the characters and not on the fact they’re in shoebox sets (that look like crap).

Crossbones is a bad series and I mean terrible on all fronts. Bad plot, terrible writing and subpar performances. If you’re into self-punishment, go for it, but I really recommend you stay the hell away.

The Mental Attic Score: OH HELL NO! Just stay away! If you want good Blackbeard on TV, go for James Purefoy’s Blackbeard



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I love everything readable, writeable, playable and of course, edible! I search for happiness, or Pizza, because it's pretty much the same thing! I write and ramble on The Mental Attic and broadcast on my Twitch channel, TheLawfulGeek

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