The premiere of NBC’s “Crossbones” shows a lot of promise for the summer series. It’s not perfect, but brought a good measure of entertainment to Friday night. The show stars John Malkovich as the famed pirate Blackbeard, retired from his days at sea.
The world being built in “Crossbones” finds Blackbeard serving as Commodore of The Devil’s Domion, an island ruled by pirates. In the premiere, he sends a group out to steal a revolutionary new invention that gives ships the ability to discover their precise location while at sea.
What he doesn’t know is the crown has placed someone undercover on the targeted ship as a doctor. Thomas Lowe has been tasked with killing Blackbeard, who was initially thought to already be dead. When the Commodore’s men take control of the ship, Lowe destroys the device and kills its inventor to keep it out of Blackbeard’s clutches.
The plans for the device survive and are confiscated, though they are encoded. With the inventor out of the picture, only Lowe has the key to decrypting the plans, making him a valuable commodity.
He agrees to decode the work, in exchange for being allowed to live. It’s all a matter of getting closer to Blackbeard, who doesn’t realize his true intentions. Lowe also meets Kate, the island’s quartermaster. She’s good looking, brash and likes to curse. Everything a guy is looking for in a woman.
On the other end of the spectrum, is the far less enchanting Selima, who’s a bit meaner than Kate, but works closely with Blackbeard. She doesn’t necessarily have his best interests in mind, though. Selima goes behind his back to torture the key to the code out of Lowe, but is caught before she can succeed.
In the end, Lowe realizes he has to kill Blackbeard as quickly as possible. He steals Kate’s key to the quartermaster’s warehouse, but she catches him in the act. She buys his story of searching for a cameo that features a picture of his wife and hands it over to him.
What she doesn’t realize is Lowe has hidden poison in the cameo. He uses it to poison Blackbeard and attempts to escape the island, however as he’s leaving Lowe spots an enemy of the crown. That’s when he realizes he can’t leave, because he needs to know why the man is there.
Suddenly, it dawns on Lowe that if he plans to stay, Blackbeard must live. Luckily, he’s got the antidote in the cameo as well. He runs to give it to Blackbeard, claiming that he believes the Commodore has fallen ill, rather than been poisoned. To keep him from helping, Selima shoots Lowe. Still, he gets the gun away from her and administers the antidote to save Blackbeard.
The entire situation presents a dilemma for the Commodore. He doesn’t know whether Lowe cured his sickness or poisoned him, then changed his mind. What he does know is his closest confidante was more bent on vengeance than letting him live.
For the time being, Lowe gets to live. How long that lasts remains to be seen. Hopefully, it’s long enough to explore whatever is happening between he and Kate. There are sparks between the two, now it’s time to let it develop. While Lowe is secretly there on behalf of the crown, it seems his loyalty could definitely be swayed.
It will also be fun to explore the link between Lowe and Blackbeard. Though he poses as leader of the island, more than once Blackbeard shows that the vicious monster he once was still exists. This is where Malkovich shines, playing both the even-tempered diplomat and the violent pirate.
The episode was a really good first chapter that sets up several questions to be answered throughout the summer. There are some areas that could use improvement, though. The fighting scenes need a bit of refinement. They’re plenty bloody and graphic, but the choreography is a bit too soft for a pirate story.
After the first episode of “Crossbones,” will you keep watching? Vote in the poll below.