Skip Navigation

TV Reviews

MPAA Rating
John Malkovich as Edward 'Blackbeard' Teach; Yasmine Al Massri as Selima El Sharad; Richard Coyle as Tom Lowe; Claire Foy as Kate Balfour; David Hoflin as Charlie Rider; Tracy Ifeachor as Nenna Ajanlekoko; Chris Perfetti as Tim Fletch; Julian Sands as William Jagger
Paul Asay


Avast, me buckos! Allow me ter fill yer heads with a chantey sung by no other than NBC, that scalawag of a network found cross the seven seas. Yet I'll warn ye, it's a tale that might just shiver thee timbers.

Crossbones recollects a mate named Edward Teach, tho' ye might remember him better as Blackbeard. Now, Blackbeard was a real-life buccaneer, known fer tying lit fuses on his facial hair to scare the thunder out of his enemies. But don't be confusin' that Blackbeard with this televised chap. Elsewise, ye'll get keelhauled in yer pirate history final at school. This pirate (played by a Mr. John Malkovich, a landlubber of some renown in Hollywood or some such) has a gray beard, of all things, and was thought to be dead by the British Empire. But somehow he shook free of Davy Jones' locker and built a kingdom of his own on a super-secret Caribbean island filled with piles of booty and the scurviest cast o' souls to be found on the Spanish Main.

It's on this lecherous, grog-sloshed slab that Tom Lowe has come ashore. Tom is no pirate, mind ye. He's a British spy pretending ter be a ship surgeon. A scalawag named William Jagger planted Tom aboard a ship carrying a thunderously advanced chronometer—sort of an 18th-century GPS device for ye swabs not as eddycated as me—knowing Blackbeard would make a play for the thing. And indeed he did, and now Tom's on Blackbeard's island, biding his time 'til he can learn about the pirate's schemes and kill, on his Majesty's orders, the scurvy corsair.

But as the days wear on, Tom's allegiances fray like a Jolly Roger, and he begins to wonder just who the good mates really are. I say maybe it's none! Tom's bosses certainly seem a villainous lot, and pirates are, by nature, bilge rats, prone to slicing first and making inquiries later. Here cutlasses slash through soft skin and draw rivers o' blood, by the hand of both women and men. But it's not just that sort o' scurvy behavior that fills this show with bilgewater. Wenches splash in the sea without a stitch o' cloth on 'em and writhe in beds with no pure intention. When there's discussion of the Almighty above, the conversation is often far from square. And when these characters parlay about anything else, sometimes they swear like, well, pirates. Fittin', that, but not so fine, to be sure.

Lookin' at Crossbones through me one good eye, methinks it a miserable pursuit, not fit for lad nor lass. I'd never say something should be keelhauled or swung from the nearest yardarm—I'm a peaceable swab, I am. But should ye choose to cast yer spyglass in even the general direction o' Crossbones, ye best batten down the hatch.

Episode Reviews

"The Devil's Dominion"

By design, Tom and his assistant, Fletch, fall into Blackbeard's clutches, a man rumored to spit on the cross, eat "the flesh and marrow of infants" and even be the devil himself. (Blackbeard admits that "not all those unflattering legends about me are untrue.") The pirate slashes open a man's throat (which Tom cauterizes by pouring gunpowder on the wound and setting fire to it). Another man's throat is cut, while others are stabbed and shot. (We frequently see blood spurt or stain.) Men are beaten severely and/or tortured (with fire). A pirate is hanged, his sweaty face turning purple and his eyes bulging out before a British officer stabs him in the chest. (We see the blade come through his back.) Someone's choked unconscious, then thrown into the sea. Blackbeard sees a vision of a woman bleeding from her eyeballs.

A lady swims naked. (We see her from a distance and wrapped in a towel.) Blackbeard is attended by three naked women in bed. (We see bare backs as they caress and kiss him.) Sexual double entendres are lobbed; sexual threats are made.

Blackbeard and Tom discuss God, the pirate saying he believes God to be a watchmaker now merely observing the world as it winds down. The spy says he fears God but has no love for Him. Folks drink wine. They lie. They pair God's name with "d‑‑n," and then add in a few more uses of "d‑‑n" and "a‑‑."