Lez get up to speed on Crossbones real quick, shall we? Crossbones is based on the book The Republic of Pirates by Colin Woodard. The NBC drama tells the story of Edward Teach, also known as Blackbeard, the presumed-dead pirate who’s alive and reigning over a secluded island of scoundrels and misfits. Played by John Malkovich, let’s first get it out of the way that his British accent could use some work, and that the show serves as a more subdued and civil pirate experience than, say, anything seen on cable. (Black Sails, anyone?)
As someone who struggles to stomach the likes of Game of Thrones, I rather enjoy being able to fulfill my pirate fetish without having to hide under a blanket cave to avoid graphic brutality. Most relevant to my interest though, is that Crossbones introduced a lesbian flirtation in the fourth and fifth episode. So I guess, I’m a little bummed that it’s not on cable.
The beginning of the show surrounds Blackbeard’s quest to find a navigation invention, the longitude chronometer, which, allows one to gauge a ships’ precise location. Something the pirates’ obviously don’t want to land in the hands of the British.
First seen as the doctor upon the HMS Petrel, upon attack of the ship British agent Tom Lowe (Robert Coyle) destroys the chronometer and burns the creator, Frederick Nightingale’s notebook before poisoning Nightingale himself. He explains that he can’t allow the invention or the inventor to fall into pirate hands. Pirates Nenna Ajanlekoko (Tracy Ifeachor) and Charles Rider (David Hoflin) bust through the door in time to rescue half of the burnt book. Lowe introduces himself as the ship’s “physician,” which then sets him up to become doctor to the pirates.
Lowe’s assistant, Fletch (Chris Perfetti), Nightingale and Lowe are taken onto the pirates ship, “The Devil’s Dominion.” At the dock, Kate (Claire Foy) directs distribution of the booty. Lowe later identifies her to Fletch as Lady Katherine Balfour, a “fugitive from justice” and guilty of high treason. Nenna and Charles give the broken chronometer and the burnt notebook to Selima El Sharad (Yasmine Al Massri), Blackbeard’s love interest.
Before being introduced to Blackbeard, in a flashback, Lowe is told of his assignment to “eliminate the pirate Blackbeard.” Lady Kate’s wheel-chair bound husband, James Balfour (Peter Stebbings) is eventually able to re-build a longitude chronometer and we are introduced to Rose (Natalie Hoflin), the island madam. Loyal to Blackbeard, Nenna steals a ruby from Rose and Rose plots to get her jewel back by rummaging through Nenna’s things only to get caught. Nenna threatens her but ultimately lets her go, which is obviously indicative of a love connection.
Episode 5, “The Return,” is built on flashback. Lowe is first seen being chased and shot at by Red Coats, which should be on his side. “Two weeks earlier” flashes onscreen as Fletch leads Lowe to a mysterious cave. Lowe discovers a laboratory and a vast supply of gunpowder which leads him to believe that Blackbeard, The Commodore, plans to attack the English. Unable to set it set it off without taking the town with it, Lowe decides it is out of his control and that he must instead return to Jamaica.
Often seeing visions, Lowe now back in The Commodore’s quarters tells the Commodore that his condition might be seen by some as demonic possession and that he needs a special instrument to drill a hole in the Commodore’s head. The Commodore brings Lowe a book that shows the procedure Lowe had described, and he tells Lowe that he’s going to let him go to Jamaica to retrieve the instrument.
In one of the most uncomfortable, tender (?) lady loving moments, Nenna digs up and presents treasure she has stolen from other pirates, seemingly as an offering to Rose. Rose coyly digs through her offering and nuzzles Nenna’s neck, threateningly telling her that she knows that there is more and that she wants all of it. Just before things get hot and heavy, they’re interrupted as The Commodore has asked for Nenna.
Nenna and Lowe take a ship to Cuba, where he goes off to do his mysterious business, while she does some of her own, meeting with a businessman who explains that he has a property that might interest her. First insulting her by telling her she’ll need a white man to run it followed by asking if she can read, Nenna ends up schooling him in the first glimpse into her character. “You think where I currently am is all I am, is where I ever shall be,” she accuses. “Do you know where I was born, do you know where I was raised? Do you know what I had to do to become free? No. To you, I am an unlearned girl, unschooled, unpracticed…”
She backs down and tells him the plantation is perfect, and tells him to acquire it for her before dumping a Santa Claus sized sack of treasure onto his table. He will later tell her that it’s not enough, and she will negotiate to get a bit more time to pull together the full amount. She asks how much more she will need, before assuring him that the property will be hers.
Both Nenna’s relationship with Rose and the property are so pregnant with intrigue, there’s no doubt her story arc will continue to blossom throughout the rest of season. Good thing too, because while everyone else seems to be engaging in trysts, the romance between Nenna and Rose is palpable and, lucky for us, just getting started.
Crossbones airs Fridays at 10/9c on NBC.