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Crossbones Episode 1 Recap - The Devil's Dominion

Dan O'Halloran | 4 Jun 2014 20:45
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Lowe buys more time by dragging out the translation on the encrypted document and gets some expository banter with his frightened and generally witless assistant Fletch who Blackbeard appropriately dubs monkey boy. But Salima doesn't like the competition and sends in her goons VikingPirate, AfricanLadyPirate and HammerPirate to beat the translation key out of Lowe. Monkey Boy McPlotDevice brings Blackbeard in to rescue Lowe.

Blackbeard then threatens Lowe directly telling him that if he doesn't provide a translation immediately that Fletch will be the one that pays. Blackbeard explains that he understands physical torture won't work with Lowe as Salima had planned. Blackbeard studies people and Lowe's weakness is pride. If Fletch is tortured publicly and horrifically, and Lowe's cowardice in not stopping it were it to be known, it would devastate Lowe. "And if anyone knows how to spread a legend, it is I," Blackbeard tells Lowe in one of the few strong scenes in this show and a prime example of how Malkovich is its only saving grace.

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Lowe knows he has to kill Blackbeard now or never. He breaks into the stores of the pirates to retrieve a poison and sweet talks his way past Kate Balfour. When he enters Blackbeard's apparently unguarded chambers, the good pirate is engaged in...acupuncture. He gets horrible headaches and even worse visions (bloody ghosts!) Lowe offers him the encrypted book, a partial translation and the translation key along with a drink. Blackbeard, being no fool, drinks out of Lowe's cup instead of his own while Lowe is forced to drink out of the cup of wine he prepared for the pirate king. Did Lowe's only cleverness just cost him is life? Dum dum DUM! No, we see he poisoned not the wine, but the book and as Blackbeard reads it, he licks his fingers to turn the pages Name of the Rose-style.

Blackbeard falls deathly ill immediately while Lowe and Monkey Boy escape to find a conveniently-placed rowboat waiting for them to make their getaway now that the mission is complete. However, they overhear Salima meeting with an emissary from the King of Spain. Apparently, Blackbeard has bigger plans than just capturing the device. Lowe decides he needs to save Blackbeard to find out what the bigger plan is, though if he thought it through, whatever was in the works would likely die with Blackbeard himself. But he is determined to protect his monolithic and oppressive British Empire at all costs and rushes back to give Blackbeard the antidote.

In the coda meant to set up the rest of the season, Lowe goes skinny dipping with the feisty Kate Balfour (within sight of her crippled husband) and Blackbeard pronounces he doesn't know what to make of Lowe yet so he will keep him around. But will it keep audiences around? It premiered fairly well for a summer series (originally meant to start after Grimm ended its season run, but was bumped by the amazeballs second season of Hannibal), but I predict the viewing levels will trail off if the stories don't get markedly better.

The lead, played by Richard Coyle, is passable as daring action-adventure spy in colonial times, but we learn nothing of his past, how he came to be a colonial-era ass kicker or what motivates him to protect the clearly corrupt English Crown. The only things we learn are that he is prideful and lustful. Sounds like he would fit in with the pirates just fine, but other than an off-hand comment by Blackbeard to that effect, he is a one-dimensional Boy Scout.

The look of show is too bright and clean. This is a pirate town in the early 1700s, why do many of the scenes look like the sterile set of a soap opera? Where's the grittiness of the era in the look and feel of how this show is shot? Spoiler: there isn't any.

And that leaves only thing to tie all this together into something vaguely worth watching and that is John Malkovich's measured performance. He veers between exasperated patience and intense, barely-held-back violence with the ease of an actor of his caliber. If only he had better material to work with. This series simply isn't sea-worthy.

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