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'Crossbones' premiere leaves us feeling a bit adrift

The premiere episode of NBC’s swashbuckling Crossbones, which stars John Malkovich as the pirate Blackbeard, had enough slit throats for a slow episode of Game of Thrones but wasn’t as sharply scripted. It’s a pity, because the premise is promising.

Assassin Tom Lowe (Richard Coyle) is tasked with posing as a ship’s surgeon so he can accompany the inventor of a Longitude Chronometer to London, where the man is expected to present the device — which allows ships to calculate their precise location while at sea — to the king. Knowing Blackbeard will try to intercept the chronometer, the governor of Jamaica (a wild-haired Julian Sands) gives Lowe his real assignment: Kill Blackbeard. Was it clever to reveal that order after we watched pirates attack, Lowe destroy the device, poison the inventor, and singe the cipher so he would be brought to Blackbeard’s island to keep the maker alive? Yes. But it also meant the episode made us wait 12 minutes until Malkovich spoke a line and formally introduced himself by slashing a man’s neck.

The action sequences will never be able to compete with what cable audiences are used to. Lead with your strength, and that’s Malkovich playing eccentric (like saying, “You send me a boy? That’s novel” when Lowe’s squire Fletch, played by Chris Perfetti, interrupts Blackbeard’s orgy) or spewing a vitriolic monologue without a breath (like when he’s threatening someone or talking politics). I wonder if they ever thought about opening the series with Blackbeard having a conversation while having all those acupuncture needles in his skull. Yes, Lowe would need to see them eventually so he could claim it was Blackbeard’s illness that had the Commodore, as he prefers to be called, on his deathbed floor later, but that image would’ve grabbed you. READ FULL STORY

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