Black Sails ending before season 5 was the producers' choice (and it was the right one)

Photo: Jack Rackham (Toby Schmitz)/Black Sails.. Courtesy Starz
Photo: Jack Rackham (Toby Schmitz)/Black Sails.. Courtesy Starz /

As Netflix continues to license more content from other studios and streamers, one of its best gets sailed onto our watch lists in April 2024. All four seasons of the fan-favorite Starz action-adventure series Black Sails officially dropped on Netflix on April 17 after being teased to be coming to the streamer earlier in the year.

The period drama series centering on pirates first made its premiere on the small screen back in January 2014, which means that as of its arrival on Netflix, the show has celebrated its 10th anniversary. While Black Sails never seemed to attain the kind of popularity of shows of similar ilk, it's definitely a cult favorite that's sure to be rediscovered as well as discovered by a whole new audience. (For new viewers, here are a few content warnings.)

Unfortunately, some viewers will find the series run to be a bit short, with only four seasons and 38 total episodes. That's in line with the amount of episodes original streaming series these days, but if you're enjoying the series, you will be wondering why Black Sails season 5 never happened. As it turns out, the show wasn't canceled; the producers opted to end the series.

Black Sails ended on its own terms

Because Black Sails was designed as a prequel to Treasure Island from inception, the creators and producers behind the show had a set vision for where the story would go and ultimately end. While as viewers we definitely want more from our favorite shows, it's an art for a creator to know when to deliver a satisfying conclusion as a story reaches its natural end rather than continuing just to continue.

In July 2016, Starz announced that the fourth season of the series would be the last for the show and there wouldn't be a fifth season, which surely inspired disappointment in some fans at the time. You never want your favorite shows to end because that means that thing you love will be going away. However, Black Sails ending was a very clear distinction between being "canceled" and ending on its own terms.

Here's what the co-creator and executive producer told Deadline:

"It’s a rare privilege in television to be given the kind of creative freedom we’ve enjoyed on this show over the last four years. While it was a difficult decision for us to make this season our last, we simply couldn’t imagine anything beyond it that would make for a better ending to the story nor a more natural handoff to Treasure Island. We’d like to thank Chris, Carmi and everyone at Starz for all their faith and support, and to our astounding cast and crew for joining us on this ride."

Jonathan E. Steinberg, co-creator

Since the series finale aired in April 2017, fans of the show have praised not just the final episode but the series as a whole for having a satisfying ending. As television watchers, we have seen too many series finales that leave a bad taste in our mouths for the series. (You totally just named a few series right off the top of your head, didn't you?)

To mirror what Steinberg said about the difficult decision to wrap up with season 4, knowing when it's time to land the plane is smart. Sure, if the show brings in decent ratings and the fans are still loving it, why not make another season or two? On the other hand, if you have also told the story you wanted tell, you run the risk of creating subpar seasons that tarnish the show's legacy thereafter.

For Black Sails to have a definitive beginning and ending, that's an accomplishment that shouldn't be undercut by the fact that, in comparison to other television shows, four seasons and 38 episodes isn't much. For the show to also have a series finale that's lauded by fans might be a bigger rarity. If you want more, you never know. This world could be revisited one day. But if not, you can always rewatch the series knowing that it doesn't leave us on a frustrating cliffhanger.

All four seasons of Black Sails are currently available to stream on Netflix.

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