Black Sails parents guide: How graphic is the violence and nudity?

A spoiler-free explanation about the show's TV-MA age rating.
Photo: Max (Jessica Parker Kennedy)/Black Sails.. Courtesy Starz
Photo: Max (Jessica Parker Kennedy)/Black Sails.. Courtesy Starz /

All four seasons of Black Sails are now available to stream on Netflix, with the complete series officially dropping on the streaming service as of April 17. The Starz action-adventure series acts as a prequel to Treasure Island as Captain Flint and his crew of pirates fight to protect New Providence Island. It's an exciting series full of pirates, treasure, and war.

Given its premise and subject matter, as well as the fact that it's a premium cable series, Black Sails probably isn't going to be for every viewer. The show contains coarse language with its use of profanity, but that's merely scratching the surface of the content that isn't suitable for younger audiences, or even audiences who aren't fans of nudity, sex, or violence on TV.

Black Sails received a rating of TV-MA, which makes the series only appropriate for mature audiences. The rating was earned for gore, language, nudity, sex, smoking, and violence, according to its page on Netflix. Looking for more spoiler-free details on its rating? We're sharing just how explicit the nudity, sexuality, and violence is in the fan-favorite series before you watch.

Black Sails contains graphic female and male nudity

Throughout the series, there is explicit nudity and sexuality, though sometimes sex scenes don't feature nudity. The sex scenes depicted in Black Sails feature both heterosexual and homosexual couples. There are also instances of sexual situations involving three or more people.

The series contains both female and male rear nudity, as well as multiple instances of female topless nudity. Full frontal nudity happens in the show as well, again both male and female. There are at least three instances of male full frontal nudity from actors in the main cast, including Zach McGowan.

In February 2014, McGowan spoke about feeling liberated doing nude scenes and explaining that he became comfortable with full frontal and other nude scenes on a previous job (most likely referring to Shameless, which he appeared in as Jody from 2012-2013 before Black Sails and had a memorable scene in all his glory).

If you're watching the show for the first time and wondering whether the sexuality and nudity stays as prominent throughout the entirety of the series, the later seasons tone it down quite a bit in comparison. While nudity and sex scenes are still present in the story onscreen, it's less frequent and less graphic by the fourth and final season.

The violence is also graphic and sometimes gory

Along with the nudity and sexuality, the violence in the series is also severely graphic. Even the very first episode ends with an extremely brutal and bloody fight. There are close-ups of gore on many occasions and many of the violent scenes result in a character's death. It's not for the faint of heart.

Some viewers will find the level of gore different, as some will be more accustomed to seeing this level of violence depicted onscreen. Since the series centers on pirates, there are naturally sword fights, gun fights, fistfights, hangings, and other instances of violence involving male and female characters.

In addition to the above violent sequences, the series also features a number of scenes involving sexual violence and sexual assault. There are a handful of scenes, in the first season especially, that some viewers might find triggering to watch, so make sure to proceed with caution and fast forward as needed.

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

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