If you have to watch one Netflix show this April, stream this one

The cast of Black Sails.

The best thing about Netflix is that there’s almost never a shortage of new things to watch. In the first half of April, we’ve already seen the premiere of prominent original series including Ripley, Parasyte: The Grey, and Good Times, as well as the arrival of Sex and the City on loan from HBO and Max. But if you have to watch only one Netflix show this April, then the one you can’t miss is Black Sails.

In 2014, Starz launched Black Sails as an original series in the vein of Spartacus, as well as the short-lived Camelot. This was also a post-Game of Thrones TV landscape, and Starz wanted to make a splash of its own. Since HBO had a such death grip on the fantasy genre, Starz went ahead with a show that’s both a historical epic and also a prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic adventure novel Treasure Island. Even if you’ve never read Stevenson’s book, almost everyone has heard of its most iconic character, Long John Silver. And while hedoes play a large role in Black Sails, the primary focus is on a lesser-known character from Treasure Island: Captain James Flint.

A man stands close to a woman in Black Sails.

Flint doesn’t actually appear in Treasure Island, but it’s his treasure that everyone is after in that book. That gave Black Sail’ creators tremendous latitude to flesh out Flint’s identity and backstory while placing him among a number of original characters, as well as actual pirates who lived during that era. Black Sails doesn’t play like a history lesson, but having one foot in reality does add some weight to the drama.

If you’re expecting Pirates of the Caribbean-like whimsy, you won’t find it here. Black Sails is about as R-rated as TV dramas get. It’s perfect for Netflix viewers, and it may actually get a larger audience on this streamer than it ever got on Starz. But if you need more convincing, here are the reasons why you should watch Black Sails on Netflix in April.

Black Sails has an incredible cast of characters

The cast of Black Sails.

Toby Stephens leads the series as James Flint, with Luke Arnold as Long John Silver. Both men are very compelling, but this show also has an ensemble cast that serves its larger focus and the multiple stories its follow. Hannah New delivers a compelling turn as Eleanor Guthrie, the woman ostensibly in charge of the pirate sanctuary New Providence. By their very nature, pirates are difficult to control, and Eleanor’s grasp on power is almost always at risk of slipping away.

In addition to fleshing out the supporting characters, the show also ties them into the lives of the real pirates, including Anne Bonny (Clara Paget), who finds romance with a woman named Max (Jessica Parker Kennedy). In addition to Bonny, the show features Charles Vane (Zach McGowan), Jack Rackham (Toby Schmitz), William “Billy Bones” Manderly (Tom Hopper), Edward “Blackbeard” Teach (Ray Stevenson), and Israel Hands (David Wilmot). Almost all of those names are legendary in pirate lore, and it’s very enjoyable to see them play a part in the unfolding story of the show.

It features battles on the high seas

A ship is in dire straits in the season 2 premiere of Black Sails.

Black Sails may not have been able to match Game of Thrones in terms of sheer scale, but there are times when the show really goes for it with its action scenes. This series is particularly impressive during its ship battles, which don’t always end well for the pirates. There’s more than just the English Navy or rival pirates to worry about — the ocean itself can be deadly for the men at sea.

This show excels at getting the most drama out of its battles, and it might even make you question which characters are supposed to survive — because on Black Sails, even the real-life pirates aren’t necessarily guaranteed to come out alive.

Each season raises the stakes

Toby Stephens and Luke Arnold in Black Sails.

There have been some fans who take issue with the somewhat abrupt way that Black Sails ended, and it’s a point of division in the fan base. Regardless of where you fall on that, few could deny that the show did a masterful job of building its narrative over the course of its four-season voyage.

A lot of that comes down to Flint and Silver. Throughout the series, their fates are intertwined, and they need each other to survive. Even in the face of disaster, Silver and Flint still have common ground between them.

Watch Black Sails on Netflix.