Brimming with a proclivity for the utmost tenderness despite its inherent, bone-deep silliness, Our Flag Means Death Season 2 returns, stronger than before. Season 1 had its definite charm but this tale of piracy and foundational queer spaces hits its peak in the second season of the HBO series. Created by David Jenkins, this historical, farcical, rom-com continues to flourish in its ability to play beyond the confines of genre, resulting in a series unyieldingly heartfelt and hilarious.
Our Flag Means Death Season 2 picks up where Season 1 left off, our two would-be romantic partners, Stede Bonnet (Rhys Darby) and Blackbeard (Taika Waititi) on something of a break. While Stede is actively yearning for Blackbeard’s return with the remaining members of his crew not taken in by Blackbeard, Blackbeard is mourning the supposed breakup after being abandoned by Stede. There’s palpable despair in the early episodes as Blackbeard takes his turmoil out on his crew, including Jim (Vico Ortiz), Frenchie (Joel Fry), Izzy (Con O’Neill), Fang (David Fane), and more.
The series hasn’t forgotten that it is, first and foremost, a comedy, but these moments on the ship as Ed/Blackbeard wreaks havoc on other ships — namely, ones celebrating the nuptials of happy couples — linger with searing desperation. The crew is haunted by their actions, as Izzy tries and fails to speak to any lingering humanity Blackbeard possesses, with the latter succumbing to near-suicidal pursuits. The culmination of the first few episodes comes to a head in the excellent Episode 3, as it’s able to find the comedy in the emotional moments and vice versa as Blackbeard contents with a scene of deep introspection, anchored by a superb Kate Bush needle drop, and contrasted with one of the funniest images you’ll see on TV this year.
The series continues to prove that this is Waititi at his very best, imbuing his character with the expected, off-the-cuff delivery and vocal inflections while also doubling down on the pain Blackbeard has endured. While Waititi has been hilarious in other ventures, such as the films What We Do in the Shadows and little-seen Boy, Our Flag Means Death is the actor at his best, as he engages with a character who is emotionally volatile, petty, and in a self-imposed version of purgatory that is demonstrative of shocking pathos.
But the entire cast is amazing, with a deep felt camaraderie that makes group scenes and the standout episode “Calypso’s Birthday” (one of the best episodes of TV this year period) sing. Darby continues to play Stede with the right amount of sincerity that allows his less self-aware moments to work, while he also is given moments in Season 2 that recall the character origins of which he’s still trying to escape the lingering remnants of, seeking poised strength despite his lack of skill in actual piracy. Ortiz is allowed a greater level of playfulness as Jim, demonstrating a commanding screen presence, while O’Neill might be the series’ greatest secret weapon as Izzy, with some of the most poignant moments of the series.
As for newcomers, Our Flag Means Death Season 2 works to further expand the world with the addition of notable female pirates. Minnie Driver appears as the real-life Irish pirate Anne Bonny, but it’s Rubio Qian who makes the greatest impression as Queen of the Pirates. With an off-kilter charisma reminiscent of Emma Stone, she’s a bright addition to the cast, commanding any scene she’s in and always leaving us wanting more as she interacts with more of the larger cast.
While the season lacks a real, narrative push for a straightforward storyline, more involved with their emotional journeys and clearly using the structure to spend more time with them, it works for the series as a whole and its tone. It’s not a lack of narrative structure but more a reconfiguring of it — Stede and his crew don’t have an ultimate goal, beyond Stede’s want to reunite with Blackbeard and a loose concern with notoriety. Instead, and here’s the real profound beauty of the series, it’s concerned mainly with the necessity of safe spaces found in all corners of the world, time and expectations be damned.
Season 2, beyond its greater production value seen both on scenes on the ship along with ones on land, especially those awash with vibrant, green landscapes, solidifies itself as something special. It takes the idea of found family and runs with it, the idea of seeking out and finding ground, no matter how rudderless and adrift at sea, that celebrates and nurtures queer spaces. The LGBTQ+ representation in the series is notable — it’s made more noteworthy by how it reaches beyond the main couple to depict as much of the queer experience as possible, through the visage of piracy which lends itself to that found family element. There’s a clear celebration in the tone of the series, again, most notable in “Calypso’s Birthday,” and it doesn’t so much define Our Flag Means Death as it elevates all of which already made it special.
Our Flag Means Death Season 2 is as hilarious as it is emotionally honest, with only a few stumbles as it eases into the final passage of the season’s story. Dripping with romance, and joyfully written to allow each character’s moments to shine, the series continues to improve by allowing the natural charisma and magnetism of certain characters to play out naturally, while expanding the world and viewpoints of the characters living in it. Our Flag Means Death Season 2 goes beyond simply being better than its predecessor and makes the case for it being one of the best comedies on TV in years.
Our Flag Means Death Season 2 premieres October 5 on HBO Max
Our Flag Means Death Season 2
Our Flag Means Death Season 2 goes beyond simply being better than its predecessor and makes the case for it being one of the best comedies on TV in years.