Bursting out of the gate with palpable joy for the story they’re telling, Our Flag Means Death Season 2 Episodes 1-3 demonstrates just why the series became such a fan favorite following its first season. Refining and doubling down on what works, the first three episodes reintroduce us to these characters as they recover from the pseudo breakup between Blackbeard (Taika Waititi) and Stede (Rhys Darby), with both leaders of their respective parties having much different responses to their split.
Of the three, the first episode is the weakest only because of the fact that it acts largely as a place setting for what is to come. Blackbeard has commandeered half of Stede’s crew, with the members such as Jim (Vico Ortiz) and Frenchie (Joel Fry) suffering due to their captain’s heartache. None suffer as greatly as Izzy (Con O’Neill), however, who easily bears the brunt of Blackbeard’s emotional turmoil. The costume design cleverly decks Jim, Frenchie, and co., in more dramatic, gothic garb, as they’re forced to adopt the leather-clad outfits and heavy makeup that Blackbeard is so fond of.
Stede’s crew, including members such as Olu (Samson Kayo) and Black Pete (Matthew Maher), fare better. Stede hasn’t succumbed to the same fateful heartache as Blackbeard, in part because he was the dumpee rather than the dumped. He also doesn’t see the split as an ending to their relationship. He’s desperate to reunite with the man he’s developed strong feelings for and he and his crew, without his considerable wealth to get them out of trouble, try to figure out their next steps while on the Republic of Pirates.
It’s here we meet one of the season’s highlights and the next big adversary for Stede in Zheng (Ruibo Qian). Dubbed the Queen of the Pirates, Qian plays the role with a delightful duality, capturing a sense of barely buried mischief along with steely resolve and bumbling uncertainty when faced with troubles outside of politics and combat, such as love. She and Kayo share a sweet, wholesome chemistry, even if Zheng spends much of Episodes 2 and 3 working against his team.
Our Flag Means Death Season 2 Episodes 1-3 highlight an understated direction that works in tandem with some of the broader comedic moments, helping ground the series. Because as silly as the show is, it’s anchored by real compassion for its characters and a tangible, engaging love story between Stede and Blackbeard. Their love story drives so much of the story that it causes concern. We harbor so much hope for them in the first three episodes that we fear that the show might try to tear them apart for the sake of drama. Thus far, showrunner David Jenkins and co. have defied expectations so hopefully, they’ll continue to do so. Jenkins directs the first two episodes as well which helps visualize the character’s emotional states — especially in how characters, namely Blackbeard, are shot.
Episodes 2 and 3 are where the season truly comes alive, with the third episode directed by Andrew DeYoung. More than anything, they deliver proof of just how wonderful Darby and Waititi are in these roles. Darby makes a meal out of his character who, on paper, could be seen as only pathetic — a small man trying to feel big on the vast, oceanic landscape, his small audience the only ones privy to his failures and triumphs.
That said, because of the writing and his performance, Stede becomes loveably naive, both softened by his prior wealth yet more durable than he appears due to his past trauma. It’s why he and Blackbeard make for such a wonderful, opposites-attract-style couple. Their strengths and weaknesses complement one another, inverses of what makes them who they are.
While Stede stays optimistic, even in his lowest moment against Izzy and the rest of the crew when he realizes Blackbeard’s assumed fate at the end of Episode 2, Blackbeard sinks. Toeing the line beautifully between comedic (the hilarious cut to him weeping in Episode 1) to dramatic (him clearly seeking a provoked suicide), Blackbeard’s arc in the first three episodes is tremendous. It doesn’t strip him of his cruelty, as he again lands a devastating blow on Izzy when his first mate dares mention Stede’s name in his presence. However, it offers him a level of compassion that paints a more wounded picture.
This is especially true in “The Innkeeper,” the best episode of the first three. Waititi has never been better than he is as Blackbeard is stuck in a version of purgatory following his crew’s mutiny. As he grapples with his storied past and the violent upbringing he was born from, ready to end it all, Waititi allows Blackbeard a rigid physicality that’s undermined by the clear vulnerability that betrays him.
The episode reaches its emotional crescendo as we watch as this version of Blackbeard drowns, the opening notes of “This Woman’s Work” by Kate Bush playing against the moment as Stede, hovering over Blackbeard’s body, is begging him to come back to him. Oddly funny, oddly lovely, the scene was already sure to cement itself as a key moment in the series and then it introduces an image that delivers the biggest laughs of the year so far.
Our Flag Means Death Season 2 Episodes 1-3 are consistently hilarious, often moving, and showcase the considerable chemistry amongst the greater ensemble. Bigger and bolder than season one with a clear vision and the skill necessary to execute said vision, the first few episodes are exactly what fans have been hoping for and more.
Our Flag Means Death Season 2 Episodes 1–3 are available now on Max with new episodes every Thursday.
Our Flag Means Death Season 2 Episodes 1–3
Our Flag Means Death Season 2 Episodes 1–3 are consistently hilarious, often moving, and showcase the considerable chemistry amongst the greater ensemble. Bigger and bolder than season one with a clear vision and the skill necessary to execute said vision, the first few episodes are exactly what fans have been hoping for and more.