Review: “Our Flag Means Death” Pt. 2—The Pirates are Back and (Slay)ling the Seas

Returning to Stede Bonnet and his merry crew for their next big adventure, “Our Flag Means Death” cruises into the middle of its first season with action, drama, and romance that have only managed to make the show even better than ever. When I reviewed the first three episodes of “Our Flag Means Death” I said that it was “a refreshing comedy-drama imbued with adventure and charm”—it’s too bad that now, that praise is hardly enough to commend the show for its remarkable quality. With engaging new pirate romances and compelling new characters, “Our Flag Means Death” takes a turn for the emotional as complex relationships begin to emerge, demonstrating the show’s incredible aptitude in handling both the lighthearted and the hard hitting-kinds of stories. Just a recap: “Our Flag Means Death” is an HBO Max original created by David Jenkins released on March 4, 2022 about Stede Bonnet (Rhys Darby), a wannabe pirate who proves himself to be anything but a capable sailor. In these next few episodes, we get to see the depth and greater nuance behind one of the newer and most important members of our crew: the deuteragonist Blackbeard (Taika Waititi), whose relationship with Stede may run deeper than we think. Caution: spoilers ahead!

While the show has mostly maintained a humorous tone for its exposition arc, these next episodes have really begun cutting its dramatic edge. With the new addition of two new main characters, Blackbeard and Izzy (Con O’Neill), there has been a drastic change in the show’s direction. Despite what notorious reputation Blackbeard might have, we’re not taking a turn for the violent—rather, the show decides to introduce a romance. Upon Blackbeard’s introduction, he comes to build a budding relationship with our protagonist, Stede.

When the fourth episode starts, Stede thinks about his past wife, children, and life of riches, while recovering from a stab wound. He had been unhappy in his marriage, which was purely based on monetary gain. On the other hand, in episode five, we witness Blackbeard’s interest in the higher society and formal way of life that Stede used to live, which his lack of social station had prevented him from enjoying. They are misfits in their own niches of society, but fit perfectly whenever they are with each other. Stede also validates how Blackbeard feels, which is not incredibly sweet, but also a humanizing touch to the characters. Both actors also work incredibly well with each other and are good at making their connection feel real and natural. While they are not the only (relation)ship on this ship, they are certainly one of the most memorable and well-developed.

Building on the show’s queer characters and themes, another interesting aspect of the next three episodes is the show’s exploration of gender identity One of the characters, Jim (Vico Ortiz)—previously known as “Bonifacia”—is revealed to be a “woman.” While their crew began to refer to them as a woman after this reveal, Jim asserts that they would rather be known simply as “Jim,” and to go by they/them pronouns. Moreover, this adds a nice touch to the show, as the actor who portrays Jim, Vico Ortiz, is non-binary. Subverting the “trans reveal” trope, “Our Flag Means Death” preserves Jim’s humanity and has fun skirting the bounds of binary gender. Jim’s addition was such a beautiful addition to the show because even though it’s a minor side plot, lighthearted, respectful, and casual representation is nice to see in the media. Many producers may be afraid or reluctant to include characters who don’t fit society’s binary, but this show, rather than steering away from topics that many don’t understand, approach them with open arms. I can see a lot of people relating to this character and understanding why this character says or does the thing that they do. Major props, again, to the writers and cast for doing such an incredible job of executing a topic like this and doing it respectfully.

Going into the next few episodes for this review, my idea of the show was already so high that I didn’t think that it could get any better. However, I found myself being proved completely wrong—these few episodes have not only brought about engaging new characters and relationships but introduced an entirely new idea of representation within mainstream media.
The show never loses its charm and it might be one of my favorites of all time. For its incredible acting, writing, and plot, I give “Our Flag Means Death” a 5/5.