As a season of pirate shenanigans nears its conclusion, “Our Flag Means Death” leaves us with 10 episodes of rich relationships, characters who grew, and a heartbreaker of a finale. With the climax of the narrative insight, previously established relationships expand and hit their stride. Having laid the foundations, the show is finally letting these characters come into their own with a bittersweet balance of comedy and drama. This is what the show does so well: as the plot begins to toy more with the characters’ (and the audience’s) emotions, we get many memorable moments that make the viewing experience that much more enjoyable.
A quick recap: “Our Flag Means Death,” following protagonist “Gentleman Pirate” Stede Bonnet (Rhys Darby), is an HBO Max original series released on March 4, 2022 about pirate hijinks, found families, and romance on the high seas. In the previous batch of episodes, we saw the introduction of new relationship developments and touching moments, and these last few episodes don’t disappoint. Now, let’s set sail for our last—but certainly not least—segment of this review, and as always, pirates ye be warned: spoilers ahead.
Last week’s article saw the early development of Stede Bonnet and Blackbeard’s (Taika Waititi) relationship. In these episodes leading up to the season’s end, “Our Flag Means Death” has deepened its exploration and understanding of their relationship. We see this most notably in the seventh episode, “This is Happening,” which depicts Blackbeard, Stede, and Lucius Spriggs (Nathan Foad) on their treasure hunt, an event Stede planned so Blackbeard could have some fun. What stands out about this episode is how it acts as a turning point for Blackbeard and Stede’s connection. During a scene when Blackbeard gets a wake-up call from Lucius for not understanding how much Stede loves him, we finally see them both not only realize, but understand that they are in love with each other. Especially since Blackbeard leans on the emotionally repressed side, it’s a really sweet moment that demonstrates how much Blackbeard loves Stede, which is particularly gratifying as we begin to see all of Stede’s affections being reciprocated.
Their relationship also finds a sense of closure during their first kiss in episode nine—“Act of Grace”—after both Blackbeard and Stede legally relinquish their life of being pirates. This beautiful scene succeeds because of not only the well-paced romantic build up between the two leads, but also how it lulls audiences into a false sense of security, making the disaster that strikes soon after all the harder to bear. Additionally, both actors deliver incredible performances that make the relationship between the two characters feel so real and organic.
However, storm clouds had been gathering on the horizon, and a drastic change was about to come. We finished up episode nine with a touching promise between Stede and Blackbeard to escape and find a life together; episode ten shatters that promise of closure with a heart wrenching twist. Stede and Blackbeard had agreed to meet at the dock and begin their new life together, but Stede falls through on his promise to Blackbeard and returns home to his family. This heartbreak causes Blackbeard to return to his malicious ways, and rips the happy ending we were expecting right out from under our feet.
While Blackbeard is healing from a broken heart, Stede makes an attempt to reenter his past life and fails tremendously. Throughout the episode, Stede realizes that his wife was happier when she could be a widow and enjoy a life with her children and paintings, and that he enjoyed his life at sea with Blackbeard so much more as well. This prompts him to slowly regret the decision he made—in order to try and grasp his true happiness before it’s too late, Stede rushes on a boat and desperately searches for his ship and the man that he loves. The show closes with Stede on the boat and Blackbeard sobbing in Stede’s old room, which he has emptied—it hurt too much to be reminded of Stede. A haunting, fitting, and beautifully deliberate ending to the show.
Now that I have finished the show in its entirety, I can confidently say that it is a show that will forever be special to me. It made me laugh, it made me cry, and it made me overly emotional many, many times. I encourage everyone to watch the show, not just because of how great, unique, and bold it is, but also so that it can be officially renewed for a second season and finally bring closure to its audience. This show is such a refreshing take on comedy and has quickly become one of my favorites of all time. For its incredible plot, acting, and hilarity, I—once and for all—give “Our Flag Means Death” a 5/5.