Our Flag Means Death Season 2

Our Flag Means Death Season 2 Review: Does it Sink or Swim?

The loveable yet violent pirates are back, better than ever.

Our Flag Means Death returns with a big splash this week and its second season significantly improves on the first. The series delves deeper into the layered lives of its characters while learning to use comedy as a compliment to dramatic emotion instead of sacrificing it for a laugh. But don’t worry, the humour is still there and it positively thrives with a fresh batch of jokes that stick the landing. Showrunner David Jenkins and his room full of writers honour the show’s dedicated fan base and wholly embrace the queer, fantastical, violent, yet adorable pirates that we’ve all grown to love. 

Season One followed Stede Bonnet (Rhys Darby) as he exchanged his comfortable life as a gentleman for the thrills afforded by a career as a pirate captain. Stede and his erstwhile crew run into the infamous Blackbeard, also known as Ed (Taika Waititi), where the two opposites learn and grow as buccaneers together. Their intimacy blossoms and fosters into a beautiful love story that eventually crashes and burns.

Season Two delves into the explosive aftermath of their breakup. Blackbeard spirals into insanity and uses extreme violence as a way of avoiding his feelings. He drags his crew—particularly Izzy Hands (Con O’Neill) and Jim (Vico Ortiz)—down to the bottom with him. Bonnet takes a different, more hopeful approach and longs for their reunion. He and his mates work to acquire a ship so they can return to the sea, showing clear growth from their naivety in the previous season. Satisfyingly, the complex supporting characters get more screen time and some very well-deserved development.

In particular, Hands, a fan favourite, undergoes a nuanced character arc portrayed brilliantly by O’Neill. Darby’s comedic delivery as Stede drastically improves this season with impeccable timing that ensures the jokes land perfectly. Waititi continues to impress with his excellent performance, portraying the complex and darker aspects while still nailing the humour. The new characters introduced, specifically the ones played by Ruibo Qian and Madeleine Sami, manage to steal every scene they appear in. The fact they are women allows for a more multifaceted approach to humour that pokes fun at the ever-present misogyny. Most importantly, they complement the original Revenge crew instead of overshadowing them.

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While these additions work well, Season Two’s narrative suffers from one of the same glaring issues it did in Season One: the lack of a strong overarching villain. That’s not so surprising, given the first half of the season seems to lack any objective beyond reuniting Stede and Ed, and the subsequent plot relies on inflated drama and exaggerated arguments to advance the story. Nonetheless, this laser focus on the reunion of our anti-heroes enables the central relationship to develop the emotional depth and sincerity that was lacking previously. The series as a whole remains pleasingly engaging largely due to the added narrative layers, the ongoing conflicts within the crew members of the Revenge and, of course, the ever-present gags. It all goes a long way to keeping the audience entertained and helps to successfully avoid boredom with the slower episodes in the first half of the season.

Speaking of entertainment, the humour strikes more gold this season, blending various comedic styles and relying less on slapstick and scatological humour. While some jokes may occasionally miss, the majority land successfully. Creator and writer Jenkins masterfully adds further wit and clever misdirection, creating a more layered experience. They skillfully tow the line between the modern world and their 18th-century pirate world, resulting in hilarious gags based in the use of unexpected modern words like “bro”, “LOL”, and “facts.” There are also some truly beautiful performances and nods to modern songs, but those are best left as a surprise. 

But most of all, the sophomore season delivers what the fans have been waiting for: a genuinely queer love story that doesn’t rely on the angst of homophobia to drive their relationships. The series has upgraded in almost every way while remaining true to its thematic mockery of toxic masculinity. Despite the occasional missed joke and that pesky absence of a strong overarching villain, Our Flag Means Death sails through an exciting, tender, and emotional exploration of these loveable yet violent pirates.

Season 2 of Our Flag Means Death debuted on Max in the U.S. and Crave in Canada with three episodes on Thursday, October 5.

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