Comfort Entertainment: ‘Our Flag Means Death’ Review

Screenshot of Taika Waititi and Rhys Darby in ‘Our Flag Means Death’. Copyright goes to HBO Max.

Hey! Hallie here!

I’ve been intending to binge watch this show for about a month now but problems with my HBO Max account prevented me from seeing it until recently. But now that whole situation is dealt with and I’ve seen the goofy pirate love story! There’s a reason why so many people are talking about this show right now. It’s enjoyable, wholesome fun. On top of that, this is one of the only shows to come out in awhile where the writers casually embrace nonbinary characters and LGBTQ+ relationships. All without queerbaiting its audience! This seems like it’s the bare minimum, and it really should be, but the series goes above and beyond to give us genuinely good LGBTQ+ representation. And we definitely need more of that. In any case, I’m going to talk about all my thoughts and opinions on this show below, so know that there will be SPOILERS ahead! Also, keep in my mind these are just my opinions and it’s completely fine if yours are different!

What I Liked:

Stede and Ed: This romance is the entire point of the show. And it’s amazing. Their meet-cute is perfectly dramatic, with Stede nearly dying as he’s tormented with flashbacks to his time as a married man. Ed saves his life and stays by his bedside the entire time Stede’s recovering from the near-fatal blow he was dealt. There’s even a scene where Ed holds an entire conversation with Lucius without looking anywhere but at an unconscious Stede. Their relationship is a very healthy one that comes about after Ed agrees to teach Stede how to be a good pirate and Stede agrees to teach Ed how to operate within high society. As they teach each other, they help one another grow as people. Ed begins to overcome the trauma he experienced as a child who killed his abusive father and begins to accept that there’s more to life beyond his unfulfilling lifestyle. On the other hand, Stede begins to feel more confident in himself and begins to let go of the guilt he feels for leaving his family behind. They also both admit at different points in the show that the time they spent teaching one another marked the happiest point in either of their lives. They laugh together, defend one another, and refuse to betray each other even when it would make their lives easier. The fact that Ed gets captured and resigns his piracy for Stede (That foot touch!) is immensely beautiful. As all of this happens the show hits regular romance story beats, like Ed taking for granted Stede’s feelings and getting a harsh pep-talk from wing-man Lucius, or Stede becoming jealous of a man from Ed’s past. All of it builds up to an actual kiss. AN ACTUAL KISS. Which, of course, confirms that all the romance tropes were 100% purposeful. This is such a good romance and so heartwarming to watch.

The Crew: My favorite member of the crew was probably Lucius, although a case could be made for most of the crew. All of them (except Izzy) are extremely likable and surprisingly well developed for a group of side-characters. Lucius is one of the most developed as the only person in the crew who knows how to write. He’s constantly called in by Stede or Ed to write down the things they want to record, which results in him getting very involved in their personal lives. He’s also one of the first people to notice that Ed and Stede have feelings for one another, and as such, acts as a knowledgable and encouraging wing-man to them both. And he has a very adorable relationship with Black Pete that I hope gets further explored in the future (Lucius is 100% not dead and you can’t change my mind). Oluwande is another excellent character, further removed from Stede and Ed’s relationship but no less important. Oluwande is a natural leader, known for his words of wisdom to Stede when Stede struggles with his leadership skills. Oluwande leads Stede away from potential danger multiple times and speaks so well for the crew that they decide he would be a good captain. His partner, Jim, is another stand out amongst the crew. Jim is the nonbinary representation in this show, and though they’re less of a comedic character, there’s no denying that they’re badass and intriguing given their mysterious past. These two make up yet another adorable queer couple on the show. There are so many interesting characters here, it’s hard to come away from the show without finding one to adore.

What I Disliked:

The Marketing: I was initially disappointed when I began this show and I feel like that was partly the marketing’s fault. The trailers for ‘Our Flag Means Death’ mostly focused on Stede bumbling around as a pirate captain, which is accurate, but it also focused a lot on Blackbeard being menacing and fight sequences and characters threatening one another with guns or knives. Because of this, I figured on an action/adventure/comedy with a lot of cool pirate fight scenes (Like ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’). That isn’t really what this show’s about, though. There are maybe three fight scenes in the entire show, and all of them are extremely short and mostly played for comedy. No epic, swashbuckling fights here. They also don’t venture to too many interesting locations, the most interesting being the home where Jim grew up. Hell, the first episode is just Stede running his ship like a daycare while his crew debate whether they like his bedtime stories enough to cancel their mutiny. To be completely honest, if you go into this show expecting a deep plot leading to a grand adventure, you’ll be disappointed. The truth of this show is that the main plot is a romantic/comedy storyline following Ed and Stede. All depth from the show is supplied by the small bits of drama between the cast of characters on Stede’s ship. Once I was able to realize that, I was able to enjoy the show much more than I had previously. I’m not sure exactly what I wish they would have done instead with the marketing, but I might have overhyped myself less if I had gone in expecting less badassery and more emotional mush.

The Boat Travel: How do people get in row boats and arrive at a moving ship? How do they know where the ship is? How do people get in rowboats and arrive anywhere at all in any reasonable amount of time? This is a small gripe that’s more amusing than annoying, but I still wanted to rant about it for a second.

Blackbeard Screen Time: This is another small gripe, but my love of Taika Waititi’s Ed makes me wish that he wasn’t completely absent within the first several episodes. Particularly because the plot was especially slow when he wasn’t present. I just wish we got more of Blackbeard in this show.

Twins: This is a blog run by twins so I really can’t let the twin representation in this show slide. Two of the major antagonists in this show are the Badminton twins. Both are former acquaintances of Stede and both pose a problem to Stede as a pirate. There aren’t really distinguishing personality traits between the characters and both are portrayed by the same actor. Which perpetuates the idea that twins are so similar that they’re basically interchangeable. The plot doubles down on this by having one replace the other in the role of antagonist after one of them dies. I just wish that these characters didn’t exist at all.

And that’s it! I have a few problems with this show, but most of them are minimal. Overall, I really enjoyed it in all its adorable glory. I know most people walked away from ‘Our Flag Means’ death completely obsessed, and I would say that I’m not really one of those people. There were definitely things that I found weren’t personally my taste. But putting my personal preferences aside, this show was really good. It has excellent character writing and excellent representation. In all honesty, I hope ‘Our Flag Means Death’ sets a precedent for shows in the future. I hope its popularity and the awareness it created towards the issue of queerbaiting makes it clear to other shows that we don’t want their “hints” or “maybes”. We want actual well-thought-out representation. It makes me want more for the shows I love. I don’t want shows like ‘Good Omens’ to hint at a gay couple while the writers and creators tell us the main characters are absolutely in love but a label would be too difficult to put on it. I want representation on the level of ‘Our Flag Means Death’, and that’s exactly what the LGBTQ+ community deserves.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

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