A new nemesis and evolving relationships keep the pirate series fresh and fun.
This piece was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the actors currently on strike, the works being covered here wouldn’t exist.
It’s always the surprise hit quirky shows with the most to live up to in their second season. A bad sophomore outing, especially after quickly gaining a cult following, could make or break, say, the plucky little pirate romance known as Our Flag Means Death Season 2. Luckily, David Jenkins, Taika Waititi, et al. keep things fresh and fun without reinventing (or stealing) the wheel.
At first, it’s a bit of a toss-up as to which half of the Revenge crew suffers the most under their misguided captains. Izzy (Con O’Neill), Jim (Vico Ortiz, sporting a new look inspired by Season one Jim fan art), Fang (David Fane), and Frenchie (Joel Fry) live like pirate kings on the open seas with Ed (Waititi), as Blackbeard has descended into a drug-fueled depression that is no less bloodthirsty. Meanwhile, Stede Bonnet (Rhys Darby) has rejoined his abandoned crew in the Republic of Pirates. There, they shelter under the rather expensive kindness of Spanish Jackie (Leslie Jones). Soon, though, the answer becomes clear. Izzy Hands suffers the most.
Last season, Izzy was a convenient foil for Stede’s soft, gentlemanly ways and bumbling ineptitude. By season’s end, Izzy seems to have won everything he wanted–a ship and Ed all to himself. However, that’s before seeing the depths of Ed’s heartbreak and how willing he is to take that pain out on the crew, including Izzy himself. Now, he’s gaining a new appreciation for Stede’s grounding influence on the unstable pirate. Izzy has moved from outright antagonist to cockeyed harbinger of things to come. Here is the price of loving a man like Blackbeard wholeheartedly.
While things between Izzy and Ed remain fraught, Izzy begins to aid Stede. Using the bumbling captain’s talent for failing upwards. Izzy has guided Stede into a somewhat decent pirate. Unsurprisingly, this goes to Stede’s head. Is Izzy playing the long game and letting this new, almost successful version of the Gentleman Pirate drive a wedge between Stede and Ed? Or perhaps he just wants to maintain the relatively stable status quo?
If there is one thing this show has besides Idiots in Love, it’s hypercompetent women who take no shit.
Even when Stede and Ed eventually find their way back into each other’s presence again, their relationship remains fractured and uncomfortable. Stede is so afraid of anything new that the sight of Ed, freshly shaved and ready to start a new life, sends him rowing back to England. At the same time, Ed fears stability will only lead to stagnation. It’s a fear only sharpened by one uncomfortable dinner with Mary Read (Rachel House) and Anne Bonney (Minnie Driver). They gave up their lives of crime on the high seas to collect antiques and slowly try to kill one another.
We also get a bit of misdirection with the Pirate Queen and soup magnate Zheng Yi Sao (Ruibo Qian). She conscripts Stede and crew, setting her up as the potential villain instead of one of many Rory Kinnears. As great as Kinnear is, Qian proves a much better fit for Our Flag Means Death Season 2. If there is one thing this show has besides Idiots in Love, it’s hypercompetent women who take no shit. Between Spanish Jackie, Mary Bonnet, and Zheng Yi Sao, if the women of Our Flag Means Death ever joined forces, they’d be running the whole show before the credits rolled.
Our Flag Means Death Season 2 currently rules the seas on MAX.