OUR FLAG MEANS DEATH, season 2. On a calm waters
When the TV series Our Flag Means Death debuted on HBO Max in 2022, it took viewers by surprise. The story of pirates was intertwined with a tale of love developing between men, and the whole production skillfully blended elements of period drama with well-crafted comedy and elements of melodrama. The stylistic mishmash of the show was what captivated the audience and kept surprising them at every turn.
Now, armed with knowledge about the style of the series, we sit down to the new episodes of Our Flag Means Death with a slightly different approach and mindset. Although the production delivers in all the aspects it did previously, the viewer feels a slight sense of longing for an equally ingenious twist as in the previous year.
The first episodes of the new season are a direct continuation of the storylines from the premiere series and show how deeply the characters are affected by the dramatic events from the end of the previous season. They depict how wounded they are and how they react with violence and anger to what they can’t express in words. Suffice it to say that in one of the early episodes, a beautiful phrase is uttered, perfectly capturing the stylistic essence of the entire series. When a new character says to another, “Oh my God, guys are so damn emotional,” it fully describes the behavior of each character, all of whom are struggling with strong emotions that couldn’t find an outlet until now.
This is, in fact, one of the greatest strengths of Our Flag Means Death – it’s a series that, in many different ways, including explicitly from the screen, tells us that conversation is the best solution to most of our problems. Quietly discussing what’s bothering us and what we disagree with can work wonders.
Blackbeard (played brilliantly by Taika Waititi), unable to come to terms with Stede’s (equally expressive and scene-stealing Rhys Darby) decision, resorts to plundering and pillaging with doubled force. He has to do many wild and crazy things to drown out his inner pain and the emptiness he feels after their separation. It’s as if he didn’t know he could have a heart and feelings, let alone a broken heart. He now writhes like a wounded animal that doesn’t yet know how to lick its wounds, so it throws itself blindly in every possible direction. When his actions go a step too far, dramatic events involving a rebellious crew occur, which will change the lives of the characters. Without revealing too much, I’ll only say that each character undergoes their own transformation here to better understand themselves and their needs.
What’s important, however, is that for a series that strongly emphasizes the power of conversation and peaceful action, I get the impression that some character transformations happen a bit too quickly, without an appropriate, emotionally-built foundation. Of course, comedic timing and the pace of events are also crucial here, but I feel that some storylines could have been more developed for an even better emotional impact. In their current form, they’re good and enjoyable to watch, but sometimes they lack the necessary build-up.
The strength of the first season lay in its considerable unpredictability and the successful blending of different forms. In the second season, things are moving along a rather tried-and-true path, offering variations on themes explored in the premiere episodes. Although there are some great one-offs (the excellent possession episode) and individual motifs (you don’t even know how much you needed to see Irish actor Kristian Nairn, best known for his role as Hodor in Game of Thrones, in full drag), it seems that the show lacks the touch of madness that so strongly captivated the audience last year.
Our Flag Means Death strengths still remain strong, but I have a sense that some things have become somewhat more predictable. However, this is mainly because we’ve already become familiar with the style and concept of the show, and these kinds of twists are most surprising the first time around. Now we’re swimming in more familiar waters, which, of course, has its charm, but the show seems to lack the element of surprise that the first season had when no one knew what to expect. Now we know it all too well and we’re getting plenty of it. I would say “in abundance,” but I feel that the new episodes are simply good but no longer “very good.”
Certainly, it’s worth praising Our Flag Means Death ‘s remarkable inclusivity, which doesn’t make the sexual orientation of the characters a big deal but rather depicts all the shades of the rainbow that exist between black and white. This perfectly complements the exceptionally twisted and dramatic fates of the characters and even surprises the viewer in a few scenes.
It’s also worth praising the music selection, which is exceptionally well-done in this season. It’s enough to say that in one of the episodes, we’ll get a male version of “La Vie en Rose,” the timeless Édith Piaf classic, and Kate Bush fans will finally be able to sway to the rhythm of a different hit than “Running Up That Hill.” The eclecticism of the music remains an added value to the series, which cleverly plays with its form in this way.
The second season of Our Flag Means Death is slightly less impressive than the excellent first season, but it remains a beautiful series. At times wonderfully absurd, and at other times providing exceptionally insightful observations about emotional life.
It may not be a series that will change your life – I can tell this from the fact that I remember liking the first season but very little about the plot itself – but it is simply an injection of positive energy. Sometimes spiced with fairly graphic violence (a few corpses can be quite hair-raising), but ultimately a sweet and tender work that feels like a warm, cozy coat to wrap yourself in on cooler days. In that regard, the October release date is perfect. So, it’s not anything groundbreaking, but it’s enjoyable and entertaining, which is probably what we expect most from popular entertainment.
I must add that giving reviewers seven out of eight episodes to watch and review is truly a pirate-like move. How am I supposed to wait three weeks for the culmination of this explosive story?
The first three episodes of the second season of Our Flag Means Death premiered on HBO Max on Thursday, October 5th. The remaining episodes will be aired two at a time every week.