Illustration: Hannah Anderson/The Olaf Messenger
If you’ve been out and about at 9:30 p.m. these past several Thursdays, you may have encountered me and my comrades traipsing about campus looking for a good spot to catch up on that day’s episode of the Max TV show “Our Flag Means Death.”
If you’re unfamiliar with the show, allow me to give you a brief rundown: “Our Flag Means Death” is a romantic comedy set in the “Golden Age of Piracy.” Starring Rhys Darby and Taika Waititi, the show starts out following former aristocratic Stede Bonnet (Darcy), who has fled his home to pursue his dream of being a pirate captain. Things do not go as planned, and following several misfortunes, Bonnet is introduced to a rival crew led by the infamous Blackbeard (Waititi). Over the course of the first season, Bonnet finds his sea legs, faces his personal demons, and learns important skills with the aid of his fellow pirate captain, until the looming threat of Britain forces the two apart.
The recent second season picks up where the first left off: Blackbeard’s crew, including members stolen from Bonnet’s, are roaming the seas under the command of their heartbroken and vengeful captain. Bonnet and his remaining crew, shipless after the events of the first season, are stranded, working to rescue their kidnapped crewmates and maybe even reunite the pining Bonnet with his love.
Overall, this second season had many strong elements. The writers set up interesting new storylines for the season, while also following up on the threads left over from season one. A particularly well-done instance of this is the willingness to explore the negative consequences of the first season — the show didn’t shy away from delving into both interpersonal and mental health issues that had been hinted at previously, refusing to brush important conflicts under the rug for the sake of getting its leads back together faster.
In addition to these themes and plotlines, the show has had an emphasis on queer expression and defiance of the cisheteronormative bounds of life under a colonialist empire throughout its run. The second season only heightens this theme as characters get the chance to explore theselves, with a celebration of queer culture that moved me to tears.
The second season also brought in several new characters, including a quite entertaining, nosy villain, while rectifying its past issue of having very few female leads. In accordance with its habit of throwing historical timelines out the window, the show introduced viewers to 1770s Chinese pirate queen Zheng Yi Sao in a powerful fleet-commanding role, as well as such notable figures as pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read.
Unfortunately, the show did face one significant issue this season: time. With Max cutting costs by reducing the number of episodes from 10 down to eight and strictly enforcing a 30-minute limit, aspects of the season — particularly the final episode — ended up rushed, with little room for viewers to catch their breath between rapid-fire plot points and resolutions. This limit also pushed aside one of my favorite parts of the first season — screen time spent learning about Bonnet and Blackbeard’s crews and their ongoing relationships and hijinks.
However, overall, I greatly enjoyed this season, and hope that Max sees the value of renewing for a third — hopefully, with more episodes.