This review of Our Flag Means Death covers episodes four and five of Season 2 and contains spoilers for each episode.
Season 2 of Our Flag Means Death addresses the trauma experienced by the crew. This isn’t new; Season 1 dealt with Stede’s childhood trauma as well as his guilt for accidentally killing a man. But everyone on our crew has been through some shit, and episodes four and five tackle each kind of trauma felt throughout the crew. It’s a pair of episodes that flow nicely together where things are settled somewhat geographically (our crew’s all together now), but not emotionally.
Our Flag Means Death 2×04: “Fun and Games”
“Fun and Games” begins with the crew’s decision to banish Ed. Fair enough. Ed almost murdered Lucius and traumatized Frenchie, Jim, Fang, and Izzy, so a majority vote means Ed’s off the boat. Sounds good to me. This at least separates Ed and Stede from the others, allowing them to talk things out.
On the island of Ed’s banishment, he runs into an old friend (a real one this time), a woman named Mary Read. He did briefly befriend a bunny rabbit, but Mary killed it. Stede goes along with Ed’s banishment but still he’s reluctant to depart from Ed. He follows him onto the island, accompanied by Buttons, who’s looking for a bowl of some type of witchy nature. Stede stumbles upon an antique shop run by a woman named Annie, who turns out to be Fred’s partner, thus thrusting Ed and Stede into an awkward dinner party.
Mary and Annie, played by Rachel House and Minnie Driver, are a fascinating look into Ed and Stede’s potential future. Romantic partners for years, these retired pirates showcase every bit of toxic elements a relationship can have. They posion and stab each other in some kind of game of domination to keep things fresh. But they’re also willing to go far for each other, including burning down their antique shop for the other because they know how much they miss the high seas. Ed and Stede navigate their own emotional intimacy issues while also navigating the shocking and forward scenes of the couple playing out in front of them.
They ultimately work things out but “Fun and Games” does fall into the frustrating trope of characters not explaining exactly what happened. At the end of Our Flag Means Death Season 1, Stede is taken by gunpoint by Badminton and marched through the forest. During this murder attempt, Badminton voices everything Stede subconsciously thinks of himself — he’s not good enough for Ed, he’s a monster for leaving his wife and kids, and he’s just a rich boy playing at being a pirate, coming out of everything unscathed. He’s then traumatized by a second Badminton accidentally murdering themselves in front of him.
Though Stede makes a choice to not meet Ed at the docks, his return to his old life is a necessary part in the story of Ed and Stede. He needed to reconcile his guilt for leaving his family in order to move on with Ed and that meant going back to his wife. Did he know that’s what he was doing when he first decided to go? Probably not. But it was a decision made in a moment of trauma that ultimately solidifies his love for Ed and his life as a pirate.
But he does not explain this to Ed in “Fun and Games.” After Annie lets it slip that Stede returned to his wife, Ed smashes some things and goes to pout on the couch. Stede tells Ed that he panicked, and two whim-prone people should not rush into something like this. He reaffirms his love for Ed, and Ed seems to believe him. However, this was also a moment that needed some explanation on Stede’s part for why he went to his wife and the conclusions he made while there. Mentioning the gun walk through the forest wouldn’t hurt either.
On The Revenge, Frenchie, Jim, Fang, and Izzy can’t shake off the trauma of their time with Ed. Izzy’s drinking away his pain and suffering by himself but the others move together around the ship like a pack of wild dogs. Pete, Olu, Wee John, and Roach try to figure out a way to comfort their other crew members. Lucius is dealing with his own trauma related to his brush with death and subsequent horror-filled ship hopping.
The two groups ultimately come to terms with each other’s presence by deciding that Izzy is more fucked up than the rest of them. They work together to create for him a wooden leg.
While on the Pirate Queen’s ship, Captain Zheng’s first mate referred to Buttons as a sea witch. This episode it appears there’s some truth to that as his antics in finding the right bowl result in him turning into a bird. This moment is the final evidence Ed needs to return with Stede back to The Revenge. Not sure if it also means this is the last we’ll see of Buttons but surely he can be the crews’ eyes in the sky.
Quotable moments from Episode 4
“You already murdered him once. Seems like pretty good payback.”
“First time I’ve been on this side of a walk of shame.”
“Shitty sailing with you.”
“You’re no fucking mermaid.”
“Fuck off, nature.”
“They have … a feral quality.”
“It’s gonna be really disappointing if we kill them in self defense.”
“Have you guys even had sex yet?”
Our Flag Means Death, 2×05: “The Curse of the Seafaring Life”
It’s back to pirating ways in Episode 5, “The Curse of the Seafaring Life.” First, Ed makes his case to the crew to return to the ship. They agree, as long as he wears a bell around his neck and listens to Stede. Everyone’s cool with this except for Lucius. It was odd that there was no moment between them in Episode 4 before Ed was banished but this episode allows Lucius to work through his trauma.
Because they all live the pirate life, it’s understood that killing and betrayal are common things. It happens to everyone. The rest of the crew, having worked through their issues in the previous episode, are a bit tired of hearing Lucius complain about Ed. But while everyone else got their moment to confront Ed, Lucius hasn’t. And as a huge fan of Lucius, I’ve been waiting for an Ed and Lucius confrontation since he went overboard. While their interactions are enjoyable and watching Lucius push Ed into the ocean as payback was satisfying, it was rather underwhelming. I needed Lucius to get a proper revenge moment for my own sake!
However, Lucius ultimately wins this episode because his stubborn hold onto bitterness and payback led to an awful fight with Pete. This is where things truly matter. His focus on getting payback on Ed consumes his every thought, even when he’s with Pete. Pete gets fed up and delivers a truly heartbreaking line: “You talk all the time about how you almost died, but I never hear anything about the fact that you lived.”
While Lucius’ trauma is valid, Pete’s point is important too. I do wish we had gotten to see them reconcile in Episode 2 when Lucius explained in more detail about what happened to him. That conversation would have been a nice pairing to this one, where Pete acknowledges Lucius’ pain but also gives him the words he needs to hear in order to move past it. But move past it Lucius does. The episode ends with Lucius proposing to Pete. Do I see a ship wedding on the horizon?
While Stede, Izzy, Roach, Jim, Wee John, Olu, and the unnamed other member of Blackbeard’s crew I have not yet mentioned in any of these reviews handle a curse situation, Ed and Fang go fishing. After the drama of Ed and Stede’s conversation last episode, this episode allows Ed some quiet time to come to terms with how much of an asshole he’s been. Fang is a great scene partner for Ed. A crew member he’s been with for years, Fang tells it straight to Ed and also teaches him how to sit in the silence. Ed desperately needs this exercise, and it’s a nice change of pace for this character.
The curse shenanigans are a goofy aside to this episode but the crew works off each other effortlessly. The most notable moments involve Roach thinking he’s invented peanut butter, Stede in the red suit, Stede trying to be a scary pirate, Izzy reluctantly mentoring both Stede and Lucius, and a potential three-way between Olu, Jim, and the unnamed woman I mentioned before? I see it.
Though they spent time apart in this episode, “The Curse of the Seafaring Life” ends with Ed and Stede under the moonlight once again. Ed throws the “you wear nice things well” line back at Stede and this time, the scene ends with a kiss. The boys are back!
Quotable moments from Episode 5
“Ah. The bar is on the floor.”
“How does that feel, bitch?!”
“I did a punch!”
“You talk all the time about how you almost died, but I never hear anything about the fact that you lived.”
“I kinda got it out of my system when we beat you to death.”
“Not moving on is worse.”
“Fang’s real name is … Kevin.”
Our Flag Means Death Season 2 drops new episodes every Thursday on Max.
Images courtesy of Nicola Dove/Max
'Our Flag Means Death' 2x04 & 2x05 - 8/10