This review of Our Flag Means Death covers the first three episodes of Season 2 and contains spoilers for each episode.
Just as Stede Bonnet is adapting more of the pirate look, he loses his ship and part of his crew. He also loses the love of his life, the notorious pirate Blackbeard, or Ed. As Our Flag Means Death Season 2 returns, we meet back up with Stede and what remains of his crew (Olu, Pete, The Swede, Wee John, Roach, and Buttons) at the Republic of Pirates, working for Spanish Jackie.
Gone is the life of pirate luxury on The Revenge; now, they are subject to Jackie’s many husbands and poor working conditions. But Stede remains hopeful in finding Ed again, as the first episode of Season 2, “Impossible Birds,” structures itself around many love letters, narrated by Stede and addressed to Ed. While The Swede becomes one of Jackie’s new husbands to secure the crew a place to stay and work, Stede orders everyone to save as much as they can so they can buy a ship.
Meanwhile, onboard The Revenge, Frenchie and Jim adapt to Ed’s captaincy. That adaptation comes with black leather outfits and hardened demeanors. If this were Mad Max, they would fit right in. Along with Fang and Izzy, Ed’s crew terrorizes the seas at their captain’s behest. Deep in the throes of heartbreak, Ed has reverted to the worst of Blackbeard’s persona. That turn began at the end of Season 1 when Ed pushed Lucius overboard. Ed is so far gone at the start of this season that even Izzy has had enough. Izzy finally stands up to Ed by uttering Stede’s name. He doesn’t get very far, though. Ed shoots him in despair.
Speaking of Lucius, he’s nowhere to be found in this first episode. But “Impossible Birds” introduces us to a new player in town. Her name is Captain Zheng. She first appears on the Republic of Pirates as Soup Susan, a local who sells soup to Stede and his crew. But in the end, Pirate Queen Zheng saves Stede and the others from Spanish Jackie and brings them onto her boat, The Red Flag.
Quotable Moments from Episode 1:
“Can’t be worse than you moaning ‘Ed, oh Ed’ all night long.”
“We think you’re in an unhealthy relationship with Blackbeard.”
Episode 2, “Red Flags,” introduces us to the way of life aboard The Red Flag. Captain Zheng pirates a crew of all women, and each day runs smoothly with assigned tasks and teamwork. Zheng invited Stede and the boys onboard because they’re “soft,” to which Stede takes no offense. They are the first men aboard The Red Flag, with the exception of Rat Boy, who turns out to be none other than a now-bearded Lucius. This was the moment I was looking forward to the most with Season 2 and the show delivered. It’s a lovely moment of reconnection for the crew, Pete, and Lucius.
Lucius returns a traumatized man, but the reason for his disappearance he keeps close to his chest. However, he’s paired with Stede for ship chores, and eventually, the truth about Blackbeard’s actions comes to light. A shocked Stede refuses to believe his lover would try to kill a crew member, but Lucius is over Stede’s naviete. He recounts his time lost at sea, moving from ship to ship, faced constantly with death and horrible people. It seems the true pirate life has come for Lucius, and his patience probably disappeared when he watched a different crew eat his dog friend.
The popularity of Our Flag Means Death during Season 1 grew because of the show’s multiple queer characters and its breakdown of toxic masculinity. Stede’s crew and how he ran his ship were unlike any other pirate. He led with heart and kindness, while Blackbeard led with fear and hardness. Those differences brought the two together. Watching Ed’s crew bond with Stede’s crew was a particular highlight of the first season. This is why it’s tragic to see Frenchie and Jim hardened under Ed’s rule. In the moments when Ed is pathetically wallowing, Frenchie and Jim reminisce about their time with Stede. Fang sobs in the corner of the ship, tired of this never-ending crusade the crew finds themselves on. It’s a sight to see rock band rejects crying into each other’s shoulders.
The ending to this episode is another masterpiece in terms of drama and song choice. Much like the end of the Season 1 episode “We Gull Way Back” when “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac played over Ed returning to The Revenge to be by Stede’s side even as they get captured, “Red Flags” ends in another inspired music choice. As Ed’s crew grows increasingly tired of his antics, a phoenix-like Izzy returns from near death to lead the crew in a fight against Ed. This stand is set to “Run From Me” by Timber Timbre. As Jim deals the final blow against Ed, the crew takes back their destiny.
Quotable Moment from Episode 2:
“Men are so fucking emotional.”
“That doesn’t sound like you. You have impeccable balance, babe.”
“My spicy little rat boy.”
“I loved you.”
“I’ve got an ex-wife, two messed up kids, probably.”
“I haven’t even told you about the man who died in my lap. He wasn’t even a child, he was just a very small man! Oh god.”
“That’s a bit misogynistic, man.”
“There are a few beheadings on here, and looks like he’s got back into arson and just being a bit of a dick.”
“The Innkeeper” closes out this three-episode premiere by diving into Ed’s psyche. Reeling from Jim’s blow to his head, Ed is on the brink of life and death. Stuck in purgatory, Ed contemplates his life by dreaming of becoming an innkeeper.
Meanwhile, Ed’s crew members find themselves aboard The Red Flag for another crew reunion. This brings Olu and Jim back together, though their separation has halted their potential romance. Jim’s hookup with another crew member of Ed’s crew is still new, and Captain Zheng has taken a liking to Olu. Whether romance is still in play for Jim and Olu remains to be seen, but these friends are as thick as ever.
When Captain Zheng and her first mate sniff out a mutiny amongst Ed’s crew, Frenchie, Jim, Izzy, and Fang are thrown into the brig. Though their time on the Pirate Queen’s ship has been lovely, Stede decides to break them out and take back The Revenge, despite knowing they mutined against Ed.
Their escape from The Red Flag spells trouble with the Pirate Queen in the future, but it’s trouble I’m looking forward to. Captain Zheng is a great addition to the season, and Ruibo Qian plays her beautifully. Her wit and blunt nature make her a force to be reckoned with out on the high seas. Now that our main characters have double-crossed her after she welcomed them onto her crew, there’s no doubt our crew will face the wrath of the Pirate Queen, who might have conquered China.
Ed and Stede finally reunite at the end of “The Innkeeper.” In typical Our Flag Means Death fashion, they reunite under the waves as mermaids due to Ed’s death hallucinations. Though the two are now reunited, there’s still tension aboard. Ed will have to face Lucius, his crew, Jim, and Stede, and perhaps, the consequences of his many actions.
Our Flag Means Death came out swinging with these first three episodes of Season 2. It’s a confident return for its sophomore season, with plenty of laughs and melodramatic romance to fill the entire ocean.
Quotable Moments from Episode 3:
“Go ahead and blow your brains out, but your last act on this planet will be surrendering to a woman.”
“Girl, how are you?”
“We’re taking back The Revenge!”
Our Flag Means Death Season 2 drops new episodes every Thursday on Max.
Feature images courtesy of Nicola Dove/Max
'Our Flag Means Death' Season 2 Premiere - 9/10