At its core, Our Flag Means Death season 2 is conscious of the fact that a truly good, beloved series was born of the series’ first season — and that in order to be successful, all it had to do is stay true to the heart of it. I believe they’ve done exactly that in the new season.
The series is just unending joy. Even when you’re reduced to tears by the love and heartbreak so beautifully represented onscreen, there is happiness in watching something so lovely, heartwarming and pure. It’s comforting in its ability to relate to its audience, in the laughs it creates, and to the voice it gives to so many groups of people who are still begging every day to be heard. Everything about the new season felt like coming home after being away for over a year. From the iconic title cards, the instant banter between the crew, and the realistic exploration of human emotion, it didn’t take long for episode 1 to lull me into that same feeling of warmth that season 1 created, almost like a warm hug from everyone involved in creating it.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll have spent the hours leading up to the season’s premiere by refreshing on the first season, and I must say that I can only encourage it. For a series with episodes that come in just under 30-minutes each, there are so many plot points and character traits to even the supporting cast that it’s only helpful to go in with those details fresh in your mind.
There are so many talented people to thank for a series as beautiful and complex as this, first and foremost creator, writer, and executive producer David Jenkins — who doesn’t have enough on his plate with just those three roles and takes on directing two episodes this season as well. Jenkins has always told stories that on the surface are comedic and effortlessly entertaining, but once you crack them open there’s so much more to reveal. His love stories are always capable of pulling at anyone’s heartstrings, all of us knowing what it feels like to love and to want to be loved, his writing reflecting pieces of ourselves back at us through the screen.
The writing on this season is imbued with such a deep level of care that with every passing minute it’s apparent that each member of the writing team loves these characters and their stories just as deeply as the fandom … if not more. It can’t all be happiness — there are plot points that are devastating, a continuation from the series’ first season, but there’s also not single moment that doesn’t progress or add to the story’s grander picture.
From every design aspect season 2 is stunning. On the costume design front you have pieces that evoke certain feelings toward the character, pieces that cosplayers will be scrambling to replicate in time for the next convention — after all, what would Our Flag Means Death be without a fine fabric? The production’s scale increased with more ships and locations to design than ever, and it didn’t suffer for it, each set designed with intricacy, attention to detail, and with a beautiful result in mind. The combination of these aspects lend well to the cinematography, with even more stunning shots to pause in awe over than season 1 offered.
An October release leaves plenty of time for season 2 songs to make it onto the fandom’s Spotify Wrapped playlists, and I expect several songs will, just as Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” was on everyone’s last year (don’t even try to tell me otherwise). The score is the perfect match to this high seas love story adventure, and the playlist adds to the emotions to deepen the experience.
The cast is well aware of what people loved about the series the first time around and this is apparent in every scene — not just in verbal line delivery but in every movement. The humor is increased and still perfectly timed — I can’t wait to hear from the cast in the future about what was improvised. Every character in this series is cared for — the cast know it because they see it as they engage the fandom online, and this is showcased by the hard work that is displayed by them in each episode.
The cast know what the audience wants to see consistently, aware of what exactly that will be for each scene’s tone — a longing gaze, an exasperated expression, well-timed comedic flair, boiling anger … time after time the cast proves they were cast to perfection. This season’s guest stars, particularly Minnie Driver as the pirate Anne Bonny, offer just as many laughs as last season’s did, holding their own with the principle and supporting cast despite their short screen times.
This season, it was hard to pull my attention away from Con O’Neill, who plays the enigmatic first mate to Blackbeard, Izzy Hands. Izzy and Con became fan favorites in season 1 despite Izzy’s betrayal of Ed, and anyone who doesn’t already love him won’t be able to hold out for long. There is a deep, emotional complexity to Izzy’s role this season that is an undertaking for any performer — O’Neill takes it in stride.
At the head of it all is Rhys Darby, the Gentleman Pirate — Stede Bonnet. We left Stede in clarity, and while that clarity about how he feels toward Ed is stronger than ever, his faith in the man he knows he loves unwavering, there are aspects from every angle that present challenges, that push Stede further into emotional turmoil. Darby never allows Stede to lose that hope, he never allows a moment where the Gentleman Pirate isn’t charming — there isn’t a moment you’re not rooting for Stede to get his happy ending.
And then of course there’s Taika Waititi, who in this case didn’t miss in a single moment onscreen, an absolute powerhouse of a performer from every emotional aspect in this chapter of Edward Teach’s story. There isn’t one line delivery, mannerism, or expression from him that feels even the slightest out of place; his work ethic, talent and dedication delivering an even more stunning performance than what audiences were treated to in the first season. In season 2 Ed takes on so many different darknesses, and Waititi brings all of them to screen with grace.
If you thought that Our Flag Means Death season 1 got a rise out of the internet, there’s another thing coming when season 2 premieres on Max this fall. The story continues beautifully, exploring the many complexities of human emotion toward heartbreak, personal identity, trauma, and so much more than you just wouldn’t expect from a “pirate comedy.”
But then – the series isn’t just a pirate comedy — it never has been, and hopefully never will be should it get a well-deserved third and final season.
Our Flag Means Death season 2 premieres with three episodes Thursday, October 5 with two episodes releasing on the following Thursdays until October 26, when the season finale is set. Follow along with interviews, episodic recaps, and additional coverage for the season from Nerds & Beyond here.