To be completely honest, I was hesitant to start Our Flag Means Death since the sound of a pirate adventure show didn’t sound like something I would like. However, after watching the incredible first season, Our Flag Means Death season two continued to prove that I couldn’t have been more wrong about my initial doubts.

Our Flag Means Death season two is a beautiful story about love and the pursuit of it, all set against the backdrop of piracy in the 1700s. Picking up where season one ended, we now see Stede Bonnet (Rhys Darby) and his crew facing a different life than how we did when we were last with them.

With Stede having renounced his wealth, he and his crew have settled on the Republic of Pirates working for Spanish Jackie (Leslie Jones) as they try to get back on their feet. Among the adventures the crew get up to, they quickly meet Zheng (Ruibo Qian) and Auntie (Anapela Polataivao), who soon became key players in this season’s story.

Contrastingly, we now see Blackbeard (Taika Waititi) thrust full force into a heartbroken-fueled destructive rage, which he is forcing his crew to follow after. The softer persona of Ed Teach (Blackbeard’s real name) that Stede unearthed last season is swiftly hidden behind the ruthless, blood-thirsty mask of Blackbeard once again.

Both Darby and Waititi offer incredibly well-done performances of their respective characters, and showcase the layered complexity of both Bonnet and Teach. The two play so naturally off one another and are masters in both the emotional and comical sides of their characters. This season, like the first, continues to prove how well this show is cast and how wonderfully these actors are able to bring creator and director David Jenkins’ vision to life.

This show also does an excellently balanced job of playing both as a drama and a comedy; David Jenkins really found that sweet spot in amplifying the comedic, heartfelt, and hilarious, while simultaneously heightening the serious and dramatic. It is very impressive to see how the show switches between humor and deep emotion in such a natural way without ever feeling like they are trying to force any emotion or tone onto the viewer.

This season also continues to explore complex themes, with this season focusing on grappling with morality, what drives us in life, and what we live for, and it showcases these central focuses beautifully. There is also a greater amount of drama — and gore — this season compared to last. Granted, this is a show about pirates, so blood and darker themes are expected, however, proceed with a content warning for death, allusions to suicide, more explicit violence, and amputation.

An issue with this season, however, that many fans have expressed is in regard to this season’s pacing; season two only consists of eight episodes, compared to the previous season’s ten. At times, it felt like the season took on too much to cover in such a short amount of time, and even at the end of episode seven, I was left thinking “How in the world are they going to wrap all THAT up?!” Safe to say I was very impressed with how neatly things wrapped up in the final episode.

There is also a fun bonus of post-credit scenes this season, so be on the look-out for those.

Truly Captivating Performances, and Some New Faces

Just like in season one, the cast of Our Flag Means Death season two continues to be perfectly cast and immediately likable; it is very easy to root for all the characters and let them bring you into this story.

As briefly mentioned, Darby and Waititi offer incredibly complex and dynamic portrayals of Stede Bonnet and Ed Teach. They bring these characters to life in such a natural way, and especially through their subtleties, it’s easy to forget you are watching actors play a part and not just the characters themselves.

Darby’s brightness in his portrayal of Stede Bonnet continues to shine this season and we are shown again and again that Stede really is a good and loyal captain. It was satisfying to watch more of Stede’s emotions open up and watch him display moments of anger, confident certainty, and determination.

source: Max

Similarly, Waititi’s emotionally complicated portrayal of Blackbeard/Ed Teach is mesmerizing. It is unbelievable at times how Waititi is able to convey so much through even the smallest behaviors and is able to showcase the soft and trying sides of Ed simultaneously alongside the hardened and angered sides of Blackbeard.

Leslie Jones also makes a powerful return as Spanish Jackie, and her and The Swede (Nat Faxon) have some comically wonderful screen time together this season, which was more than enjoyable to watch.

This season also introduces some new key players into the craziness of this story. We are quickly introduced to Zheng, the Pirate Queen, played exquisitely by Ruibo Qian, and Auntie, played by Anapela Polataivao.

Qian brings a confident and head-strong air to this cast of characters and she is an absolute star on screen. Despite her and Auntie’s more serious and calculated approach to piracy, the pair have a naturally excellent and comedic rapport, and the two have some of the best one-liners in the season.

We are also very casually introduced to Archie (Madeleine Sami), the newest member of Blackbeard’s crew.

I liked her inclusion and thought she brought some fun chaos to the ship — and a sweet romantic plotline — however she did not feel as fleshed out as the other characters, nor do we really know much about her, which left me feeling confused with her inclusion or largely waiting for some major development on her behalf since her past and motivation is left mostly a mystery.

This season also featured some very special and exciting guest stars, but to avoid major spoilers, you’ll have to watch the series to find out who showed up as Anne Bonny and Mary Read.

Season Two Made Me Like Izzy

I’ll admit, I really was not a fan of Izzy (played by Con O’Neill) in the first season, however, I have now come to root for the stubborn First Mate. Con O’Neill’s performance in season two really allows the audience to not just better understand his character arc and motivations, but provides a lot of context for his behavior in season one.

source: Max

Izzy has one of the most beautiful and meaningful character arcs in the show and all wraps up rather nicely this season. He has moved from the static, angry, bothered Izzy we we have come to know to a more dynamic, softer, and patient pirate in season two.

Con O’Neill truly brings this character to life with such a natural ease and he is an absolute pleasure to watch on screen, especially when this season allows us to see more of the character’s emotions. Watching him bond with Stede and acknowledge how the two of them hurt Blackbeard but must work together to move past their issues for the benefit of the crew was unbelievably touching.

One of my favorite moments with Izzy this season has to be in episode six: Calypso’s Birthday. (Spoiler alert!) Hearing Con O’Neill sing in that episode was a delightful surprise and was such an important and touching moment for both Izzy and the crew.

Don’t Mind The Historical Inaccuracy

Our Flag Means Death as a whole has featured quite the handful of historically inaccurate moments, but even more so this season.

First and foremost, the real life Stede Bonnet and Blackbeard both died in 1718, whereas Zheng Yi Sao wasn’t even born until 1775. Also, there is continuous mentioning of the story of Pinocchio, despite it’s origination in serial form emerging in 1881 and Our Flag Means Death takes place in the early 1700s.

(Spoiler Alert!) Con O’Neill also sings “La Vie En Rose” during episode six, which wasn’t even written until 1945.

A lot of the dialogue also feels incredibly modern at times. From Zheng’s delivery of “Girl, how are you?” to Pete’s (Matthew Maher) “Come back when Blackbeard isn’t living rent-free in your head” to a character literally uttering the phrase “For the lolz.”

source: Max

Despite these historical inaccuracies, the charm, heart, and hilarity of this show make it something easy to look passed. Plus, it adds a fun energy into the series.

Beautiful Costumes and Stunning Set Design

In an interview with John Jurgensen for the Wall Street Journal, David Jenkins explained that “he had slashed the budget for season 2 by 40%,” and that “Much of that cost cutting was achieved by moving the production from Los Angeles to New Zealand, where it benefited from tax credits and other savings.”

Despite these major budget cuts, the impressive team behind Our Flag Means Death delivered an absolutely gorgeous season two; I assure you, their artistry was not sacrificed. This season is especially gorgeously lit and you can truly feel the dedication put into this show across every single department.

The cinematography and coloring are both absolutely stunning and offer supportive storytelling moves with how certain characters are framed and highlighted. The virtual production used in this show is also impressively immersive.

Like season one, season two also continues to include incredibly detailed and thematically immersive title cards, letting the art department shine front and center beyond the intricate work they showcase already dressing every scene.

source: Max

The costuming by Gypsy Taylor for season two is also unbelievably well done with absolutely beautiful and unique styling for every character. She spoke with TV Guide detailing some of the characters’ exciting new looks, especially for one of Stede’s outfits: the cursed, almost-matador style suit that gave him serious confidence and pizazz.

All of Blackbeard’s crew also gets extraordinary glow-ups with new costuming and styling at the start of the season, and I know he was in a fit of mania and heartbroken-rage, but my goodness did Blackbeard’s hair look incredible pulled up in the bun with the strands hanging out in the front. The wig artists on this show, especially for Blackbeard’s hair, did and excellent job; that is Waititi’s real hair as far as I can tell.

Excellent Soundtrack Selections

Season two also features some incredibly lovely and complementary songs. Including Nina Simone’s “I Love My Baby,” Timber Timbre’s “Run From Me,” and Donnie & Joe Emerson’s “Baby” adds a supportive and poignant element to the scenes they play over. The tone and lyrics of these songs really captures the mood and message of the scenes they score in a moving and memorable way.

Also, as a big fan of “Seabird” by Alessi Brothers prior to the show, I was so excited to hear it included in this season; it really was the cherry on top to emphasize Buttons’ (Ewen Bremner) arc. And including Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work”? Somebody get me some tissues because I’m crying my eyes out over here. Excellent choice.

Wrapping Up The Season

Our Flag Means Death season two really took me to emotional places I did not expect and delivered across every single department; the artfulness, creativity, and uniqueness of this show, combined with the darling charm and wit, truly won me over immediately.

Season two ends wraps up in a very nice way: satisfying without any major and dramatic cliffhangers, but still sets up lots to explore in season three. Our Flag Means Death has not yet been renewed for a third season, however if it is, creator David Jenkins has announced that it will be the show’s last.

This show is funny, heartwarming, tear-jerking, shocking, exciting, and beautiful, and I would absolutely recommend it. It is incredibly apparent how much fun everyone had while making this show, and that really makes it more enjoyable to watch.

The season finale of Our Flag Means Death season two aired on October 26th, 2023, and seasons one and two are now available to stream on Max.

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