Rhys Darby and Taika Waititi's Pirate Rom-Com 'Our Flag Means Death' Keeps Sailing Sweetly in Season Two

After proving one of the standout new shows of 2022, the queer seafaring sitcom is back for a second voyage — and it's just as charming.
Sarah Ward
October 05, 2023

First dropping anchor with its debut season in 2022, Our Flag Means Death didn't wash up on streaming's shores like an unexpected message in a bottle. With a treasure chest of impressive talents involved, it arrived with definite fanfare, as expected of a Rhys Darby (Uproar)-led and Taika Waititi-executive produced series that also features the Thor: Love and Thunder filmmaker as a key co-star — and the director of its premiere episode. But the feeling of watching, especially as Our Flag Means Death cruised through later chapters in its initial ten-episode run, resembled discovering a new world. What started out as a kindhearted and satirical 18th century-set pirate comedy also became a sweet and earnest queer rom-com. Folks on-screen waiting to walk the plank weren't the only ones all a-quiver.

Our Flag Means Death's ensemble runs deep, with Samson Kayo (Bloods), Ewen Bremner (Creation Stories), Joel Fry (Bank of Dave), Kristian Nairn (Game of Thrones), Matthew Maher (Hello Tomorrow!) and Nat Faxon (Loot) adding to the familiar faces, plus Vico Ortiz (The Sex Lives of College Girls), Con O'Neill (The Batman), David Fane (The Messenger) and Samba Schutte (Forspoken) also among the regulars. As guest stars in season one, Leslie Jones (BMF), Fred Armisen (I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson), Will Arnett (The Morning Show), Tim Heidecker (Miracle Workers), Kristen Johnston (The Righteous Gemstones), Nick Kroll (Big Mouth), Kristen Schaal (What We Do in the Shadows), Claudia O'Doherty (Killing It), Angus Sampson (Bump) and Rory Kinnear (Men) made their presence known. Under creator David Jenkins (People of Earth), this group of actors helped the show find a mooring among the best new series that the year had to offer, and a renewal for a keenly anticipated second season. Now back from Thursday, October 5 via Binge in Australia and Friday, October 6 via Neon in New Zealand, Our Flag Means Death's return go-around is still a refreshing breeze and gleaming trove of gold.

The premise has always glinted brightly itself, following Darby as self-styled 'gentleman pirate' Stede Bonnet. Born to a life of privilege, he felt that seafaring and swashbuckling was his calling, leaving his life on land behind to hop on a ship — details that all spring from reality. Jenkins isn't interested in telling the exact IRL tale, however. Consider those basics merely Our Flag Means Death's departure point. On-screen, Stede gets caught up in both a workplace comedy and a boatmance. The first springs from his certainty that there has to be a nicer way to glide through a pirate existence, and the second from his blossoming feelings for feared marauder Edward Teach (Waititi), aka Blackbeard.

When season one wrapped up, Stede and Ed had found love in a buccaneering place, but also felt splashes of uncertainty about what their relationship means, leading to heartbreak and a breakup. Season two picks up with the show's motley crew of characters torn in two, with Stede and his loyal faction marooned on the island tourist destination that is The Republic of Pirates — fantasy is as much a part of Our Flag Means Death as comedy and romance — and Blackbeard back to his robbing and murdering ways on The Revenge. The series' attracted opposites will find their way onto the same deck again, but choppy waters are in store for their emotions. Similarly floating their way: rivalries, curses, old pals, new foes, betrayals, forgiveness, glorious silliness, trauma, lopped limbs and a merman.

Before Our Flag Means Death, Darby and Waititi had teamed up on everything from Flight of the Conchords and the What We Do in the Shadows film to Wellington Paranormal and Hunt for the Wilderpeople. In what continues to be a dream pairing, the upcoming Next Goal Wins comes next. As Stede and Ed here, they're cutlass-crossed lovers learning how to genuinely be themselves, including going beyond easy archetypes. And, they're navigating complicated terrain in season two. Although joy still beams through Our Flag Means Death's second swim, warmth in its heart to hearts and laughs in general, darkness also lingers. If the first go-around was all about taking exuberant plunges, this follow-up is a season of yearning, coping, and directing hard gazes in Bonnet and Blackbeard's own directions in the always-complex pursuit of sincere happiness.

That journey is shared around in Our Flag Means Death, as each member of Stede and Ed's crews — plus everyone that they cross paths with along the way — endeavours to carve out a space where only freedom swells. See also: the other romances that shimmer throughout the series like the waves, such as the Blackbeard-worshipping Black Pete (Maher) with Stede's offsider Lucius (Foad); and the nonbinary Jim (Ortiz) with their best friend Oluwande (Kayo) in season one, then with new crew member Archie (Madeleine Sami, Deadloch) in season two. Working out where everyone can belong beats at the heart of the show's workplace storylines, too. Whether fighting for better conditions or simply to avoid the worst of plundering the sea, the quest to truly feel at ease and at home keeps bobbing up.

When Minnie Driver (Starstruck) and Rachel House (Heartbreak High) join the series as ex-pirates now selling antiques and poisoning each other to retain their amorous spark, the same notion sways through as well. It proves accurate again in the storyline surrounding Ruibo Qian's (Servant) Zhang Yi Sao, a soup seller who is more than what she seems — and takes a liking to Olu. While Our Flag Means Death constantly charts a course back to Stede and Ed, its exploration of identity, freedom and comfort spreads across its entire map. In season two, the series also dives deeper into not just subverting ideas of masculinity within the pirate realm, but into the experiences of women wanting to claim their own authentic lives.

Parodying pirates with Darby and Waititi was reason enough to tune in when Our Flag Means Death first appeared, with a rewarding voyage resulting. Now that the show has locked in its ideal route, the delights keep coming. Waititi continues to demonstrate his knack for TV comedies, and for shows that fly like the wind in their own distinctive grooves. Reservation Dogs may've wrapped up perfectly with its sublime just-aired third season, but here's hoping that Our Flag Means Death joins What We Do in the Shadows in enjoying a hearty future.

Check out the trailer for Our Flag Means Death season two below:

Our Flag Means Death season two streams from Thursday, October 5 via Binge in Australia and Friday, October 6 via Neon in New Zealand. Read our review of season one.

Images: Nicola Dove/ HBO Max.

Published on October 05, 2023 by Sarah Ward
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