Making people watch this show is my newest personality trait.
One of the most talked about (and most in-demand) new shows right now is Our Flag Means Death, the pirate rom-com streaming on HBO Max. As an enjoyer of delightful things, and someone who has watched the full first season of this show at least three times already, I wanted to break down just some of the reasons you should watch it.
Our Flag Means Death follows the adventures of Stede Bonnet, played with genuine earnestness by Rhys Darby, an aristocrat who leaves behind his arranged marriage and children to become a pirate.
Along the way, he runs into notorious pirate Blackbeard, a leather-clad, mid-life crisis rockstar-esque pirate played by Thor: Ragnarok and Jojo Rabbit director Taika Waititi. Waititi also serves as an executive producer on the show.
Bonnet wants to be known as the Gentleman Pirate, taking what he knows (books and stories, a closet full of fine clothing, the passive-aggressiveness of aristocracy) and attempting to merge it with what he doesn’t (his first onscreen “raid” consists of taking a plant from a small two-man fishing boat).
Speaking of Stede’s closet, there’s an incredible range of outfits (thank you, costume designer Christine Wada!) that Stede wears, and situationally disguises the crew in. And I’m a big fan of the black vests Blackbeard’s crew wears, in addition to Blackbeard’s little crop top.
The detail built into the costumes, props, and sets makes it easy to find a new favorite thing every time you watch. Ra Vincent, the production designer, has also talked about how not everything on the ship that should be connected is, as a parallel to how Stede hasn’t quite put all the pieces of piracy together.
The crew of The Revenge is filled with a wide assortment of new favorite characters for you to hyper-fixate on, such as Frenchie, delightfully played by Joel Fry, the Alan-a-Dale-esque songster of the crew who is the first to bring up a conspiracy theory…
…Nathan Foad as Lucius, the gore-averse scribe of the crew who collects great reaction shots like they are infinity stones, gets the first confirmed relationship of the show, and absolutely nails of a number of “please just recognize your feelings” scenes…
…Samson Kayo as Oluwande, whose warm demeanor, logic in the face of danger, and somewhat relaxed sensibility make up for the fact that his captain isn’t always making the most sensible (or the most pirate-y) decisions…
…and the absolutely magnificent Vico Ortiz as Jim, a nonbinary pirate who is occasionally in search of revenge against the group that murdered their family and has a reputation within the crew as a badass.
About half of the episodes also feature the incomparable Leslie Jones as Spanish Jackie, a pirate with close to 20 husbands and a jar of her enemies’ noses.
The historical pirate rom-com was created by David Jenkins, who included the romance between Stede and Blackbeard as a central part of the show’s pitch.
The show highlights not one, not two, but THREE significant queer relationships, and treats them all with care and respect. From the smirky flirts of Lucius and Black Pete, to the friends-to-lovers perfection of Jim and Oluwande, to the please please please admit your feelings to each other of Stede and Blackbeard, the rom-com moments are immediate rewind-and-watch-again-worthy.
While the show is inspired by notable pirates (Stede Bonnet and Blackbeard were both real people who did actually interact), it is suitably anachronistic toward its historical inspiration, allowing for the show’s humor and heart to shine even brighter. (And hopefully allowing for a much more rom-com ending.)
Pretty much everyone onscreen has comedic moments to shine in, but they don’t overshadow the lovely, quieter moments, especially those between Stede and Blackbeard, that are ever present within the show.
Speaking from experience, this is the easiest show to get other people to watch and then talk to you about, and I’m of the opinion that shows that are shared offer some of the best experiences.
At its heart, Our Flag Means Death is about characters who are breaking a holding pattern of discontent and trying to reach for something new.
If you’re still not sold, think of this show as somewhere in the center of Black Sails, Ted Lasso, and The Princess Bride.