Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Daily Lobo The Independent Voice of UNM since 1895
Latest Issue
Read our print edition on Issuu
Our Flag Means Death.jpg

Rhys Darby plays Stede Bonnet and Nathen Foad plays Lucius in HBO Max's TV series "Our Flag Means Death." Photo courtesy of IMDb.

REVIEW: ‘Our Flag Means Death’ charts new course for positive representation

This review contains spoilers

After scrounging up crumbs for positive representation, David Jenkins’ new series “Our Flag Means Death” on HBO Max shows what a queer rom-com set on the high seas during the golden age of piracy would look like. The 10-episode series dropped the first three 30-minute episodes on March 3, but it wasn’t until after the finale aired on March 24 that I even heard about the show due to HBO’s obscene lack of marketing.

After being bombarded with people on my social media singing the sea shanty praises of the show, I queued it up and couldn’t help but consume it all within a day. I was pleasantly surprised to see a show handle racism, classism, colonialism and homophobia in a way that acknowledges the issues exist without making them central plot points. In fact, the show excels at addressing those topics because it flips the punchline onto the oppressor.

As a queer audience member, I was excited to finally enjoy a light-hearted slow burn period piece with multiple on-screen gay romances as well as a positive non-binary character that was portrayed by a non-binary actor (not to mention that I didn’t have to worry about traumatic doses of homophobia rearing an ugly head).

The show follows aristocratic Rhys Darby’s Stede Bonnet, the “Gentleman Pirate,” who leaves his wife and children to join a merry crew and take up a life of piracy aboard his ship, the Revenge. The crew features a number of standouts, including Nathan Foad as Lucius, Stede’s fashionable mutton-chopped scribe, Vico Ortiz as Jim, a murderer running from their past, and Samson Kayo as Oluwande, a voice of reason and Jim’s friend prior to joining the Revenge.

The first few episodes with just Stede and his crew are a little slow, as is the case with most freshman seasons of television finding their sea legs, but it sets up the rest of the season well.

Everything changes when Taika Waititi’s infamous pirate captain Blackbeard aka Edward ‘Ed’ Teach comes into the picture. The show deftly creates a story based on real people and historical events that, while less focused on historical accuracy, is a subversion of the heteronormative versions of history found in textbooks that don’t even mention matelotage (a version of same-sex civil unions between pirates).

The primary romance that develops between Stede and Blackbeard flips toxic masculinity on its head, opting to instead embrace sentimentality and tenderness. Only a show like “Our Flag Means Death'' could play “Our Prayer” from the Beach Boys after Stede meets one of the most ferocious pirates in history.

The romance is ultimately what makes the rest of the season so compelling as the audience gets to watch an unlikely friendship blossom into something more. Every instance of prolonged eye contact, shoulder touch and improvised bit of dialogue is evidence of the natural chemistry between Darby and Waititi that sells their developing relationship.

Lest we forget that the show is a rom-com, its comedic pursuits excel just as much as its romantic ones. The banter is witty, the physical comedy is solid and the guest appearances by several comedians are a nice touch. Episode five, "The Best Revenge Is Dressing Well,” also highlights the creative team behind the camera’s ability to experiment with the style of filmmaking to keep the audience on their toes and craft a hilariously memorable episode.

I was worried as the show neared its conclusion that the introduction of Claudia O'Doherty’s  Mary, Stede’s wife, would affect both the comedy and the romance, but I was gladly proven wrong. There was no creation of a love triangle or drama when Stede revealed his true feelings for Ed — only a hilarious attempt to fake Stede’s death at the hands of a big cat. The show sticks the landing with its penultimate and final episodes in a way that connects with audiences on an emotionally human level. 

While the end of the show perfectly lays the groundwork for a tumultuous second season, only time will tell what’s in store for everyone’s newfound favorite pirates as a second season is yet to be confirmed. What we do know, however, is the incredibly positive reception to the show represents the thirst of audiences for original content. Fans don’t just want reboots and sequels and prequels; they want to see absurdist queer period pieces and a second season of “Our Flag Means Death.” 

Enjoy what you're reading?
Get content from The Daily Lobo delivered to your inbox

Shelby Kleinhans is the multimedia editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at or on Twitter @BirdsNotReal99


Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2023 The Daily Lobo