top of page

TV Review: "Our Flag Means Death"

Several people I love and trust told me I HAD to watch this HBOMax show...and I'm glad they did. It's a sweet ensemble comedy that happens to be set on an amateur pirate ship in the 1700s- like Ted Lasso is a sweet ensemble comedy that happens to be set in a football locker room in London. You definitely don't have to be a soccer or pirate fan to enjoy these shows- they share genuine sweetness, sophisticated and tight comedy, and an ambitious thesis on men. The characters are compelling, each well-cast (SO MANY GREAT ACTORS), the costuming, sets, music, all of it is whimsical and fun. OFMD is definitely for adults- kids won't get it/care about the nuances, understand the social commentary, and while occasional swashes are buckled, for the most part it's it's talking, not fighting.

Like Ted Lasso, the main premise is that men need to nurture and be nurtured, to express themselves fully, and to be known- almost as if they're people, too. ;) The sensitivity and compassion displayed is especially amusing and captivating against the backdrop of alpha gangs at war at sea, and I love this trend. The cast of both shows is almost entirely men, but the occasional women have their own agency, humor, and storyline that doesn't involve them being victimized. About half the writers on both shows are women.

While there is rare violence, it's never sexual, which is one of my criteria for a comfortable watch. No men or women are sexually assaulted or even threatened with assault, which is kind of a miracle in a show about pirates, as my understanding from that genre has always been that people is what were pillaged most. This show demonstrates sex, and sexual chemistry/loving relationships between the (almost all male) pirates as part of that quest for nurturing and knowing oneself and being known. Those moments of occasional gruesome violence are visceral and the path from trauma/pain to causing pain is clear. The violence has consequences, internal and external, it's not just a game.

The premise is that the captain of the ship, Stede (on the right, played by Rhys Darby, known to me as Nigel in the new Jumanji movies (also excellent), is captain because he bought himself a fancy boat and outfitted it with a crew, not because he earned his way to the position. As such, he operates it as a "Gentleman Pirate," paying his staff fairly, treating them well, reading to them and making sure everyone is physically- and emotionally- well cared for- he doesn't really seem to have any aspirations for treasure or looting, just kind of sailing around, which of course he's not left to do for long. He brings his own trauma and loneliness, never feeling like he fit in or understood the rules of society, fleeing his loveless marriage to a woman and distant relationship with his kids, to pursue his childhood dream of pirating.

I'll leave the misadventures that transpire for you to watch, but one other thing I want to point out is the character of Blackbeard, played by Taika Waititi. The amount of emotional ground he covers with just what shows of his face (above the "it's really more of a salt-and-pepper beard") is incredible. I know Waititi is a renowned director, writer, comedian, producer, artist of all sorts, but in the few roles I've seen him in, I've found him to be over the top and unbelievable- not at all true here. He's so subtle and delicate, cautious and intriguing- in a fabulous cast of character actors, he's the one you're watching all the time as his reactions are almost always surprising, and always authentic. The story takes him to satirically weird places, but he's always true there. Also, full disclosure: his whole look and vibe gives me very funny in my pants feels, so my review may be a little biased, but I don't think so, but I don't know, perhaps. Anyway. My God, I didn't know I had a type. Now I know my type is Taika Waititi as Blackbeard in Our Flag Means Death, holy hell.



Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page