The School Newspaper of Rouse High School

Raider Rumbler

The School Newspaper of Rouse High School

Raider Rumbler

The School Newspaper of Rouse High School

Raider Rumbler

Review: Our Flag Means Death

Award Winning Show “Our Flag Means Death” Sets Sail For Its New Season
Graphic made on Canva by Levi Walters.

“I know we would have never chosen this, not in a million years, but all we have is this one life…”

-Marry Bonnet, “Our Flag Means Death,” 2022

With season two having just been fully released, praise for HBO Max’s “Our Flag Means Death” is through the roof. As Max’s number one most popular streamed show at the time of its season two release, there was something that the audience clearly found captivating in the series.

Our Flag Means Death follows “gentleman pirate” Stede Bonnet, who leaves his nobleman life behind to become a pirate captain. The story delves into his struggle with captaining a group of real pirates (hint: he’s not good at it) and explores his encounter and relationship with fierce pirate Edward “Blackbeard” Teach. The narrative remains humorous while tackling serious issues of trauma, mental health and, of course, piracy.

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In and of itself,Our Flag Means Deathis a journey of self discovery. From the beginning, we witness Stede Bonnet leaving behind his wife, kids and riches to pursue a more fulfilled life at sea. Throughout the show, he grapples with trying to find his purpose in life. When he crosses paths with the infamous pirate “Blackbeard,” the story unfolds as he attempts to find a place for Ed in his life, constantly striving to make a good impression on the notorious pirate king. 

While the connection between Ed and Stede goes beyond platonic, it remains subtly beneath the surface for a majority, clearly not the only storyline they want to delve into.Our Flag Means Death treats queerness as something normal and worthy of celebration without making it the sole focus of the story. This nuanced approach resonated with audiences of all backgrounds and identities, as it’s not just gay; nor is it only about two men falling in love. It’s a tale of piracy, history and the possibility of how things could have unfolded; queerness is a blossoming undertone without dominating the storyline.

This narrative extends to the character of Jim as well— a ruffian mute with a violent streak and a mysterious secret. When revealed early on that they are not the cisgender man everyone assumed, chaos ensues. However, the crew, after a brief uncertainty, responds with kindness when Jim expresses the desire to continue being called by the same name. There’s no explicit discussion; Jim is just called Jim and referred to with the pronoun “they” like it’s no big deal. Addressing aspects of queer topics such as trans identity can be challenging, yetOur Flag Means Death handles it with grace, portraying trans identity as easily accepted, allowing the character to be unapologetically themselves without being reduced to a mere trans poster child. 

Perhaps the reason why Stede and Ed’s relationship is so breathtaking is its naturalness. There’s nothing impure or forced about it; they just happen to find comfort in one another. In every sense, they’re each other’s missing piece. With their own problems, issues and traumas, they find stability in one another. They provide a breath of fresh air for one another– Edward can be himself without the burden of living up to the expectations of “Blackbeard,” and with Stede, he only has to be Edward. Stede, in turn, is liberated from the expectations of his family and he gets to choose who he wants to be and wants to love.

Having watched the show at least five times, I confidently give it a 10/10 rating because it truly improves with each viewing. Partially produced by one of its stars, the writing exudes intentionality, inspiration and authenticity. It skillfully addresses issues of trauma with grace. Moreover, the narrative weaves multiple love stories that resonate with anyone, regardless of their identity or orientation.

The series explores historical narratives through a queer lens, aiming to underscore the timeless existence of queerness. This perspective asserts that queerness is an enduring aspect of human history. “Our Flag Means Death stands as a historical relic with universal appeal, inviting everyone to find a place within its narrative—a testament to its beauty.

*Editor’s note: Levi Walters is a student writer. All views expressed in the commentary are his own and are independent of the district, Rouse High School and the publication.

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