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The Catalyst

The Student News Site of Millard West High School

The Catalyst

The Student News Site of Millard West High School

The Catalyst

A swashbuckling sequel

“Our Flag Means Death” returns for a thrilling second season
With episodes releasing bi-weekly until Oct. 26, “Our Flag Means Death” keeps fans at the edge of their seats.

On March 3, 2022, the first three episodes of “Our Flag Means Death” premiered on the streaming service Max (then HBO Max). On Oct. 5, 2023, not even two years later, creator David Jenkins continued the cycle by releasing the first three episodes of “Our Flag Means Death’s” second season for streaming on Max.

After the spectacular success of the first season, fans of the show were excited to see the aftermath of its legendary cliffhanger. In short, the first season followed the fictitious rendition of an otherwise real historical figure, Stede Bonnet (Rhys Darby) a.k.a. “The Gentleman Pirate,” and his adventures with the entirely made-up crew of Stede’s ship, the Revenge. The fun and quirky crew featured in the show quickly managed to capture the hearts of the audience. On the other side of that coin- and the sea- was Captain Blackbeard (Taika Waititi), and his own crew. Blackbeard insists on finding this infamous “Gentleman Pirate,” much to the distaste of his first mate, Izzy Hands (Con O’Neill). 

Hijinx ensues, characters and relationships build, most notably that of Stede and Blackbeard themselves, going so far as to result in a kiss by the end of the season. The fluffy and romantic atmosphere does not last long, sadly. Stede, scared and confused, runs back to his wife and kids, the family he had abandoned many months prior, instead choosing to sail the seas. Blackbeard, heartbroken, returns to his crew, which has since been the combined efforts of Stede’s and his own and decides to go back on his promise to Stede to never kill again, instead returning to his old pirate ways of plundering and pillaging. In an effort to get rid of all reminders of Stede, Blackbeard tosses all of the former captain’s books overboard, pushes crewmember Lucius Spriggs (Nathan Foad) into the ocean, and abandons the rest on a small island in the middle of the sea. The only crew he keeps are his own, Izzy, Fang (David Fane), and Ivan (Guz Khan), as well as Jim Jimenéz (Vico Ortiz) and Frenchie (Joel Fry), the two most skilled pirates from Stede’s crew. When Stede comes to his senses, he is only able to find the crew that Blackbeard had dumped away.

The season ended on quite a cliffhanger, but fortunately, it wasn’t long before we got the answers we wanted.

The second season of “Our Flag Means Death” begins in a dream sequence. The first episode, titled “Impossible Birds,” is filled mostly with Stede and his sulking crew. With their ship and all other mortal possessions stolen by the vengeful Blackbeard, the posse takes up refuge in the Republic of Pirates, staying at a diner and inn owned by Spanish Jackie (Leslie Jones), a dangerous woman known for her many husbands. Swede (Nat Faxon), a member of Stede’s would-be crew, catches the eye of Jackie, and she immediately decides she wants to marry him. Being the lethal and powerful woman that she is, no one stops her. Jackie, however, spontaneously decides to up the crew’s rent, even though they are already working in the diner. Swede, now intimate with Jackie’s personal affairs, tips them off to a valuable stash of indigo dye, very rare and very expensive. The crew manages to nab it, only to be caught at the last moment as they are loading the goods onto a stolen dinghy.

However, another pirate captain has been following them along, as well. Zhang Yi Sao (Ruibo Qian), queen and conqueror of China, pays Jackie off for both the indigo and Stede and his crew. Jackie agrees to the terms but insists Swede not be included in the trade. Reluctantly, the crew parts ways with their mate and load on board Zhang’s ship. 

Meanwhile, Blackbeard’s new crew is pulled taut under his guidance. Ivan had been killed in between seasons, but a new character, Archie (Madeleine Sami) had joined the fray since. Izzy, who had been the first to suggest that Stede was a bad influence way back in season one, confronts Blackbeard on his new attitude after his break-up, only to get shot in the leg by the captain.

In episode two, “Red Flags,” we see that Zhang’s ship’s crew consists entirely of women, save for the one Auntie (Anapela Polataivao) calls “Rat Boy,” who turns out to be Lucius, saved by Zhang after ship-hopping for some months. The reunion is sweet, but it is evident, after a while, that Lucius holds a major grudge against Stede. Not only did he break up with the man he knew would go mad from it, leaving his own crew at Blackbeard’s mercy, but lacked even the decency to ask Lucius if he was even alright after finding out he hadn’t actually died. 

Back on the Revenge, Blackbeard’s crew is quick to mutiny after Izzy’s injury. Even after being promoted to first mate as Izzy’s replacement, Frenchie goes against his captain’s wishes, harboring Izzy instead of killing him. Jim and Archie end up having to amputate Izzy’s leg, and it is not pretty. Eventually, though, Frenchie slips up in front of Blackbeard, revealing the crew’s plot. In a manic rage, Blackbeard steers the Revenge into a nasty storm, looking to pit the crew against each other in hand-to-hand combat. Unsurprisingly, they refuse, instead opting to team up against Blackbeard, overpowering him easily.

Episode 3, “The Innkeeper,” features a reunion of the two separated crews when Zhang finds the Revenge all beat up from the storm. It would have been sweet and happy, were it not for the unsaid fate of Blackbeard. At this point, Stede is well aware of Blackbeard’s recent pastimes of choice but refuses to believe the man is truly bad. 

Blackbeard, the next time we see him, is washed up on a beach, being pulled along by a strange man soon recognized as his former captain, Hornigold (Mark Mitchinson). The man quickly takes up a tough-love paternal role, telling Blackbeard everything he doesn’t want to hear. In a particular fit of frustration, Blackbeard shoots Hornigold through the chest, killing him. Which is what we think, until he gets up. 

Blackbeard tries countless other methods of getting rid of what he thought was his former captain, but, after settling down, learns is actually his own subconscious. Purgatory is the word he uses to describe the place he’s in, stuck between life and death. ‘Hornigold’ tells him all he has to do is choose to live, and he’ll go back. But a choice so easy to many comes strangely difficult to Blackbeard. He isn’t sure anyone is waiting up for him, after Stede’s betrayal and his crew’s mutiny. In an attempt to wake Blackbeard for good, ‘Hornigold’ has him tied to a boulder, and pushes him off of a cliff and into the ocean. At first, Blackbeard doesn’t fight, simply choosing to succumb peacefully to his long overdue end.

In the living world, the united crew of the Revenge manages to escape Zhang after her plot to kill Blackbeard’s crew is revealed. The group zip lines across ships with a rope and blankets, but not before Archie steals the steering wheel of Zhang’s ship, rendering them immobile.

After the quick and daring escape, Stede finds Blackbeard’s body, lying in the cellar with a rag covering his face. Stede goes to sit by him, reminiscing on the good times they’d once shared, and how sorry he was that he didn’t get to say a proper goodbye.

Deep in the ocean, a light shines through the dark. Stede, all adorned with an orange mermaid tail and blue trident, comes to save Blackbeard. On the Revenge, Blackbeard’s hand tightens in Stede’s.

Upon seeing his friend, Blackbeard tries to swim closer but is caught in the confines of his ropes. But after only minimal struggling, the ropes come loose, and mer-Stede carries him to safety.

In the realm of the living, Blackbeard wakes up in Stede’s lap.

The creators of “Our Flag Means Death” have gone above and beyond time and time again, and these first episodes prove no different. If anything, they have set a higher standard for the remainder of the season, which will air two episodes to stream each Thursday until the finale on Oct. 26, 2023. A third season has already been confirmed, which will be the final installment in the series. 

The first season was definitely more true to its rom-com rating, but this thrilling change in pace is just as interesting. 

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About the Contributor
Alex Elgert
Alex Elgert, Staff Reporter
Alex is a sophomore at MWHS. They enjoy reviewing entertainment media, like music, movies, plays, and books. This is their first year on the CATalyst staff.

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