7 seas and 10 episodes of fun


Our Flag Means Death

Nothing short of stellar, “Our Flag Means Death” is the best show of 2022 thus far. This fantastic comedy hangs heavily on the various romantic involvements of a cast of misfit pirates who are in way over their heads. Creator David Jenkins (“People of Earth”) was inspired to make the show after learning the true story of Stede Bonnet, the gentleman pirate.

The early 1700s are known as the golden age of piracy, and Stede Bonnet was a wealthy, Barbadian landowner who became fascinated with the profession of the pirate. Using his resources, he built a ship and set sail to seek a thrilling life as a criminal and an outlaw.

“Our Flag Means Death” opens on the deck of Bonnet’s ship, the “Revenge.” Rhys Darby (“Flight of the Conchords”) assumes the lead role of the gentleman pirate. In this opening scene, he wanders down the steps of the top deck, encouraging his crew to openly express their feelings should they be upset or uncomfortable.

It doesn’t take viewers long to recognize that this collection of oddballs is vastly inexperienced and underequipped for the violent and nuanced profession of piracy. It also becomes apparent that the romantic entanglements of the crew are anything but heterosexual. The cast is made up of characters with a variety of sexual orientations portrayed by extremely talented actors who will keep you laughing and on your toes. Virtually every member of the “Revenge’s” crew is homosexual, trans, genderfluid, bisexual, or in the case of the strange first mate, Buttons, an unexplainable cross between asexuality and whatever a person that is into birds is called. “Our Flag Means Death” has received critical praise for its promotion and positive portrayal of the LGBTQ+ community.

Darby as Bonnet is certainly the highlight of the show, but his counterpart, Captain Blackbeard, played by Taika Waititi (“What We Do in the Shadows”), is just as entertaining. The show ultimately revolves around the budding friendship of Bonnet and Blackbeard. Bonnet educates Blackbeard on the life of the wealthy aristocrat, and Blackbeard teaches Bonnet the ways of the ruthless pirate captain. Hilarity ensues as the two grow closer together and the story is supplemented nicely by the various hijinks and love stories of the peripheral characters.

Too many newcomers are in this cast to list off, but there are a good number of seasoned talents in the regular cast, along with frequent guest appearances by names like Leslie Jones (“Saturday Night Live”), Fred Armisen (“Portlandia”), and more.

Stand out supporting cast member, Con O’Neill (“The Batman”), plays the dastardly Izzy Hands, Blackbeard’s first mate. Izzy hates that he is taking orders from the gentleman pirate and resents the notion that his beloved captain is going soft at the hands of the silk-nightgown-wearing Bonnet. O’Neill plays the figurative straight man on board Bonnet’s ship and his looks of sheer disappointment in his captain’s newfound interest in designer clothing and table manners brought smile after smile to my face.

Claudia Doherty (“Killing It”) plays Bonnet’s wife, who finds happiness in his absence and dismay in learning that he is alive and that her newly-acquired widowhood may be in jeopardy. The episode focusing on her story might be the best of the bunch, and Doherty delivers an A+ performance in her role. Revealing any more of this late episode may serve to spoil the season, so I digress.

“Our Flag Means Death” dares to explore the intimate, interpersonal details of love and the complications it creates regardless of who we are. While it mostly remains lighthearted and fun, there are moments of genuine, heartfelt emotion that are difficult to dismiss as silly love songs. Each episode brings a new storyline that fits into the bigger picture of the 10-episode season.

Negative reviews of this show seem to be a result of wanting in the joke department. While some shows rely on high rates of big, heavy laughs, “Our Flag Means Death” has a much more subtle way about its humor that reflects the style of native New Zealanders Darby and Waititi. Fans of “Flight of the Conchords” and “What We Do in the Shadows” will enjoy the softer delivery here. It’s comedy with a gentler hand that a focused viewer will find no disappointment in.

There is blood, violence, and American bravado that gives “Our Flag Means Death” a big pop of color, but the beauty and best laughs lie in the quieter moments where a look or a word can affect one more than a cannonball or a sword through the eye.