Our Flag Means Death Recap: Eps 1-3

A recap for people who wait until late to catch up on this beloved mess of a crew…

Ed is manic. Stede is a perpetual people pleaser. Now, we’ve really got bad blood… 

The season two open, mercifully gives Leslie Jones’ Spanish Jackie a spotlight that I hope would shine for the rest of the season, but is unlikely to (also the best part of the ghostbusters remake.) Jackie’s casual royalty and opulently normal polyamy is something this writer welcomes to see on screen in a loving and playful manner. Jackie keeps the crew in some less than ideal conditions and then they are all taken on by Zheng Yi Sao, the pirate queen of China. Aboard Zheng’s ship, the Red Flag, Stede and the crew realize they’re now cogs in a well oiled machine, and not the scrappy individualists on the brink of survival they were before. What plays out is unpredictable and fun. Lucius hasn’t died (though, he wishes he has.) Olu is entrapped in a honeypot and Stede, shockingly to everyone, longs for Ed. 

Back on Blackbeard’s ship, it’s a wedding party of revenge every night. Ed longs, too. Except his longing has turned violent. Jim recites the eerie parable of “the little wooden boy” to a frightened Fang, introducing a motif that will likely come back later, and lays at the intersection of trans identity and disability as it reels into the next events on the Revenge. In a series of both tense and melancholic moments, Ed reveals how much he wishes to shuffle off the mortal coil, and asks Izzy to do it… who cannot. Izzy, who also tries to kill himself on his own sickbed, and misses… and is down a leg thanks to Ed’s violence. Toss the bouquet to these motherfuckers, indeed!

Stede and the crew eventually escape onto their old ship. It’s a huge success and a very satisfying one in a sometimes slow episode. However, this isn’t without the gut wrenching knowledge of Stede learning that Ed has died. Of course, one need not wade too deep into Herman Melville (though, they should) to know that anyone who dies at sea doesn’t always stay dead. Ed has his manic pixie manchild journey through the afterlife with his old abusive mentor, Captain Hornigold. It goes well, for the most part. The brevity of these scenes, however, are a highlight for me. Writers knowing that the impact of Ed’s journey not dragging for another two episodes was a fantastic idea. 

The mermaid montage of him and Stede at the end is stunning and impactful. It reminds me of the raw, queer zeal of Catherine and Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights (a relationship that has always been lauded as ‘toxic’ because it wades so deep into the intersection of marginalization, self-examination, and societal ills, and still refuses to moralize queer romance) not because it is ‘problematic’ but because it is closer to reality in terms of how art mimics life: so many queer people are drawn to these types of relationships– not because we’re abusive and evil, but simply because there is no equal and sane footing in Love. Even if we survive, we still, miraculously, wish to be devoured.  People are not pillars of virtue to be watered down into sainthood— that is what makes choosing right, wrong, you, him, or something else entirely so visceral and rewarding to watch. 

A ship full of queer-do-wells will sail next week into the deadly waters of self-actualization: What waits for lovers, enemies, and tenuous ‘best friends’ alike? Who knows– ever since the out-of-place and sometimes flat humor of season one has been dialed back somewhat this season, it’s nice to see more emphasis on the strange, tender, gruesome, and yes, occasionally funny problems that one faces in the shipwreck-turned-workplace metaphor of the year. 

It’s going to be a lot of fun.  Me? I’m just happy to be along for the ride.

Editor’s note: I love Kate Bush, but that needle drop was…weird? I kinda wish they went with something else! The song choices could be scaled back a bit. They’re fun, but I want them to have more purpose. To feel earned. Music elevates, not bolsters. Even watching something as different as Lupin season three, made me think of this again, and how discernment of where, how, and why a song is placed can make or break a moment.  

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