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If This Is the End for Our Flag Means Death, It Went Out on a High Note

The Season 2 closer threads the needle between definitive series finale and sailing ahead to an intriguing Season 3.
  • Taika Waititi on Our Flag Means Death (photo: Nicola Dove/Max)
    Taika Waititi on Our Flag Means Death (photo: Nicola Dove/Max)

    Nothing is certain on television anymore, and that seems to go double for any show underneath the Warner Bros. Discovery umbrella. So while David Jenkins, creator of Max's pirate comedy Our Flag Means Death has intimated on social media that there are plans for a third season, which would be the show's last, there’s been no such indication from Max or their corporate parents that a third season is happening. That decision, either way, could come down at any time, but whatever way it lands, Our Flag Means Death's second-season finale, "Mermen," which dropped on Thursday morning, manages to thread the needle between delivering a season finale with more story on the horizon, and a satisfying end to the series.

    The finale picks up at a low point for the crew of the Revenge (and several others) as the rhinoplastically challenged Prince Ricky (Erroll Shand) has double-crossed Zheng (Ruibo Qian), laid waste to her ships, and cannon-fired the Republic of Pirates all to hell. Stede (Rhys Darby) and Zheng managed to escape into the island, while Stede's crew, Auntie (Anapela Polataivao), and Spanish Jackie (Leslie Jones) are all prisoners of the Brits. And as for Ed (Taika Waititi), the former Blackbeard had already left Stede before the attack and is attempting to live the simple life of a fisherman. He's awful at it.

    Obviously, Stede and Zheng are going to have to stage some kind of a rescue, and obviously Ed isn't going to spend his life as the world's worst fisherman. The "how" of the crew getting the jump on the Brits is pretty fun, and Stede and Zheng joining a returning Ed in battle on the beach — including a recreation of Stede's dream from the season premiere — is thrilling.

    But the heart and soul of the episode is in its final minutes, as Izzy (Con O'Neill) lies dying on the ship from a gunshot from Banes. Introduced as one of the least redeemable characters and a thorn in the side of Stede and Ed's burgeoning relationship for most of the series, Izzy had really come around in his own way. In the pair of episodes last week, he essentially gave Stede his blessing to be with Ed and crooned "La Vie en Rose" on Calypso's Birthday. Izzy's evolution over the course of the series is in keeping with the show's deconstruction of prescribed masculinity through the pirate archetype. His death, as he tells a weeping Ed just how much he's loved by his "family," i.e., the ragtag crew of pirates cobbled together over these two seasons, is beautiful.

    What follows definitely feels like a coda. Zheng and Auntie offer Stede and Ed a partnership, to go and pursue their revenge on Barnes together. Sounds like a hell of a prompt for Season 3, with the Revenge and its crew finally living up to their ship's name. But when Zheng and the crew sail off from the Republic of Pirates, Stede and Ed aren't with them. Whatever relationship hiccup the two encountered last week — Ed being over the pirate life just as Stede started flying high off the fumes of his first kill — is in the past, as these two pirate lovers get to essentially live the dream and retire as innkeepers on a tropical island.

    Jenkins, Waititi, and the Our Flag Means Death crew nailed the perfect "just in case" finale. If Max picks up the show for a third season: great! More show! They can pick up where they left off and follow the Revenge crew on their mission to hunt down Banes, while Ed and Stede can do the Spanish Jackie thing at the inn. Maybe the show flashes forward a few years, so when Ed and Stede eventually link back up with their old crew (you can't keep the band apart all season!), they'll have actually enjoyed their well-earned getaway. Plenty of story awaits to be told.

    But if this is the end: what a good end. In just two short seasons, Our Flag Means Death established itself as a show that excelled on two levels: It was a sweet, surprising queer romance that stuck to its guns, never backed away, and never denied the dignity of its characters for a cheap laugh. It was also an incredibly funny ensemble comedy featuring a great cast and a blessedly silly sense of humor. (As an added bonus, that ensemble comedy also had a few sweet and surprising queer romances contained therein.) In the closing moments of "Mermen," the ensemble comedy sails off and the queer romance stays back to tend to the inn. It's the best of both worlds in that it says the silly pirate fun we all loved will continue to sail on, while the romance we invested in emotionally gets a happy ending.

    But honestly, just bring it back for one more season. If only to see what Stede and Ed name their inn.

    Both seasons of Our Flag Means Death are streaming on Max. You can join the discussion about the show in our forums.

    Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.

    TOPICS: Our Flag Means Death, Max, Con O'Neill, Rhys Darby, Taika Waititi