Our Flag Means Dying Season 1 Finale Assessment

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The ultimate two episodes of Our Flag Means Dying arrived this morning on HBO Max, and I can not consider a extra passable ending to what has constantly been such an unexpectedly gratifying story, full with so many plot twists and character developments. The epic conclusion to season one was meditative, somber, at instances stunning, and possibly contained among the funniest moments on the present to date—in addition to among the most severe.

It was, in brief, the whole lot you may hope a season finale to a comedy sequence can be: ending on a cliffhanger, concluding a number of plotlines, and illustrating simply how dramatically almost each predominant character on the present has modified in the midst of the present to this point.

Maybe the largest, finest plot thread that’s lastly addressed is Stede and Blackbeard’s emotions for each other. Over the previous few episodes, the present has been steadily hinting at a possible romance present between the 2 somewhat than a easy platonic friendship.

By episode 9, “Act of Grace,” we see that it is official—Blackbeard and Stede do certainly love one another, and are excess of simply easy associates. After Blackbeard saves Stede’s life within the opening moments of episode 9, invoking King George I’s Act of Grace coverage (an official decree that any pirate who abandons his prison methods and swears to serve within the Royal Navy can be granted full amnesty by the King) , the 2 males formally be part of the service as would-be recruits.

A number of instances throughout their recruitment course of into the Royal Navy, Stede expresses his uncertainty about their actions, asking Blackbeard if he has any plans on learn how to escape. Blackbeard, nonetheless, seems unwilling to go away the camp at first, saying that becoming a member of the Navy is de facto their solely possibility.

Whereas it could appear that Blackbeard is giving right into a defeatist viewpoint at first, in truth, he is solely doing this for Stede’s sake—with out his becoming a member of the Navy alongside Stede, Stede would’ve been shot. He does not need to endanger Stede’s life anymore by working away and having the Navy chasing after them, showing content material to stick with Stede and kind a brand new life for themselves within the Royal Navy (he even shaves off his signature beard to point out how severe he’s about beginning contemporary with Stede in a telling act of dedication for his or her future collectively).

Nathan Foad 2
Courtesy of HBO Max

It could appear that Blackbeard is simply doing this as a result of he cares for Stede as a good friend, however the reveal comes halfway by way of “Act of Grace,” when Stede and Blackbeard sit on a seashore, discussing how a lot enjoyable they’ve had over the previous a number of weeks collectively earlier than finally sharing a passionate kiss.

The gradual construct to this reveal was made all of the extra candy if you look again and think about how lengthy it is taken these two to confess their emotions for each other. Initially, you are led to consider they merely admire each other for his or her vastly totally different life and personalities, not even contemplating the truth that they’re really attracted to one another on a deeper, extra romantic degree.

However wanting again in any respect the interactions they’ve shared, you start to understand the romance has all the time been there—regardless of how delicate—making their kiss in episode 9 really feel natural and pure—not pressured or out-of-left-field in any respect. It is a relationship that is been constructing since even earlier than Blackbeard’s introduction, and I actually cannot praise the present sufficient for a way nicely it pulled your complete factor off. (For that, I say nicely performed to the showrunners at Our Flag Means Dying, and in addition to Rhys Darby and Taika Waititi for his or her superb onscreen chemistry collectively.)

Although Blackbeard and Stede admitting their emotions for each other is the largest point of interest of those new episodes, how they react and are available to phrases with these emotions on a person foundation is extra absolutely explored in episodes 9 and ten of Our Flag Means Dying.

When Blackbeard queues Stede into his concept that they run away collectively, residing in anonymity and beneath assumed alias removed from the Caribbean, Stede seems receptive to the thought at first. Nonetheless, his outdated life (the aristocratic one he shared with Mary, and his guilt over leaving her behind) prevents him from fully transferring on. Due to this, Stede decides to enterprise again to Barbados, reuniting with Mary and his youngsters. And simply as he had performed beforehand when he left Mary, he avoids telling Blackbeard of this plan, leaving the pirate on his personal, ready anxiously however excitedly for Stede in order that they’ll start their new life collectively.

It is the fallout from Stede’s actions that’s the predominant focus of the sequence finale, “Wherever You Go, There You Are.” Divided into two storylines—Stede in Barbados with Mary, Blackbeard with the rest of the crew aboard The Revenge—the episode particulars their differing reactions to Stede’s working away, in addition to the results of his abandoning Mary and his household to grow to be a pirate within the first place.

As we see within the opening moments of the episode, Mary has nearly fully moved on from her marriage with Stede. She’s labored onerous constructing a profitable and artistically rewarding profession as a painter (one thing Stede was by no means very supportive of), her relationship along with her youngsters has improved, she is a part of a close-knit neighborhood of associates (fellow widows who consider in carrying alongside and having fun with life somewhat than wallowing in grief), and has even discovered a brand new lover within the type of Doug (Tim Heidecker), her portray teacher.

In some ways, she could not be happier being “The Widow Bonnet,” which is after all threatened by the reappearance of Stede, who nearly immediately tries slipping again into Mary’s life as if he by no means left, inflicting an immediate and apparent rift between the 2.

To be honest, Mary has completely each proper to be upset with Stede, each by his abandonment and his sudden return. In contrast to Stede, she really tried to make their marriage work, despite the fact that they clearly did not love one another. After which, as an alternative of dealing with Mary along with his intention to go away, Stede merely left in the course of the night time, leaving a easy, unsentimental letter behind as a manner of rationalization.

That proper there’s a simply sufficient trigger for anybody to be rightfully pissed, however Mary’s labored onerous to maneuver on and make the very best of a nasty scenario, making a life she’s all the time dreamed of getting however would by no means have achieved with Stede. And now that Stede’s again, this present, personally satisfying life is threatened.

Stede and Mary’s interactions are a key focus all through “Wherever You Go, There You Are.” Whereas issues are clearly tense between the 2 at first, finally they reconcile issues, culminating in some of the touching moments of the present’s first season. Laying their emotions plainly on the desk, they share a frank dialogue about their failed marriage and why they, as a pair, would’ve by no means labored—however touchingly, they don’t seem to be bitter or offended with one another about their marriage. They’re extra remorseful, reflecting that they by no means actually wished to trigger one another any ache, however, as Mary places it, “simply cannot cease hurting one another” every time they’re collectively.

Angus Samson
Courtesy of HBO Max

The discuss makes Stede understand simply how a lot he misses and cares for Blackbeard, prompting him to go away Barbados for good on amicable, pleasant phrases with Mary and his youngsters, who assist him stage his loss of life so that they are left behind along with his huge wealth and property as inheritance. It is a cathartic second, full with Stede not solely absolutely realizing how robust his emotions for Blackbeard are, but in addition permitting him to lastly transfer previous his guilt over leaving his household behind and start a brand new part in his life (one the place he is not affected by disgrace over his actions, as he was proven to be all through this primary season).

Whereas Stede spends his time on Barbados, Blackbeard languishes over Stede’s abandonment, taking it extremely onerous. He spends his first days at sea hiding in his cabin, crying in his pillow fort, wandering across the decks in Stede’s robes, and writing miserable songs that start with “Hanging on … by a thread” and finish with “Life’s a tough, unhappy loss of life, and then you definately’re deaddddddd.”

Blackbeard’s response to Stede leaving him ushers in a brand new model of Blackbeard we have by no means seen earlier than, a person who’s susceptible, emotional, and deeply in ache and with no clear manner learn how to recover from it. Like everybody going by way of a breakup, he’s directionless and sorrowful, a lot to the frustration of Izzy Fingers (who’s rejoined the crew by episode 10, having been spared by Blackbeard for his treachery in aiding the British).

Feeling despondent by Stede’s abandonment at first, Blackbeard’s feelings finally give option to anger—then, pure, unfiltered, chaotic hatred bordering on madness. Shockingly, he throws Lucius overboard, leaving him for lifeless (there’s a risk Lucius survived one way or the other, maybe by swimming to a close-by island or being picked up by a passing ship), cuts off Izzy’s toe and feeds it to him, and reverts again to the older, close to sociopathic model of Blackbeard in lieu of the fun-loving rogue we would seen paired with Stede.

It is a character change that’s justified (tons of individuals find yourself hating their exes, in spite of everything), and in addition illustrates simply how deeply Blackbeard cared for Stede. As he tells Stede on the seashore, he felt actually glad for the primary time in years with Stede. He poured his coronary heart out to Stede—the primary man he is ever opened to in such an intimate manner—invited him to carry a big place in his life, and Stede rebuked him. He is damage and offended and feels rejected, making his response (although excessive) legitimate and earned.

The ultimate attracts to an in depth with Stede parting methods with Mary and heading again to sea, trying to find Blackbeard and The Revenge. Blackbeard, in the meantime, has rid himself of the whole lot that reminds him of Stede, casting his books and possessions into the ocean, and even leaving a lot of the crew marooned on a small island, crusing away with Izzy, an unconscious Jim (who’s returned to the ship and has reciprocated their emotions with Oluwande, with the 2 formally changing into an merchandise), and Frenchie (who Blackbeard retains aboard as a reluctant crewman/prisoner as a result of he can sew [Blackbeard redesigns his flag to resemble the jolly roger reportedly flown by the real-life Blackbeard—adding in the famous “pierced heart” element shown on the flag).

In all, I really can’t emphasize how enjoyable the season one finale to Our Flag Means Death was. Not only was the comedy on point—no exaggeration, I honestly feel these episodes were the funniest yet, containing plenty of literal laugh-out-loud moments—the episodes were also surprisingly emotional in their depiction of Stede and Blackbeard’s romance and the fallout from their unofficial breakup. It also showed how much their individual characters have changed over the course of the season. (Stede is now a much more hardened, confident, street-savvy pirate who’s able to think quickly on his feet, and Blackbeard has gone from bored pirate, to goofy co-captain/best friend, to Stede’s prospective lover, all the way to the unhinged, demonic, historical version of Blackbeard that haunts maritime history books, coming full circle.)

Even Stede’s crew—who openly voiced their desire to mutiny and kill Stede in episode one and who now go out of their way to protect him from being shot by the British—have changed drastically over the course of the season, as have their feelings towards their captain.

Like any new comedy series, Our Flag Means Death seemed to have taken some time finding its voice a bit in its first season—the earliest episodes may be a tad slow or uneven when you look back, namely regarding Jim’s backstory and mission of revenge against the Sieto Gallos that seemed a main focus in one episode, but was hardly touched upon in the next.

Seeing the finished season as a whole, though, I really can’t compliment Our Flag Means Death enough and express how well executed it’s been—especially that slowly-building romance between Blackbeard and Stede.

There were the occasional slight hiccups here and there, but the end product was enjoyable, fresh, and certainly original in its comedy and narrative possibilities. I only hope it isn’t too long before we receive a second season.

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This post was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Image Credit: HBO Max.

Richard Chachowski is a freelance writer based in New Jersey. He loves reading, his dog Tootsie, and pretty much every movie to ever exist (especially Star Wars).


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