'Our Flag Means Death' review: A comedy of pirates 

Still from 'Our Flag Means Death' (Image via HBO Max)
Still from 'Our Flag Means Death' (Image via HBO Max)

HBO Max's period comedy Our Flag Means Death released three episodes today and has proved itself to be a promising comedy series to look forward to. It follows the story of Gentleman Pirate Stede Bonnet, a wealthy aristocrat who, bored with his life, leaves his comfortable home to become a pirate captain - a job for which he has no qualifications or talents.

Set in 1717 and based on a true story, the Taika Waititi comedy is certainly a new take on the pirate genre. What happens when a landed aristocrat takes to the sea to become a pirate? Mayhem and comedy ensue.

[WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD]


'Our Flag Means Death': The Gentleman Pirate and his ways of pirating

Stede Bonnet is too soft-hearted to become a pirate, but he dares to dream of adventures. Bonnet is kind in his mannerisms, refined in his taste, and instead of wielding a strong hand over his crew, he is empathetic and caring, so much so that they don't feel like real pirates anymore.

Bonnet decides to do things differently. Informed by his soft upbringing and his wealthy ways, he pays his crew a weekly wage, reads them stories at night, and teaches them to channel their emotions through words and creative endeavors, and not violence. Having to stoop so low and become so soft, his crew is disheartened and dissatisfied with the way their captain is. It is a way of life that they have never known before and they are not happy with it.

Our Flag Means Death is nothing of the sort pirate movies usually are. At the heart of it lies subversion, as a crew of pirates dismantles the toxic masculinity and heteronormativity of the pirating world with the help of their soft-hearted pirate captain whom they call the Gentleman Pirate. Though Stede's capabilities as a pirate are questioned, and his distaste for violence is criticized, he manages to establish a new order that is more wholesome and that positively affects the crew members.

Bonnet discards all the trademarks of an intimidating pirate and only strives for adventure and, more importantly, changing the lives of his crew for the better by helping them to be better men. Our Flag Means Death suggests that there's no one right way to be a pirate, just like there's no one right way to be a man.


'Our Flag Means Death' does justice by subversion of the pirate genre

Mutiny brews amongst the crew members in light of their dissatisfaction with their captain. But that is soon quelled when Bonnet proves, by fluke, his capabilities as a leader and his ruthlessness as a pirate when he kills a British naval officer. Word of his feat spread far and even Blackbeard, the dreaded pirate, comes to know that Bonnet captured a British vessel, took hostages, and killed a British naval officer. He decides to invite Bonnet on board, but the Gentleman Pirate declines the offer.

However, one stray achievement does not hold Bonnet's reputation amongst his crew for long. Bonnet's lack of experience soon starts to show. He runs his ship aground on an island and is himself taken hostage by indigenous tribals who fear he is a colonizer here to plunder and loot them. However, his good heart carries him through the situation as he gains the good faith of the tribal chief, and they help him set his ship afloat again.

But Bonnet soon again lands himself in another pickle. Naive as he is, he and his crew are tricked and taken on board a Spanish vessel that aims to take out pirates and rid the sea of their tyranny. Left at their mercy, Bonnet and his crew are stuck in a situation where it does not seem like they will get out of it alive. Though Blackbeard and his crew drop in to rescue them, it seems unlikely that Captain Bonnet will survive.

Our Flag Means Death is another legendary period comedy, up there with the likes of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The series is not just one man's credit. The ensemble cast does a phenomenal job embodying unique personas, and every scene with them is a riot. The colorful crew is the essence of Our Flag Means Death and adds to the comedy.

Overall, Our Flag Means Death seems to be a reimagination and a subversion of the pirate genre to create a gem of a comedy series. It is a refreshing break to follow Bonnet and his hilarious crew on a pillaging adventure on HBO Max.

Quick Links

Edited by R. Elahi