Thursday, March 3, 2022

REVIEW: 'Our Flag Means Death' - Stede Reckons With the Prominence of Death Amongst the Pirate Life in 'A Damned Man'

HBO Max's Our Flag Means Death - Episode 1.02 "A Damned Man"

Stede battles feelings of guilt while hunting for missing hostages. Lucius makes a surprising discovery.

"A Damned Man" was written by David Jenkins and directed by Nacho Vigalondo

Why can't Stede be a gentleman pirate? That's the question he asks himself. Everyone tells him he doesn't belong in this life. He is weak. As such, he should be part of a different profession. Him continuing to lead a pirate crew will only get all of them killed. That's apparent to everyone. It won't even be deaths they can admire. Stories won't be written about their fates. It will simply be the end of their stories. They won't live in infamy like Blackbeard. That's the revered pirate of the seas. Everyone is in awe of his legacy. They are inspired by him. Black Pete even wants to convince the crew he once served loyally by his side. Stede is the only person who believes the fanciful story. It makes him feel confident because such a great pirate has to be in his mist. Previously working for Blackbeard serves as a great reference for what Black Pete should be capable of doing. In reality, it's a pompous attitude meant to prop him up as important. However, Stede's action do gain the attention of the famed pirate. His crew has no idea they are tangling with Blackbeard's men when they run aground on a nearly deserted island. Blackbeard has yet to even be seen. At this point, he is just a myth. He is everything and anything. No one has any actual understanding of what he's like. He is simply the ideal of what they can possibly achieve. And yet, Stede's gentlemanly antics prevail and draw the attention of Blackbeard. His men may act out of pure revenge. They were bested on the island. It wasn't even creative what Stede did. He simply lied and made it seem like he had the more impressive crew. That doesn't match up with what he actually has. He never truly wants to admit how bad anything is. The ship crashing onto shore is an excuse to give everyone a vacation. Of course, the pirates don't know what that entails. They don't know how to relax. It also seems like many of them don't have any utility to the plot whatsoever. They aren't needed. Some details are important as they tease further plot points. Others exist solely to create funny moments. But it's also apparent that half of the cast is put aside to focus largely on Stede's ongoing adventure in the forest. He isn't coping with his recent transition to a murderer all that well.

Stede is told that he isn't actually a killer. That too is nothing more than a story told to prop up a loathsome image. He did so to earn the respect of his crew. It's not long before that is called into question once more. He is extremely gullible in that regard. Oluwande knows it's exhausting to care for the emotional well-being of a white man who doesn't have to be here. And yet, he too is on this ship denying his feelings. He yearns for Jim. He wants to be with her but is awkward whenever it's suggested that something more is between them. It's more important to maintain her secret. She is on the run. Lucius discovers she isn't who she appears to be. That's enough for her to turn incredibly dangerous. Stede needs Lucius. He wants to document every thought he has on this journey. He wants it all to form a captivating story of importance. This massive change needs to have purpose. Otherwise, he would have abandoned his family for nothing. That's the true guilt that weighs on him. He wants to believe his psyche is distressed because he killed Captain Badminton. He is the figure haunting him after all. It's much more complicated than that. It takes him opening up to someone completely new who can pinpoint his issues right away. They aren't complicated. He is a terrible husband and father. He leads a mediocre pirate crew. Nothing about any of this seems impressive. Stede is committed to this path. And again, he is victorious with his actions. He still maintains a prisoner. That's used as the barometer of his success. So long as that's true then he must be doing something right. The ship eventually makes it way back to sea. The mission can continue being hopeful about the future. Stede can leave the vision of Captain Badminton behind on the beach. It won't be so easy for him to deflect all of his emotional baggage. Nor can he continue to overlook all the frequent dysfunction amongst his crew. They are just as entitled to produce meaningful stories. The show needs to trust itself a little more. In doing so, it can truly reach the next level of being a must-watch comedy worthy of a subscription on this streaming platform.