Thursday, March 3, 2022

REVIEW: 'Our Flag Means Death' - Stede Tries to Brand Himself and Immediately Gets a Huge Supporter in 'A Gentleman Pirate'

HBO Max's Our Flag Means Death - Episode 1.03 "A Gentleman Pirate"

Stede (aka "The Gentleman Pirate") conducts business in the Republic of Pirates. Oluwande and Jim face their past.

"A Gentleman Pirate" was written by Adam Stein and directed by Nacho Vigalondo

Stede has figured out his branding. Inspiration has struck. He will be known as the Gentleman Pirate. That's how he wishes to conduct himself. It makes it so he always stands out no matter what he does. However, that's the point. He leans in all the way. Sure, it's uncomfortable to watch as he embraces these formalities that don't play to the room at all. He requires Lucius to introduce him. He needs to bring an entire meal with him when negotiating with the Spanish Army. He believes these flourishes will earn him infamy. They are witnessed in full detail as well. Elsewhere, the action is cryptic with the figures who want to operate with mystery. It builds up those reveals too. Of course, the show could only delay Blackbeard's entrance for so long. The same applies to Bonifacia hiding amongst the crew as Jim. Now, Stede doesn't know he's harboring a fugitive. He doesn't particularly care either. It's just as shocking to know she speaks as it is that she's a woman. That mostly creates excitement for the future. She was limited in what she could do when she was maintaining this cover. It made it so Oluwande was the only person she could interact with. Lucius stumbled upon the truth as well. However, the show is pretty tepid when it comes to unraveling that cliffhanger. She keeps him locked up for a bit. It's not long until he's back as Stede's assistant. He records everything that his captains says. He's expected to draw the adventures along the way too. He also has secret skills. He happens to be a pickpocket. That actually endears him to Bonifacia. He can retrieve the knife that means so much to her. Meanwhile, Stede earns the respect of Blackbeard mostly because he has no idea who wants to meet him. Blackbeard's name is never mentioned when Izzy makes the approach. He was tasked with this mission. Blackbeard wants to meet the person who got the best of his crew. Stede showing no interest only makes Blackbeard want him more. It's an insatiable impulse. One that makes it perfectly reasonable when he comes in to save the day. Stede's crew has wanted typical pirate action. That plays out here even though Stede is unconscious for most of it.

Blackbeard knows the Gentleman Pirate. The name is starting to be recognized. That's what Stede wanted to achieve. He goes to this oasis for pirates believing it's where he needs to leave his mark. It's also for the practical purpose of selling the prisoner he still has. He can't keep him tied up forever. It's disrupting the crew's overall morale. Stede has to be purposeful with his actions. He wants to impress others. He mostly just embarrasses himself. He doesn't operate with the same menace that so many do. He doesn't want that. He wants to prove that piracy can be more than what it has always been portrayed as. He certainly gets the attention of Blackbeard. He will have to maintain that. A great legend can be born. That's his great ambition. When he comes close to death though, he sees his family. That continues to mean so much to him. They are nothing more than figments of his imagination. They aren't real characters who can respond to his actions. He has been at sea the entire season. He's trying to make his way as a pirate. And yet, it is known that they weigh heavily on his mind. He can't escape that life no matter how hard he has tried. It is always there simmering under the surface. It's a personal burden for him. He can't really hide it well either. That creates so much of his awkwardness. That energy is extended elsewhere in the ensemble too. Bonifacia truly believed a fake nose and beard would be enough to avoid detection. Jackie and one of her husbands were never fooled. They could see the truth right away. That has helped propel them to greatness in this region. It's how they've created their reign. This place is theirs. Jackie may have a shrine to the husband Bonifacia killed. However, she has a jar full of men she's pulled apart as well. She is vicious and determined too. Stede's crew escapes this threat. Many of them never want to return to this place again. It's fascinating to see which stories will continue and which will be dropped after one episode. The structure has suggested some continuity. Every adventure informs something more about how Stede conducts himself. However, the show needs to be more inventive when calling out how ill-suited he is for this job. He can only be called an idiot so many times before it simply grows stale.