Thursday, March 10, 2022

REVIEW: 'Our Flag Means Death' - Stede and Blackbeard Put New Lessons Into Action in 'The Best Revenge Is Dressing Well'

HBO Max's Our Flag Means Death - Episode 1.05 "The Best Revenge Is Dressing Well"

Blackbeard and Stede attend a fancy party. Oluwande and Frenchie embrace false identities. Izzy and Lucius go head-to-head.

"The Best Revenge Is Dressing Well" was written by John Mahone and directed by Fernando Frias

Stede and Blackbeard immediately start offering each other lessons. They waste no time in this new arrangement they've made. It's fascinating to see how much time is devoted to each lesson plan as well. Blackbeard brings Stede's crew into the middle of one of their epic battles. It's an absurd situation because Stede wants Lucius taking notes and sketching. He was concerned about how violent it would be beforehand. It's vicious when he is actually in that environment. The brutality is meant to be the focus. It's funny because of how out-of-place these two people are. That extends to their behavior after the raid. The looting afterwards is just as important. Blackbeard's crew is literally robbing from the dead bodies. Gold teeth can be valuable. Meanwhile, Stede immediately heads to the modest library. He wants to see which books are available. Moreover, he replaces them with what he already has. He isn't robbing this crew dry. He's not torturing them to death. He offers an exchange of ideas. He sees the value in human connection. He struggles coming across as intimidating. It comes so naturally to Blackbeard. Of course, the same can be said about Stede's ability to navigate through high society. He knows the precise utensils used. He can lay out the tableware perfectly for a fancy party. He teaches Blackbeard the difference between aggression and passive aggression. He has thrived on the high seas by being a terrifying presence. He threatens to kill people and then actually does it. It's the risk people in this line of work carry. They expect as much. That's life on the sea. Any day could end in death. Those aren't the stakes for the people in society who always rise above such trivial concerns. Sure, they die too. They aren't safe from the various threats in this world. However, they create their own society. It's a means of escape. They invite fascinating people to dine with them and share stories. It's all elaborate and built on the perception of some behavior being bad. Life is more free amongst pirates. Lucius has no secrets even though he can quickly seduce any member of the crew. He prides himself in that regard. It means he doesn't have to do any of the arduous work that comes from maintaining a ship. He can escape simply because he is so sexually assertive and confident. That too is refreshing to see.

More time is spent at the fancy party where Blackbeard poses as Jeff the Accountant. He views that as the most impressive name and profession he could pick to fit into this crowd. He desperately wants to belong. It extends from childhood trauma where he was told he would never have the finer things in life. He has held onto that one piece of silk ever since. That's still his most cherished possession despite all he has accomplished as a famed pirate. Meanwhile, Stede has closets full of these treasures. He has secret compartments meant to hide all that he cannot live without. He is privileged in that way. He doesn't like these parties. He knows how to behave. That still doesn't make him equipped to live the life of the man whose identity he stole in order to attend. He can't offer Antoinette what she desires from him. In fact, Blackbeard turns out to be better company. He can tell fanciful anecdotes. The brutality of most of his stories don't play well in this crowd. Him simply be more playful with his true self is enough to seem like he conquers this life too. He picks up how to succeed much faster than Stede does. That may show Stede's own limitations in this world. He isn't capable of being more than what he had as an aristocrat. He is a pirate now. He can't escape that. He even has an enemy hunting him down for killing his twin brother. That's a tantalizing tease. One that suggests a much larger world full of connections. It also allows the show to keep working with Rory Kinnear. That's a blessing for any project. This show lets him be more absurd than anything else he has done. That's exciting for the future. The same goes for the suggestion of respect and attraction between Stede and Blackbeard. Stede needs to save Blackbeard during this party because he can't handle the passive aggressive words ridiculing how he eats. Stede only has the information to take down everyone else in the room because he has the respect of his crew. Frenchie and Oluwande are running an African prince scam to steal as much money from these entitled people as possible. They don't keep it for themselves. They give it back to the long overlooked servants who've had to deal with these aristocrats for much longer. That highlights an underlying goodness that exists amongst this crew. That lets the audience believe in them and how they treat others. It's still a story about pirates. The looting and killing is still prominent while always suggesting more depth too.