Thursday, October 5, 2023

REVIEW: 'Our Flag Means Death' - Blackbeard Grows More Unhinged While Stede's Crew Adjusts to New Jobs in 'Red Flags'

Max's Our Flag Means Death - Episode 2.02 "Red Flags"

Aboard Zheng's ship, Stede, Olu and Black Pete have surprising revelations while Blackbeard's crew plots their revenge.

"Red Flags" was written by Adam Stein and directed by David Jenkins

Stede refuses to accept that the time he spent with Ed was the best life will ever be. It was only meant to last for a brief time. That's heartbreaking. Stede doesn't believe he used that time wisely. He doesn't want to give up on Ed now. And yet, Blackbeard is suicidal. He's grateful to his new first mate for allowing him to find closure with Izzy. Death is still required. That's the only way to end this pain. That's the mindset that consumes Blackbeard. The cake toppers remind him of what he lost with Stede. He was abandoned. He is incapable of moving past that. It informs everything else. He can't compartmentalize or hide his feelings. It's blatantly obvious what's going on. Plus, he doesn't care who he takes down with him.

Blackbeard gives a convenient story to Izzy about a dream hoping his longtime friend will fulfill it in reality. Izzy is given a way to take a shot at Blackbeard. The captain just did so when Izzy spoke up. The rest of the crew kept Izzy alive. Sure, his leg had to be amputated. He is losing more and more body parts. He survives. He is seemingly indestructible. That's how he exists in this world. It's futile to give up. He may even want that outcome now too because of the physical pain he is constantly in. However, he is capable of fooling Blackbeard as well. He refuses to abide by the captain's request. If Blackbeard wants to die, he needs to be responsible for it. He can't place the burden on someone else. No one will loyally follow that order.

It's absolutely horrifying as Blackbeard steers the Revenge into a storm. He believes it's inevitable that they will perish. The crew won't survive without proper guidance. The likelihood of death increases if he also sets the ship on fire. He prepares for death. That's his singular focus. It's heartbreaking because he was full of so much life previously. So much has turned because of Stede's betrayal. Blackbeard has enacted that misery onto others. He pushed Lucius overboard. The scribe has gone from ship to ship doing whatever it took to survive. He's finally reunited with his crew. He doesn't have a warm welcome for Stede. All of this happened because of what Stede did to Blackbeard. He brought Ed to the forefront once more. Without Stede, that reality doesn't seem possible. It absolutely can be. One person isn't responsible for another's actions. Blackbeard doesn't want to take that ownership. Instead, he suffers throughout the misery. That's how he copes.

Blackbeard fails to destroy the ship or kill any crew members. He nihilistically believes they will fight to the death. Their bonds are stronger than that. Plus, it was never going to stop his desire to kill them all. They don't have to play his games. Jim rallies because they have seen a different life is possible. The original people aboard the Revenge were once willing to stage a mutiny against Stede. He didn't follow the traditional understanding of a pirate's life. He wanted something else. He's not the only pirate who dreams of what this life can produce. In fact, Zheng seems to be plotting an invasion of the Caribbean. Her forces are slowly moving their ships across land. However, she too yearns for something more. She invites Stede and his friends to join her crew because she connects with Olu. He serves as a welcome break from work. He fulfilled that relief when she was running the soup shack. The same is true now that she reveals herself as the captain with lofty goals. He doesn't fully understand it. Auntie takes it more seriously than anyone else. But Zheng creates a space for people to explore themselves and their dreams.

Lucius fell on hard times. He found sanctuary aboard the Red Flag. Zheng still refers to him by his new demeaning nickname. He's degraded as "Rat Boy" because he was taunted into capturing rats with his teeth. He fell in line with crews that sought to exert their dominance and control over him. It was all about having a laugh at his expense. He could fit in on the Red Flag. He didn't question the order Zheng created. She isn't threatened by him. She doesn't view any of these new additions with the toxic energy that will compromise her ability to lead. They are sensitive and soft souls. They can still be utilized to great effect. That's what Zheng appreciates the most about Olu. She wants that energy in her life. Romance blossoms. The show isn't lovestruck over needing to keep Olu and Jim together as a romantic pairing. They are more than capable of exploring other connections. In fact, Stede and Ed are given the tortured love story. Any more of that would simply be overbearing to the overall tone of the season.

The animosity Lucius feels towards Stede is justified too. The former captain deserves to feel the consequences for his actions. He came from a world of privilege. He became a captain simply because he had the resources to buy his ship and hire a crew. That didn't mean they would respect him right away. That eventually came. In fact, they all look back at their time on the Revenge fondly. That was the perfect encapsulation of what being part of a crew could be. It was special. They miss that. It's impossible to rally in that solidarity now. Part of that is because of Stede's own misgivings. He placed his own ego and fear above the well-being of others. Ed follows the same trajectory as Blackbeard. They have an image that must be upheld. Anything that disrupts that notion is scary. And yet, it's better to be honest and trust that the people they love will understand. That's the only way Lucius and Pete's relationship flourishes. It's the only thing that can heal Ed and Stede too. The final image of Jim crushing Blackbeard is probably a misdirection. That's unnecessary. However, the show is doing well as it depicts these characters struggling in the darkness without each other. They simply exist in a turbulent and dangerous world full of people eager to replace them in infamy.