Thursday, October 12, 2023

REVIEW: 'Our Flag Means Death' - Stede's New Suit Causes Fear Throughout the Crew in 'The Curse of the Seafaring Life'

Max's Our Flag Means Death - Episode 2.05 "The Curse of the Seafaring Life"

As Blackbeard remains plagued by the distrust of his crew, Izzy schools Stede on how to be an effective captain.

"The Curse of the Seafaring Life" was written by John Mahone & Simone Nathan and directed by Andrew DeYoung

Stede is still learning how to be a captain. Izzy has seen many pirates better than him in every imaginable way. And yet, Stede is still alive while they're dead. The skills required to be a pirate are more difficult than they appear to be. Stede shows no natural talent. Instead, he blacks out whenever in battle and lets his body take control. He needs to learn how to wield that talent to his benefit. It's all a measure of confidence. Some members of the crew are annoyed by how often he apologizes. Meanwhile, others want Blackbeard to actually say "I'm sorry" for all that he did to them. It's a careful balance that needs to be struck. The show masterfully analyzes these concepts. The season began by embracing more of the darker impulses of humanity. Everyone was pushed to their limits. And now, they've emerged on the other side where the storytelling can be fun and humorous again. None of it came across as forced. It was simply part of the journey that had to occur in order to arrive at this moment.

Blackbeard doesn't return to the Revenge as its captain. Stede takes over that title once more. Meanwhile, Ed is reduced to wearing a bell so he can never sneak up on people. Lucius is still terrified by his presence. He remains fixated on how he almost died. Blackbeard pushed him overboard. That was the first moment in which Blackbeard decided to wallow in the darkness of his soul. Lucius survived. He doesn't bring much attention to that. It should be celebrated. Because of that, he got to reunite with Pete. They get to openly embrace their love. It's stronger than ever before. Lucius can't get Blackbeard out of his head. He hoped throwing him off the ship would ease his pain. It doesn't. The problem is how he sees the world. What Blackbeard did to him was horrible. Ed presents as a changed person once more. He is facing punishment for his actions. He holds no power over Lucius anymore. As such, it's freeing to accept what life can be moving forward. Sure, it's not healthy for Izzy to forget how he lost his leg. It offers clarity that's needed to survive on a pirate ship. Because of that, Lucius proposes and Pete accepts.

So many members of the crew have to be willing to look inward and face the truth of who they are. Their actions don't always line up with who they want to be. Ed is ashamed of how he tortured the crew. They come up with creative ideas for how to punish him. He's accommodating to any request that can potentially make them feel better. He doesn't want Lucius to continue suffering. However, Ed is dealing with his own pain and trauma. He's incapable of staying still and sitting in his thoughts. He's always quick to action. That's how he has survived for years. That's how he became infamous. That legend is secure. Life holds more potential than that. He has the chance at happiness and love with Stede. He's not entirely in the right headspace to move forward with that fully. That could feel like a cheat to drag this story out further. However, it offers a fair amount of sentimentality. It's about Ed and Stede openly communicating their feelings. Right now, it's simply important to celebrate Ed catching a fish. The joy he gets from that small victory is overwhelming and exciting. He did something Fang thought he couldn't do. It was a struggle. Ed felt he had to prove how good he was at being quiet. It paid off. Hopefully, more can as well if he remains committed to this path.

Elsewhere, the crew believes a suit Stede takes from a raided ship is cursed. That was the final message of a dying priest. He warned Stede and Jim not to touch anything. That would allow the curse to spread. Stede doesn't listen. Jim immediately becomes superstitious. She speaks out immediately. It doesn't matter how well Stede wears fine things. The suit invites misfortune onto the ship. The curse doesn't have to be real to have that effect. Frenchie is allergic to peanuts. He eats them for the first time. His symptoms are then blamed on the suit. Everyone quickly grows consumed by the hysteria. Stede believes they are being ridiculous. And yet, his responsibility as captain is making sure his crew are protected and heard. He admits that the curse is real because they believe it to be. That includes one too many qualifiers to ease their concerns. He looks to Izzy for guidance. That trust has been built. It's required of the crew to pass the suit off to someone else. They don't want to believe that makes them bad people. It shows how smart they actually are. Again, the power of their thoughts make things real to them. Stede carries out a successful raid. It's only purpose was handing off the suit. Stede wanted to hold onto a piece of it because he liked it. Even that is too much for others to understand and appreciate.

This episode is a highlight for the season because it operates as a full ensemble piece. It moves some significant storylines forward. It also offers trust of everyone working as a cohesive unit. That trust needs to exist for the crew to be successful out on open water. They have doubts about whether Buttons actually became a bird. It doesn't ultimately matter because they left him anyway. It does no one any good to linger on the past. However, Ed reflects on what he's done and how to improve himself. He needs a full and honest reckoning. That includes having conversations with people he's served alongside for years. He never knew Fang's real name is Kevin and he comes from a long line of men named Kevin. Of course, he doesn't ask the natural follow-up of how Fang got his nickname. That's a mystery for another day. Right now, it's a step in the right direction. He doesn't need to have everything figured out. Anne and Mary were concerned Ed and Stede haven't had sex yet. They didn't believe their love could be real without that physical attraction. Ed needs to take things slowly. That's the only way he can gain his bearing and the proper perspective. That's true in all of his relationships. It's more vulnerable with Stede. However, the full benefits will be felt across the ensemble which will only further enhance the storytelling possibilities.