Rhys Darby and Taika Waititi in key art for 'Our Flag Means Death' season 2

David Jenkins Reveals What He Hopes ‘Our Flag Means Death’ Season 2 Leaves Fans With

A show like Our Flag Means Death comes to us all rarely in fandom, consuming us all in such a way that we can’t stop thinking about its characters and how much they all mean to us. Part of that is because the brilliant cast of actors who bring them to life are all so willing to engage with their fans and talk to them, but another part of it is because the show itself manages to give time to each of these characters to help them grow.

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That comes down to series creator David Jenkins and his writers, who managed to bring us a wonderful season 2 of our beloved pirates. The show came back for season two at the beginning of October and has been releasing multiple episodes each week, giving fans a brilliant but fast second season. Now that we’re already at the end of it, we’re left hoping we’re get a renewal for season 3 and a bit of a mess after what happened in the final moments of season 2.

I was lucky enough to talk with creator David Jenkins about the finale, and the season as a whole, and what it meant to come back for season 2, to revisit these characters that mean so much to fans, and how it feels to change the perception that some of us have on these characters, like Izzy Hands (played by Con O’Neill).

Spoilers ahead for the second season of Our Flag Means Death!

(Max)

Talking about the finale, the season as a whole, and the fanbase that really did rally behind this show to make it all possible, Jenkins broke down everything that makes Our Flag Means Death special.

Saying goodbye to Izzy Hands

Izzy Hands (Con O'Neill) wears full makeup in a still from 'Our Flag Means Death'.
(Max)

After season 1, I wouldn’t think I’d be an Izzy Hands fan, and yet, here I am. I did start our chat by telling Jenkins that I thought he should be in jail for making me care so deeply for a character like Izzy only for making me have to say goodbye to him by season 2’s end. He has such a journey from the start of the season, going from being Blackbeard’s right-hand man to a man on the ship without a real purpose and even singing “La Vie en Rose” during a celebration for the crew. All of this warmed the audience to him and left me a mess when Izzy was shot and killed in their final stand, as they tried to flea as a united front of pirates.

Lightly joking with Jenkins about my new feelings on Izzy, I asked how they mapped out Izzy’s growth as a character into what would ultimately be his end. “Con can do so many things and I really did want to give him all the toys to play with,” Jenkins said. “I wanted to give baby everything. He gets to sing, he gets to be there without a shirt, he gets to have a death scene. He has multiple death scenes, gets his legs shot off. He gets to have unrequited love. So I think it was just going logically with what happens when this guy bottoms out from this toxic relationship.”

Jenkins went on to explain what happens after you let Con O’Neill have all his toys. What happens in the aftermath? “And then it was kind of confusing because we’re like, ‘Okay, well how does he come back? What kind of things does he do?'” he said. “‘How does he get a new leg? What is that gonna look like? Oh, it comes from the unicorn. Oh, cool. That’s cool.’ And watching him kind of rebuild himself and realize that he’s loved and he’s part of this community and that he is not a first mate anymore and I think it would be very uncomfortable for him to be on a ship and not first mate. So what kind of things does he get up to? Oh, he whittles. Okay. Oh, he is gonna train Stede because he’s largely bored. Then it was a surprise, I think, to all of us to have him end up as kind of a father figure to Ed and be the one that gives him permission to just be himself.”

Logically, it makes sense that Izzy would not be able to tempt fate once more after facing death multiple times throughout season 2. Still, the idea of not having Con O’Neill in the series’ future hurts.

Embracing the outrageous

Ed reads a letter in Our Flag Means Death.
(Max)

When you break down Our Flag Means Death, it is, as Jenkins pointed out about one outlandish moment … stupid—not in a “this show is beyond unreasonable” sense, but it is a comedy. We love our beloved pirates very much, but they are so silly, and when we’re reminded of how silly the show can be, it’s nice—like having Blackbeard (Taika Waititi) find one of Stede’s (Rhys Darby) many letters that he wrote him when they were separated from each other. It’s emotional and sweet, and then out of nowhere, Waititi turns and screams through his tears, “You wrote me a lovely letter,” and I burst out laughing. It is so incredibly stupid that I couldn’t help but cackle, and Jenkins recognizes that the show finds a delicate balance between the beautiful moments and the completely outrageous.

This scene in particular ended up being on of my favorite moments in the finale. It was a long time coming and a setup that really paid off through the season as a whole. Ed wasn’t really in his “Blackbeard” look for most of the season, and he hadn’t read any of Stede’s letters, so for this to be kind of the combination of the two moments really hit.

Then, to have Waititi crying as he yells just really makes it a perfect storm of nonsense. “He’s also come from the sea. He’s also dressed like the rogue warrior. It’s stupid on a lot of levels,” Jenkins said of the scene in question, to which he said, “I love dumb and sweet. That’s a great spot to live in.” That led to us talking about how they manage to bring all of that into the writers room with all their characters in mind.

Spending time with our beloved characters

Fang and Roach in Our Flag Means Death sitting next to each other
(Max)

Our Flag Means Death has a lot of pirates on their ships. In season 1, we had two ships to really worry about. The Revenge met up with the pirates of Blackbeard’s crew, and they worked together for the most part. In season 2, we’re meeting so many other pirates from history and yet we’re still finding that balance between our favorites and the new characters making an appearance on the show. So we talked about how they found a way to bring those sweet moments into the show with these new characters.

Jenkins said, “That is the challenge of making the show because there are so many amazing people in the ensemble and they’re also good and they could all have their own show. And I think making sure each script has something for everybody and they all get something to do, it’s an embarrassment of riches and it is like one of the focuses of the writers room just to say, ‘Hey, who are we servicing? Like, who aren’t we servicing? Can we put them in the script more?’ It’s always the challenge of this show. There’s a billion people on it. There’s so many people on the show. There’s a lot of people.”

That reminded me of one of my favorite developments in season 2, the highlighting of Fang (David Fane). At the end of every episode, there’s a little scene during the credits, and for the most part, Fang was a major part of them. It was a joy to see him have his moment in the sun, and for Jenkins, it was about letting Fane have time to shine.

“Dave always does such sweet things too that are like ‘Oh well, we have to get that in.’ He’s just lovely,” Jenkins said. “There’s a real kindness to him, and I just am so impressed with him as an actor. I think he was already great, but I feel like I really fell in love with him in the second season. Just getting close on his face even is always wonderful. He always gives really such cute, interesting things.”

Music and Our Flag Means Death

Two men silhouetted on the deck of a ship in the moonlight in 'Our Flag Means Death.'
(Max)

The music of Our Flag Means Death is very important to the show as a whole. When the trailer for season 2 included Prince’s “The Beautiful Ones,” I knew exactly what the themes of the season held. It shows not only a love for storytelling through song but also a deeper understanding of the characters and where their emotions lie. So I brought up the use of music in the show as a whole, and Jenkins revealed that there is a rule to the music on the show (even though it isn’t really known to us).

“The only rule is that the music can’t be later than 1989. That’s the rule that Maggie and I agreed on. But then we broke that rule because we’ve got that song ‘Run’ in the second episode when Blackbeard wrecks the ship. And that came out recently but very rarely we break it.” The song he is referring to is “Run From Me” by Timber Timbre and was released in 2014. So, it is “recent” according to their rule, but it’s hilarious that it’s the newest song and is still nearly ten years old. What is so fascinating to me though is that the show uses music to really tell us a lot about its characters.

Jenkins works closely with Maggie Phillips, the music supervisor, to bring to life the feel of these characters and the scenes in such a way that we really understand the feelings of the characters we know and love, so I asked more about the use of things like “The Chain” in season 1 or how music plays into their creation of the season as a whole that makes the season more powerful overall.

“I’ll listen to music a lot and then I’ll make like a playlist that has a lot of songs on it that has like, maybe like a hundred songs on it as I’m listening,” Jenkins said. “And as we’re working through the season and just putting on Spotify and just putting on the algorithm. Sometimes you’ll hear some stuff where you’re like, ‘Oh, I have to get that,’ like Pygmy Love Song is a very weird and that was an algorithm thing where I was like, ‘Oh, that’s gotta be in the show.’ Then Maggie Phillips, our music supervisor, does the same thing. And then by the time she’s sent one, there’s a lot of things that overlap on ours. There’ll be wonderful things on hers that I hadn’t thought of and so it kind of goes as we’re building it. I need to listen to music while we’re putting the season together. Not necessarily while I’m writing, but while I’m kind of thinking through and in pre-production. And then just kind of imagining some of the sequences. You hear some songs and you’re like, oh yeah, that. And then you make a laundry list and then most don’t make it. And then do.”

Don’t worry, fellow pirate fans. I did tell him that we needed the dream pirate song playlist on Spotify. I said it’d be a hit within the fandom, and Jenkins said, “I love that. Well, make a playlist, make one, I’ll join. I’ll put some stuff on. I’ll put some stuff on that I’m not gonna use, but I’ll put some stuff on.”

A show for the fans

Three people sit at a table wearing garlic necklaces in 'Our Flag Means Death.'
(Max)

One of the reasons Our Flag Means Death became such a hit was because fans could not stop sharing their love for it. I mentioned that while the show itself is so good, the fans really did help to hype it up so people really started to tune in and understand just how good it was. Jenkins also mentioned that he knows we’ve been vocal fans at The Mary Sue, and I did of course say that we were “very loud about our pirates.”

He went on to talk about the excitement and creativity of the fanbase for Our Flag Means Death and how the reaction to the show has been exciting. I asked what the response has meant to him, especially seeing people who maybe didn’t even know who Rhys Darby was prior to this show who are now big fans, learning about his work and embracing his comedy.

“I think seeing the costumes and seeing people dressed up and there was one shot of like all of the different categories of cosplay, of like there’s the Izzy and the Blackbeards and the Luciuses in a line at one of these conventions, it’s like, oh my God, every time I see art I’m blown away, ’cause I just don’t know how people are so creative,” Jenkins said. “And then it happens so quickly. There’ll be art the morning that one of the episodes is released. I can’t get over that and I can’t get over the quality of it. When you see a really beautiful piece of art that’s about a moment that you or a character that you like it’s just moving. It really does make you stop in your tracks.”

A wistful season

Ed and Stede in the ocean together
(Max)

As much as we don’t want our pirates to go, the season has, unfortunately, come to an end. Season 2 is over, and with it comes feelings of hope and loss all rolled into one. So for my final question, I asked Jenkins what he hopes season 2 leaves fans with now that we’ve said goodbye to characters like Izzy Hands but have a lot to unpack with characters that we know and love on their new journeys.

“I don’t know, a kind of like a wistfulness,” Jenkins replied. “I think that things change and that change isn’t always bad and that I like that there’s a bunch of different flavors in the end. There’s marriage. There’s a newer couple moving in together and Stede and Blackbeard, I guess they’re not newer, but I mean, maybe they’re not as evolved as Black Pete and Lucius in talking about their feelings. And then the kids drive the car away while the parents watch at the end and whatever adventure they’re heading to. So I just think that, looking at change being inevitable and that it’s not bad. The main thing is that you just want to be a part of something and when something ends, you wanna be a part of something new. Those are good things to take from this.”

Our Flag Means Death season 2 is on Max now, and hopefully we’ll be back with our pirates once more in a third season.

(featured image: Max)


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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.