Taika Waititi as Blackbeard takes of Rhys Darby as Stede Bonnet's blindfold on 'Our Flag Means Death'

‘Our Flag Means Death’ Should Have Been Renewed, Like, Yesterday. What Gives?

Hello and welcome to Day 28 of waiting for HBO Max to throw us a frickin’ bone and renew its smash hit Our Flag Means Death. Since the pirate romcom’s perfect final two episodes dropped on March 24, 2022, the show has grown into a word-of-mouth sensation, its popularity increasing week over week and audience demand even outpacing new series from the Marvel/Disney juggernaut like Moon Knight.

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We’ve talked about Our Flag Means Death a lot around these parts: why fandom loves it, how its concluding episodes killed queerbaiting and revived the romcom, the gorgeous explosion of fanart and fanworks, its most romantic Ed/Stede moments, and the general befuddlement around why, oh why, it has not yet been announced as renewed. But we’re halfway through a new week and HBO Max still appears to be taking a nap despite having a wildly acclaimed, viral, buzzy, exceptional new series and countless fans waiting on tenterhooks. So we’re going to talk about Our Flag Means Death some more.

If you’re wondering why I refuse to stop beating this drum, it’s because what’s happening with Our Flag Means Death makes no sense both in the realm of logic but also within the usual pace of the entertainment industry. Let’s use another recent HBO Max property as an example. The Gilded Age—a show that is very pretty to look at but has scripts that appear to be generated by infinite Victorian monkeys in tophats jumping on keyboards at random—also proved to be popular for HBO Max this year. While the streamer does not release internal metrics, we have to imagine initial viewership numbers were good; Gilded Age creator Julian Fellowes (that’s Lord Julian Alexander Kitchener-Fellowes, Baron Fellowes to us plebs) has his Downton Abbey cred for good or ill.

The Gilded Age debuted on January 24th, 2022 and it was announced for a second-season renewal on February 14th, 2022, after a mere three episodes had aired. That’s a turnaround renewal time of 21 days following the first episode’s bow and long before the final episode aired on March 21, 2022. So not only did HBO Max give The Gilded Age an almost instant renewal, but they did so without even waiting to see if the numbers and interest would bear out for the season’s 9-episode run. To be fair, sometimes these decisions can take longer—47 days elapsed from the season finale of HBO Max’s Sex and the City follow-up And Just Like That… and its renewal announcement. But And Just Like That… received a mixed reaction from critics and social media, and it was unclear if its veteran actors were keen to return. It’s pretty common to announce a quick renewal when a show is going well, let alone when it has taken over the entire world; HBO Max should have been waving that cat pirate flag high, like, the day after the finale, if not several weeks before.

Contrast the general pace of how things work with the ongoing wait to hear frankly anything about Our Flag Means Death, which has a fanbase so broad and passionate it has trended on social media nearly every day post-finale (try going on Twitter and not encountering #RenewOurFlagMeansDeath. You can’t). Then you will come to understand why so many of us wake up with the show’s renewal as the first thing on our minds after we’ve secured coffee.

HBO Max also didn’t inspire confidence with its initial scant marketing for the show, and it appeared to scramble in a mad game of catch-up with Our Flag Means Death’s rise, finally creating an official OFMD Twitter account 6 days after the finale sent its visibility into the stratosphere. Since then, the only other indication we’ve seen that HBO Max is not asleep at the helm is a recent Tweet on the @hbomax Twitter account (which, by the by, received about 10,000x the engagement of the other tweets from @hbomax about other properties). The tweeted image shows series stars Rhys Darby as Stede Bonnet and Taika Waititi as Ed “Blackbeard” Teach sharing one of their many moving exchanges that will add up into one of the best romances we’ve seen onscreen.

The great majority of the thousands of responses and quote tweets consisted of attempts to plead and persuade HBO Max into saying something—anything—about renewing Our Flag Means Death. Yet here we are, with yet another day dawning and no information about a season 2 forthcoming. At this point, it no longer feels cute to wait. It feels cruel to draw this out if the network does know the series is already renewed, and is perhaps choosing to bask in its free word-of-mouth advertising for a while.

As I’ve said before, my most charitable read is that contracts are being renegotiated, hopefully for a lot more money for the cast, creatives, and show budget, and that can take a while. But considering even star/producer Taika Waititi and creator David Jenkins appear to have no inside knowledge about the show’s future (or are being told, inexplicably, to play like it’s still uncertain), the whole situation has combined to drive many, many people up a wall. Especially since we’ve seen Hollywood move demonstrably faster with many a complex renewal situation before. Because this show is so proudly centered around queer relationships and identities and excellent representation across the board, the delay here feels more glaring.

OFMD creator/showrunner/writer Jenkins recently tweeted some words that can be seen as both encouraging and lend themselves to further speculation:

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened,” Jenkins quote-tweeted, not quoting Dr. Seuss, After Jenkins’ initial tweet sent out some tentacles of panic, as people interpreted this to mean the show might really be down for the count, he followed it up with an intriguing turn of phrase. “…season one I mean,” Jenkins added.

Does this imply Jenkins already knows there will be a season two, or is this a message in a bottle tossed HBO Max-wards to get them to act? I haven’t done this much close reading since my college English classes. But I will be attempting to parse Jenkins’ tweet for, well, however long it takes for some more news to come our way. At least I am in some very fine company.

We could really, really use a break here, HBO Max. For our sake and to protect yourself from potential heist activities.

I choose to believe that Our Flag Means Death has been resoundingly renewed to run unto forever, because at this point not renewing this show would be a heartbreaking work of such staggering ridiculousness I won’t believe it of the streamer that brought us Station Eleven and greenlit OFMD in the first place. But give us something more to work with than memes, people. We’re running on brandy fumes.

(images: HBO Max)

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Kaila Hale-Stern
Kaila Hale-Stern (she/her) is a content director, editor, and writer who has been working in digital media for more than fifteen years. She started at TMS in 2016. She loves to write about TV—especially science fiction, fantasy, and mystery shows—and movies, with an emphasis on Marvel. Talk to her about fandom, queer representation, and Captain Kirk. Kaila has written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.