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

‘Our Flag Means Death’ Season 2 Is a Stunning Reflection of Season 1

Our Flag Means Death is a series rooted in symbolism, metaphor, and parallels. In season 1, it was one of the things that immediately drew fans in and kept them talking. It seemed like everything had a reason for being. Everything could be analyzed and discussed. Nothing ever felt random or accidental. Tweets and Tumblr threads ran rampant.

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Season 2 has upped the ante. Though it relies less on symbolism this season, every parallel has hit the mark. One of the things that I’ve always loved about Our Flag Means Death is its attention to detail and the meticulous way the story is crafted. It’s clear that not a single scene or line of dialogue is wasted.

“You wear fine things well.”

One of the most effective parallels in season 2—and one that spawned many tweets and think pieces—is the moonlit scene on the deck of the Revenge in episode 5, “The Curse of the Seafaring Life,” where Stede (Rhys Darby) and Ed (Taika Waititi) share their first kiss since season 1.

In season 1, episode 5, “The Best Revenge is Dressing Well,” Ed and Stede stood on the deck under very different circumstances. They were learning new things about each other, and Ed was still upset about the French party they had just attended. At this point, neither were sure about their feelings.

The composition of the scene in season 2, with the moon above them, is such a wonderful parallel to where they were just a season ago. Even Ed saying “You wear fine things well” is such a hit to the chest. Fans have been clamoring over this scene since season 1. It’s been immortalized in countless fanarts and fanfics, many of which have a “what if” take on that moment. To finally get it, and in such a softly romantic way? Chills. Crying. Too many emotions to count.

Dynamic is also key

Some of the parallels are less overt and more about dynamics. In season 1, a catalyst for Stede leaving Ed was seeing how much Ed changed for him (being forced to shave his beard after agreeing to serve the Crown under the Act of Grace). When Ed witnesses Stede killing Ned Low in season 2, he sees Stede in much the same way as Stede saw him. Each one changed a key part of himself for the other, and it peeled away some of that fantasy veneer to reveal the scuffed surface underneath.

When Stede is embracing his new life as an infamous pirate, he surrounds himself with admirers. In particular, Blood-Bucket Bill, who says, “I’ve only known you for three hours, Bonnet, but I’d die for you.” It’s a subtle callback to season 1, episode 8, “We Gull Way Back,” in which Stede tells Ed that he doesn’t like how Ed acts around Calico Jack (Will Arnett). These two moments mirror how Ed and Stede attempt to change, to be something that they aren’t. They choose instead to be surrounded with people who like an idealized version of themselves.

A more recent parallel in the season 2 finale, “Mermen,” is a wonderful callback to the opening scene of the season. Stede, in a dream, runs across a beach in the surf to Ed, who is also running towards him. In the finale, while fighting the English, Ed and Stede run across the beach towards each other, reuniting with a (less passionate, but no less romantic) embrace. There is also an interesting parallel here in how their reunion goes.

In the dream, they simply crashed together in a hug that sent both of them down onto the sand. In reality, the reunion sees them embracing, and then Ed kissing Stede before finally telling him that he loves him. To me, it seemed like Stede didn’t dream of a kiss because perhaps he didn’t think he deserved it. Ed being the one to initiate it is incredibly important to the growth of their characters.

Another shot features Ed, back to the camera, surveying the carnage at the Republic of Pirates after Prince Ricky Banes (Erroll Shand) blew up Zheng Yi Sao (Ruibo Qian)’s fleet. It calls to mind the scene at the end of season 1, episode 9, “Act of Grace,” in which Ed rows away after Stede leaves him. Both are in very different places, but convey very similar emotions. In both, Ed felt he was abandoned: one by running away, and another by death.

Nothing is too small

Even the smallest things hold meaning. For example, when Stede is laid up in season 1, he dreams about the letter he left his family. For him, it was an act of cowardice. Cut to season 2, when Ed sees the letter Stede had written and thrown into the sea. What was initially a symbol of cowardice in season 1 became a symbol of love and hope in season 2. It solidified Ed and Stede’s love for one another, rather than tearing them apart.

Across the series, it’s evident that each parallel and symbol is carefully and meticulously placed. Not a single moment is wasted. It’s one of the many reasons Our Flag Means Death has resonated with so many. It’s also one of the many things that makes it so rewatchable. As a fan who has watched the first season more times than I care to admit, I’m always finding new things to focus on.

If we get a season 3, I’m eagerly anticipating everything that we can dissect. I hope to see many more parallels. It’s so rare to get a bit of media that fans embrace as hard as Our Flag Means Death. Even rarer still to have a showrunner who so obviously loves it and those fans. If there’s anybody I trust to continue creating a thoughtful, engaging piece of television, it’s creator David Jenkins. If we don’t get a third season, then I think we’ve ended on a good note. And I can’t wait to revisit it again and again.

(featured image: Max)

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Rachel Tolleson
Rachel (she/her) is a freelancer at The Mary Sue. She has been freelancing since 2013 in various forms, but has been an entertainment freelancer since 2016 with an interest in movies and television. She currently lives in NYC with her cats Carla and Thorin Oakenshield but is a Midwesterner at heart. If she’s not rewatching Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul she’s probably rewatching Our Flag Means Death.