Blackbeard gazes adoringly at Stede Bonnet on 'Our Flag Means Death' after they kiss

Behind the Huge Fan Clamor to Renew ‘Our Flag Means Death’ for Season 2

The hashtag #RenewOurFlagMeansDeath has been trending for days—for the entirety of the week, in fact. Fans of the Taika Waititi/Rhys Darby queer pirate comedy series are chomping at the bit for a season two renewal announcement from HBO Max. (It’s us. We’re fans.) The label-defying show proved to be a breakout hit, moving from relative obscurity to becoming the #1 most in-demand title on HBO Max and the top new series in the US after its magnificent closing episodes. Fervor and interest are only increasing as word-of-mouth draws in more rabid viewers. So where is that renewal announcement?

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Open up Twitter, and no matter who you follow, you’ll see someone tweeting or retweeting about Our Flag Means Death. Many thousands of someones are posting about it nonstop as you read these words. The outpouring of art featuring the characters is stunning and unprecedented, with both talented fan artists and pros leaping into the fray. Now folks are also putting their creative energies across the board toward the renewal effort.

The explosive fandom growth is dizzying. Stories on fanfiction mothership AO3 with the central pairing of pirate co-captains Ed “Blackbeard” Teach/Stede Bonnet jumped from around 200 pre-finale on March 24th to a jaw-dropping 1,300 and counting. People are dusting off old Tumblr accounts to post gorgeous gifsets and contribute meta and all-caps keyboard-smashing observations. Cosplayers are already showing off incredible costumes, while video and meme-makers run wild with the show’s lovely and hilarious footage. And mainstream media has sat up and is paying attention, with a new proliferation of articles with the cast and creator/showrunner David Jenkins. Our Flag Means Death was just featured as #1 on Entertainment Weekly’s “Must” list. It is the show of 2022 now, sorry to Euphoria and Sex and the City 2.0 and Peacemaker and The Golden Age (BTW, HBO, you are killing it TV-wise. Keep it up).

Over on Forbes, writer Paul Tassi is confident that a renewal announcement is forthcoming. “I cannot envision a world where Our Flag Means Death is not given a second season,” he says, noting several extremely good reasons. These include the massive fan engagement and a viral word-of-mouth spread that’s more precious than gold, and the fact that HBO’s internal viewing numbers must be far beyond anything they projected (I have done my part with roughly four viewings of episode 9).

Tassi further points out that the show, which is mostly contained to the deck of a pirate ship and a handful of sets, can’t be that expensive to shoot (minus the wardrobe budget for Stede’s outfits). It also stars and is executive produced by Taika Waititi, the director/writer/producer/actor who’s one of the most in-demand names in Hollywood. In what universe do you have Taika Waititi eager to be featured as a queer pirate in leather on your network and not try to sign him up for the next five years?

The wonderful cast—one of the most diverse on television, in addition to being queer-positive, body-positive, and funny as hell—and show creatives all appear game to return. In another fandom twist I’ve never witnessed before, the cast is interacting with fans on social media on the regular, answering their questions, retweeting art, and feeding us daily with behind-the-scenes videos and pictures. The mutual love affair happening here is something that should make every studio and TV exec in Hollywood sit up and take notice. Our Flag Means Death has swept away those old maxims—don’t bother the cast about fandom and shipping, they don’t want to hear it—as well as one of Hollywood’s most pernicious faults, the queerbait.

Creator David Jenkins credits several supportive HBO Max executives for believing in the project. “This is what happens when a major media company invests in inclusive mainstream stories,” he wrote on Twitter. So after seeing OFMD’s runaway success, that means every single executive at HBO must now be draping themselves in a pirate flag. Right?

Beyond the tragicomic brilliance of the series and the queer love and identities it lifts up, there are other vital elements happening with Our Flag Means Death for many fans. They feel seen, recognized, represented, and celebrated. The last two years have been impossibly difficult for pretty much everyone on the planet, with an increase in mental illness, burnout, financial strain, and job dissatisfaction. In America, there has been a pernicious creep of terrible news and laws designed to attack LGBTQIA+ people. Amidst a sea of awfulness, Our Flag Means Death suddenly arrived with a lifeboat.

What I’ve witnessed in the last few weeks feels like a revival. Friends tell me that they are writing and drawing and crafting and cosplaying again because of the show. Often it is the first time they have returned to these pursuits since the pandemic began. They wake up every day excited to talk and theorize about pirates. Each new piece of art or fiction or analysis causes a frisson of joy. Many, many of us needed this, and we didn’t realize how much until OFMD upended the limits of what we’ve been taught is possible to see onscreen. It’s both an escape and an inspiring delight.

I’d like to imagine that active negotiations are happening in hyperspeed over at HBO. I’m hoping that everyone is signing more lucrative contracts and being handed budgets beyond their wildest dreams. Waititi’s packed schedule will likely need to be sorted. Still, the delay in hearing anything more out of HBO Max is fuelling the #RenewOurFlagMeansDeath frenzy. Even showrunner Jenkins hopped on board.

Considering the relative dearth of promotion for the series in its early days, and the fact that Our Flag Means Death didn’t even have an official Twitter account until after its finale on April 1st, it seems evident that HBO marketing, at least, had no idea of the sensation it was sitting on. Now that social media is full-up with endless calls to renew the show, they have to know, right? Does HBO understand that it is holding a powderkeg of popularity and fan passion that no amount of marketing money can buy?

Don’t prolong the wait for us, please, or try and do something corporate-cute like make a rainbow-drenched announcement during Pride Month. We won’t make it to June with this much uncertainty. We need to know that our pirates will return. Until we know for sure, we’ll continue trying to summon up that season 2 renewal ourselves.

Haven’t watched Our Flag Means Death yet and still need some persuasion? Start here.

(images: HBO Max, Twitter)

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Author
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.