‘Our Flag Means Death’ Review — Taika Waititi’s HBO Max Show Is a Hit

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  • “Our Flag Means Death” is an HBO Max original series loosely based on the life of pirate Stede Bonnet.
  • Oscar winner Taika Waititi (“Jojo Rabbit”) produces the show and also appears as Blackbeard.
  • HBO Max subscriptions start at $10/month for ad-supported streaming.

The first season of “Our Flag Means Death” is now available to watch on HBO Max in its entirety. The Max Original was the top new show released in the US when the season finale premiered on March 24. Even three weeks after the finale, the series remained more in-demand than Marvel’s latest Disney Plus original, “Moon Knight.” 

The show is a period romantic comedy, created and written by David Jenkins, that’s set during the golden age of piracy in 1717. It follows Stede Bonnet (Rhys Darby), who left his wife, family, and position as a wealthy landowner to turn to a life of crime on the seas. Known as the “Gentleman Pirate,” the real-life Bonnet actually paid the crew on his ship, which was a practice uncommon during the time. 

Check out the trailer for ‘Our Flag Means Death’

“Our Flag Means Death” specifically focuses on the period of time when Stede Bonnet meets Ed Teach, better known today as Blackbeard. Ed is played by Taika Waititi, who is best known for his work as a director and screenwriter (“Jojo Rabbit,” “Thor: Ragnarok”). Waititi also serves as an executive producer on the show and he directed the pilot. 

The series received high marks from critics and holds a 91% “Certified Fresh” rating on review-aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.

‘Our Flag Means Death’ review: A pirate comedy that subverts expectations

“Our Flag Means Death” is all about subverting expectations — both for the characters on screen and for the viewers watching at home. 

The writing and acting come together to create a unique dynamic between Stede and Ed that constantly challenges the typical characterizations you’d expect. Stede is an aristocrat who can’t even steer the ship he captains, and though Ed’s portrayal starts off playing into modern perceptions of Blackbeard as cold and ruthless, this characterization gradually heads in a different direction. 

As a viewer, I expected the two pirates to only bring out the worst in each other, but instead, over the course of five-or-so episodes, they learn from each other. Stede gets a lesson in trickery from Ed. In turn, Ed is able to shed some of the Blackbeard persona and learn a thing or two about kindness and the pleasures of indulging in life’s finer things. 

But make no mistake: this is not just a “bromance” between Stede and Ed. The creator and actors involved have been very clear that the show is a genuine romantic comedy about these two middle-aged pirates. As longtime collaborators, Darby and Waititi have great chemistry; once it becomes apparent that the show is barreling toward a romance, all of their interactions become more emotionally charged.

our flag means death

Taika Waititi as Ed Teach a.k.a Blackbeard in “Our Flag Means Death.”


The show’s success is proof that diverse and inclusive stories can and do have mainstream appeal. Almost every member of the ship’s crew has something about them that makes them “different,” be it their gender, sexuality, a speech impediment, or their size. They’re not ridiculed for it, though. There’s never a moment where a character is shamed for what makes them different; instead these differences are accepted with little to no mention at all. 

Most notably, this happens with Jim, a non-binary crew member played by non-binary actor Vico Ortiz. The way the show adapts to Jim’s they/them pronouns without so much as an explanation forces the audience to adapt, too, and by the end of the season, Jim is involved in a romance of their own.

The ensemble cast is full of talented actors who come together and create a really believable crew. I particularly enjoy Con O’Neill’s performance as Izzy Hands (loosely based on real life pirate Israel Hands), Blackbeard’s first mate who struggles to accept that Blackbeard may want to shift away from a life of crime. 

There are also notable guest stars who give hilarious performances. These include “Saturday Night Live” alum Leslie Jones as pirate Spanish Jackie and Fred Armisen as one of her 19 husbands, Nick Kroll and Kristen Schaal as airhead aristocrats, and Will Arnett as Calico Jack, another fictionalized version of a real pirate. 

How to watch ‘Our Flag Means Death’

You can watch the entire first season of “Our Flag Means Death” on HBO Max. The season has 10 episodes. 

HBO Max has two membership plans. An ad-supported


plan costs $10 a month. You can upgrade to ad-free streaming for $15 a month.

Both plans offer access to


‘s entire content library, which includes new movies from Warner Bros., such as “The Batman,” 45 days after their initial theatrical release. Members of the ad-free plan also can download shows for offline playback and watch select titles in



You can stream the HBO Max app on smartphones, tablets, Roku and Fire TV devices, smart TVs, and more. For a full list of supported devices, check out HBO Max’s website. 

Will there be a second season of ‘Our Flag Means Death’ on HBO Max?

HBO Max hasn’t announced a second season of “Our Flag Means Death” yet. We’ll update this article if the streaming service greenlights new episodes. 

The bottom line

our flag means death hbo max


“Our Flag Means Death” is an exciting and surprising comedy that makes an excellent case for subscribing to HBO Max. The show proves that the service’s appeal goes beyond new movies and just programs from HBO’s cable channel.

It’s one of the platforms best original series so far, and fits in well alongside other HBO Max shows like “Hacks,” “Love Life,” and “Starstruck.” Together, these exclusive shows help cement the service as an excellent source for fans of unique comedies. 

If you like other shows featuring the talents of Taika Waititi and Rhys Darby, like”Flight of the Conchords” and “What We Do in the Shadows,” you’ll probably enjoy “Our Flag Means Death,” too. All three series carry a similar sense of humor.

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