How ‘Our Flag Means Death’ creates a strong romance

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IRomantic Comedy Season 2 Our flag means death“Max,” which opens on October 5, stars New Zealand actor and comedian Rhys Darby as not only a pirate, but also a mermaid.

Darby plays gentleman pirate Stead Bonnet, a wealthy landowner who, tired of his lavish lifestyle, decides to become a swashbuckling pirate. Executive producer Taika Waititi stars with Darby as the infamous pirate Blackbeard. In real life, the two men did sail, plunder, and capture ships together. But the historical similarities end there. Our flag means death This is a love story, Steed and Blackbeard slowly fall in love with each other.

Season 1 ended with Steed running away from Blackbeard out of fear of his feelings for him. Season two begins with a heartbroken Blackbeard taking his pain out on his crew, sending them into a suicidal spiral with him until they are forced to try to kill him. Blackbeard survived the assassination attempt but ended up in the Gravy Basket, mentally in purgatory while his body lay lifeless on the ship. Steed found him there and tried to revive him, and Blackbeard sensed his presence.

As Blackbeard imagined, he was drowning, being dragged toward his death. But then, to the tune of Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work,” Steed emerges as a heroic mermaid with gleaming scales. A supercut of their most cherished moments together flashes by, with Blackbeard sputtering to life.

The moment before Steed (Rhys Darby) and Blackbeard (Taika Waititi) kiss in the penultimate episode of Season 1.Aaron Epstein-Marx

David Jenkins, the show’s creator, co-writer, co-director and co-executive producer (along with Waititi), said this was the moment the filmmakers fantasized about creating and actually realizing it. “You say, ‘This is so beautiful,'” he said. “All the time and everything, it’s worth it. That’s why we do it.”

The mermaid scene epitomizes Our flag means deathSince its premiere last year, the show has become a snowballing hit and has a loyal fan base. During the first season, audience demand for the show tripled from the premiere to the finale. It went on to become America’s most popular breakout series, part romance, part workplace comedy, Our flag means death Framed as a period piece and dressed up as a drama.Jenkins said the show was successful because — unlike similar shows what do we do in the shadows——The plot will not reset with each episode. There’s more narrative threading through, which makes the consequences for the characters feel heavier. The show oscillates between asking the audience to suspend disbelief (like The Merman ) and keeping a very real emotional core (Stadler saving Blackbeard from himself).

“Swinging between those two tones and making sure that one tone doesn’t completely dominate and undermine the other tone, that’s the fun of the show for me,” Jenkins said. “You never know what you’re going to get.”

when Our flag means death Last year, while word-of-mouth momentum was building, a series of think pieces emerged about how it resisted queer-baiting: instead of defining Stead and Blackbeard’s relationship as platonic, leaving only the queer undertones and meaning—a phenomenon that LGBTQ+ audiences have become accustomed to. The writers’ room made it overtly romantic, sealing the deal with an on-screen kiss in the penultimate episode of season one.

“I don’t think it’s a weird love story,” Jenkins said. “I think it’s a romance. It’s the story of two people finding each other and falling in love, and it should be on the same scale as other mainstream fantasy stories about two people falling in love, with all the bells and whistles.”

Jenkins didn’t realize the depth of the collective fear that the show wouldn’t become canon about the relationship (legitimizing it as part of the official fictional universe) until the week of the finale, when that anxiety spread to social media . By then, he already knew he wanted season two to be more romantic. But this realization made him realize that this romance—its heft and attention to detail—could appeal to audiences in a different way than a love story between a man and a woman.

“Part of me was like, ‘Yeah, I’m making this show and I want these two characters to fall in love,'” Jenkins said. “But I’m coming from a place where I have the right to tell this story. I’ve seen myself in romance films and romantic comedies. I’ve seen when harry met sally And saw myself in that story. “

Early in season two, Blackbeard robbed a wedding at sea and stole cake decorations that looked like him and Steed.Nicholas Dove-Max

Charm Our flag means death are diverse. While its central love story won plenty of praise, its pirate crew also grew into a ragtag family—another pillar of the queer community. Scribe Lucius (Nathan Ford) and grumpy Black Pitt (Matthew Maher) become lovers. Best friends Oluwande (Samson Kayo) and Jim (Vico Ortiz) kiss but later resume their friendship. At the beginning of Season 2, Blackbeard’s first mate (and real-life historical figure) Israel “Izzy” Hands (Con O’Neal) admitted his love for Blackbeard, and lost him in the process A leg.

“Any workplace show is a platonic love story,” Jenkins said. “It’s more of a family love thing where half the time you want to kill them and the other half you’re like, ‘Wow, I guess they’re okay.'”

If it’s the funny and cute crew of the pirate ship Revenge – the gray-haired Barton (played by Ewen Bremner), they will talk to the seagulls; Frenchie (played by Joel Fry) records their adventures in songs; Little John (Christian Nairn), who loves fire and drag, is the lifeblood of the show, and the romance between Steed and Blackbeard is its beating heart. Jenkins said that in the first season, the two worked through their issues through the emotionally mature relationship of teenage boys. Now that they’re a little older, they’re thinking about the next phase: emotionally, like they’re in their twenties, about to move in with someone and split the rent.

“What they need to learn is: they want a true partner,” Jenkins said. “What’s the cost of that? It takes effort to create a true partnership. Once they have it, how do you keep it?”

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