Season 2 of the high seas romantic comedy, ‘Our Flag Means Death’, is due to set sail on BBC2 from next Monday, February 5. It’s a bittersweet return for the show, with the news earlier this month that the US streamer, HBO/MAX, had decided not to continue the series, despite showrunner David Jenkins having always said OFMD required 3 seasons to complete its full story.
The main focus of ‘Our Flag Means Death’ is on the love story between Barbadian landowner-come-Gentleman Pirate, Stede Bonnet, played by Rhys Darby, and Ed Teach, aka the dread pirate Blackbeard (Taika Waititi). It portrays not just a romance between two men, but two middle-aged men – one of whom is indigenous, and shows that love is possible for everyone, regardless of who we are, or what stage we are at in life. The show is known for its positive representation and inclusivity. It expands this representation beyond the stories and into the cast and crew as well, with not just members of the queer community represented but also Black, Indigenous, and people of colour, of all ages, sizes, and genders. Not only that, but several characters have disabilities, which are not highlighted, but rather accepted as a part of that person. Ed has a knee brace in season 1; Spanish Jackie has a wooden hand, which doesn’t impede her in any way, shape, or form; Lucius loses a finger in season 1, and is still able to continue as an artist and scribe; Izzy Hands loses his leg in this season, but it doesn’t slow him down at all. The actor Matthew Maher has a cleft palate and lisp, but this is in no way ever alluded to with his portrayal of Black Pete. Likewise, Kristian Nairn has a pelvic tilt, meaning walking and standing for long periods is difficult for him – his character, Wee John was written to be allowed to sit whenever possible. Nothing is a caricature. Further to this is the inclusion of accent, with each actor allowed to perform in their own accent. It’s a delight to hear international accents represented, from countries such as Aotearoa New Zealand, Samoa, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Puerto Rico, as well as England and the US.
‘Our Flag Means Death’ has been met with incredible acclaim, and season 1 saw it nominated for 3 Dorian TV Awards, 5 Gold Derby TV Awards, 3 Hollywood Critics Television Association Awards, a GLAAD Media Award, A Ray Bradbury Award, and a Peabody Award. Additionally the show won for ‘Excellence in Production Design for a Half Hour Single-Camera Television Series’ in the Art Directors Guild Awards for production designer, Ra Vincent, and ‘Best Period and/or Character Hair Styling’ at the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Awards for Margarita Pidgeon, Stacy Bisel, Kate Loftis, and Christopher Enlow.
Season 2 has so far garnered another ADGA nomination for Ra Vincent in the same category, and a GLAAD Media Award nomination for Best Comedy Series.
The new season was released in the US in October last year, with eager fans jumping on board after a 19 month wait to find out if Stede managed to reunite with his one true love, Ed. MAX seemed keen to promote the show, launching billboards in New York’s Times Square, and on Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip. Additionally their social media promotion was quite good, even if they tended to spoiler the episodes before they were released.
Needless to say, this was all very encouraging for fans of the show, the bulk of whom come from within the LGBTQAI+ community. Views of season 1 had increased exponentially, and when season 2 dropped on October 5, it soon outpaced demand for other HBO MAX returning seasons, such as season 3 of ‘The Righteous Gemstones’, and season 3 of ‘Succession’. ‘Our Flag Means Death’ has scored a whopping 94% overall rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with a 95% average audience score, and an average rating of 7.8/10 per episode on IMDb. Even now, 3 months since the release of the final episode, season 2 is still among the streamer’s best rating shows. All looked good for season 3, with cast and crew posting behind the scenes content from the previous season, and the word on the street was that the new season had been greenlit, and pre-production was underway, with filming in Aotearoa New Zealand booked in May this year. News of the show’s cancellation on January 9 was therefore received with shock, and precipitated countless articles popping up all over the globe.
Unsurprisingly, the fans of ‘Our Flag Means Death’ took the cancellation hard. But just like Stede, the grief was quickly replaced with determination to get their man (show) back. A fan-led group, ‘Renew As A Crew‘, began a petition at the end of August to promote the need for a third season. While it had been going strong, with 17,508 signatures as of January 10, it really picked up the pace from there on after, with, at time of writing, a phenomenal 82,493 signatures, and no sign of stopping anytime soon.
This isn’t all fans have done to win back their show. Raising more than $21,000 in a couple of hours, they spent $10,000 on a billboard on Times Square, New York, over 19 and 20 January, as well as a truck, with a neon sign, and an aeroplane towing a banner behind it, both sporting the maxim, “Save Our Flag Means Death”, in Los Angeles. The remaining $11,000 has been divided between the charities Human Appeal, Mermaids, Taller Salud, and Rainbow Youth (further to this fans have raised something in the area of $103,000 for charity, donating for example to Palestine, Ukraine, queer charities around the world, UK charity Limb Power, and the Maori Indigenous Education Fund, among many many others).
Additionally, fans have flooded Max’s social media, phone lines and customer feedback inboxes, and even faxes, with the one specification that it be done a la Stede Bonnet style: with polite menace, and killing with kindness. It remains to be seen if the efforts are in vain; nonetheless, it’s not unprecedented for cancelled shows to be reinstated, and the focus has moved on from asking MAX to renew, and instead, asking other streaming companies to take it on board. The signs are certainly encouraging, and the show’s popularity remains strong, both in the US and around the world.
The first season of ‘Our Flag Means Death’ didn’t make its way to UK until January last year, a full 10 months after its US premiere. This time around we’ve only had to wait four months for our beloved pirates to return, which is surely a good sign that season 2 will likewise be received well on these shores. Additionally, season 1 of ‘Our Flag Means Death’ was still the 9th most popular digital original in the UK in December last year, so it certainly seems to indicate that season 2 should follow suit. Our job isn’t cut and dried however – rather it’s only about to begin.
Fans in the US, and those countries with access HBO MAX (as well as Binge in Australia and Neon in Aotearoa), have been working hard to ensure their voices are heard, and have been streaming both seasons of the show non-stop. Finally, we in the UK can join the fight. It’s important to remember we’re not just doing this so we can watch another season of our favourite show. We’re doing this for all the other favourite shows that have been cancelled, and those which are still at risk – whether currently broadcast or yet to be made. We’re doing this for the cast and crew and writers, most of whom have just come off the long writers and actors strikes, and who thought they had a large block of work guaranteed for this year. We’re doing this for Aotearoa New Zealand, which relies on the film and television industry for a great chunk of their tourism. The New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) and Tourism New Zealand (TNZ) partnered with MAX on season 2, as part of the New Zealand Screen Production Grant (NZSPG) 5% uplift and they were set to do the same for season 3. Many of the cast and crew are from that country, and OFMD provided many work opportunities for extras, as well as the knock-on effect on the tourism, hospitality and accommodation industries.
If you’ve not watched season 1 of ‘Our Flag Means Death’ yet, it’s available on BBC iPlayer here. Season 2 will join it on February 5, and the show will be broadcast on BBC2 on Monday nights from that date, at 10pm in England, Wales, and Scotland, and 11:15pm in Northern Ireland.
Read our story about season 1 of ‘Our Flag Means Death’ here.
Sign the petition to save ‘Our Flag Means Death’ here.