Our Flag Means Death E2 recap: “A Damned Man”

Released: March 3, 2022
Network: HBO Max
Showrunner: David Jenkins
Genre: Rom-com, Alternate history

In which not all beards are actual beards.

My Thoughts

So remember how I said in E1 that the key to knowing the difference between a flashback and an unreliable narrator memory is the lighting? Well, the opening scene with the French is another good example of that. Anytime you get the hazy yellow or harsh red lighting, it’s a subtle cue to the audience that we should take everything with a grain of salt.

I need to talk about disability for a moment. There are four characters with various disabilities by the end of the show, but in the beginning we have Wee John and Black Pete, the former with back problems and mobility issues and the latter with a speech impediment. What I appreciate is how their disabilities are never commented on. But they’re also not ignored. Their disabilities are accommodated without fuss – such as having Wee John sit on the beach in front of the grounded Revenge. No one mocks or taunts them or lampshades them. They simply get to exist as they are and with the crew making space for them. Black Pete certainly gives the rest enough material to make fun of him, what with his outlandish claims of piratical adventures. A lesser show would have Oluwande retaliate against the Babyface name calling by having him mimic Black Pete’s speech impediment. But not OFMD. 

Another one of those little detail moments the cishets wouldn’t necessarily pick up on is the subtext of Jim hiding out in that room. Jim, like a lot of closeted queer people, lives a life split in two. They must always keep people at arm’s length, even their allies. It’s the only way to stay safe. Jim cannot share in the intimacy of listening to Stede tell bedtime stories, sleep with the crew, or even have a little fun with flag arts and crafts. Jim must always stay isolated and alone. Even Oluwande doesn’t get entry to Jim’s room, not yet anyway. Jim must deny themself connection and love; it’s the price for safety. JIm is literally and metaphorically “in a prison of [their] own making.” Sometimes the closet is your only option.

See, now this is how you comment on racism without making BIPOC the butt of the joke. Buttons has been talking about eating Lucius all afternoon, but Black Pete and Stede only jump to “savages” when they assume an Indigenous person is doing the cannibalism. The joke, however, is framed so that it’s clear the white guys are the transgressors. It’s also worth noting that Black Pete uses the same racist language as the white English naval officers currently being held in the other cage. They think of themselves as different or better than the naval officers, but from the perspective of the people trying to survive colonization the difference is miniscule. 

I’m going to save the discussion about Stede being haunted by guilt over abandoning his children for E10. In the meantime, some heavy foreshadowing is happening in the conversation between Stede and the elder.

Final Thoughts:

  • The Blackbeard flag we first see is a skeleton holding a spear – no hearts or blood droplets yet. I love the way the show plays with history.
  • The title cards are *chef’s kiss*
  • Of course Stede would take Black Pete’s word at face value. 
  • And another fat joke. Ugh.
  • “Um, maybe we do our own things today?” Oh baby! They’re so cute and shy!
  • According to Vico Ortiz, the swimming scene was shot in Malibu and was interrupted by the local cops. 
  • Gary Farmer!
  • “Not all beards are actual beards.” Um, does Lucius have a secret wife???
  • “Don’t you trifle.”
  • You cannot convince me Izzy isn’t queer. Who slices open another man’s shirt just for shits and giggles?
  • Izzy has the look of a man who is going to hold a grudge until the end of time.

Fashion Corner

  • Storytime Stede dresses a lot more like Family Man Stede. These are moments when he’s neither gentleman nor pirate. Instead, he sees himself as a father figure to the crew. 
  • The play on bad guys dressing in black and the innocent good guys dressing in white pairs nicely with Stede as a dressed down gentleman wearing both light and dark colors. Stede is halfway between the monstrous Blackbeard and the cowardly French sailor.
  • I love that Fang’s headband is identical to the studded belt I bought from Hot Topic in the late 90s and wore almost every day in college.
  • This foreshadows to E10 as well, so I’ll keep this brief. There’s a parallel between Stede dressed down in just a linen shirt and light trousers in E2 and him in a similar outfit in E10. In both situations, Stede is neither gentleman nor pirate but a man trying to figure out who he is.

Closing credits song is “Messa de Requiem: Movement II – Dies irae & Tuba mirum” by Giuseppe Verdi. The song was originally supposed to be part of a requiem for Alessandro Manzoni. These two portions follow the funeral rites of a Catholic mass as well as act as a call to judgment (according to Wikipedia anyway).

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