Released: March 24, 2022
Network: HBO Max
Showrunner: David Jenkins
Genre: Rom-com, Alternate history
In which murder is a natural cause of death.
And now the moment I’ve been dreading: the end of Our Flag Means Death.
This is too big to go under Fashion Corner, so let’s talk about Stede and Mary’s clothing here. Stede is dressed in a nice yet rather plain outfit reminiscent of the orange suit he wore around Mary in the first episode. This is his costume for Stede Bonnet Family Man. Mary, meanwhile, has shed her Mary Bonnet Mother and Wife costume and insists on wearing her Mary Bonnet Widow Extraordinaire attire. This outfit is also plain like Stede’s, and more functional than fashionable. The only one settling back into old ways is Stede, and even he is failing at it. He can’t stop talking about life at sea despite his family not caring.
Is it just me or does Stede seem to be faking the whole “jealous of Doug” thing? It’s rather half-assed, like he knows a good husband would be jealous but he isn’t putting any effort into it because he doesn’t actually care. He’s also just starting to see (although he doesn’t recognize it yet) how much Mary has flourished under his absence, and that Doug is part of that.
Stede returned to Barbados in part because he felt guilt over abandoning his family “on a whim,” as Mary puts it. But his family doesn’t need or want him there. No one does. The men in town who fete him over beers don’t care about Stede Bonnet the man or the gentleman, only the pirate. The longer Stede has to pretend to be a gentleman, the harder and more uncomfortable it gets. Ed is struggling with an identity crisis as well. He just got used to being Edward Teach and he can’t be Ed without Stede. Izzy doesn’t like either of those men. He’s obsessed with Blackbeard specifically. Izzy wants to salvage what’s left of his relationship with Blackbeard, even if that means killing off Ed and Edward Teach. (Especially if it means killing off Stede’s Ed.) Ed chokes out Izzy with the lighthouse painting in the background as a reminder and a warning that lighthouses may be reliable and protective but they’re also to be avoided.
I wrote about the scene where Stede realizes he’s in love with Ed and Mary’s wonderful reaction to his coming out for Tor.com, so I won’t rehash it here except to say it’s perfect. Just perfect. This truly is the moment when Stede realizes he’s in love with Ed, but he hasn’t yet realized what a catastrophic fuck-up he’s made of his relationship. I’m guessing that will be the thrust of season 2.
Oh god, Ed takes entirely the wrong lesson from Lucius’ advice to let go. Lucius has seemingly been through relationships and breakups before, but Stede and Ed haven’t. Stede has only ever been with one person, Mary, while Ed presumably has had plenty of affairs but nothing real or meaningful (except with Izzy???). It’s also clear that Ed gave more of himself to his relationship with his co-captain than Stede did. And part of that is because Stede knows he cares for Ed but doesn’t figure out he loves him until his conversation with Mary after she tries to murder him in his sleep. Stede can’t face the truth with Ed because he can never face anything. Ed did face the truth and got his heart stomped on for it.
So of course Ed tossed Lucius overboard. He had to kill him (or indirectly kill him…Ed would probably rationalize it as the ocean killed him). Lucius is the only person besides Stede to see him for who he really is and to have emotionally exposed conversations. Killing Lucius is akin to killing off Stede, to letting go of everything before and starting again as Blackbeard the ferocious. That being said, my current headcanon is that Lucius manages to climb back on board and is now hiding in Stede’s secret passageways. If Jim can get on board without anyone seeing them, so can Lucius.
In the recap for episode 3 I talked briefly about the parallels between Ed and Stede’s cabins. Now let’s get into what Ed does to Stede’s cabin, first when he’s wallowing and then when he’s angry. While deep in his wallow, the cabin is a disaster. He’s wearing Stede’s clothes, making a nest out of Stede’s furniture, and eating Stede’s food. But once he decides to be Blackbeard again, he strips it bare. It looks nothing like his old cabin. He’s going to live in that empty, hollow, lifeless space because thinking of Stede hurts him as much as it hurts Stede to think of Ed. All that remains of Stede is his curtains and the lighthouse painting.
It’s too bad Stede is a few steps behind Ed in terms of his emotional and romantic development. Stede and Ed both are in love with men who no longer exists. Ed’s situation is even worse. He has always been the instigator in their relationship. He touches Stede, he pushes Stede to take risks, he comes back, he declares his love, he plans their escape to China. Stede lets himself be pulled along, just as he did with his marriage. Stede finally makes a decisive choice, but it may be too late. The trick to season 2 will be getting these new versions of our heroes to fall in love with each other all over again.
I love the way the show explores masculinity. Not manhood specifically, but masculinity in general. One of the big lessons Stede learns is that there are infinite ways to express masculinity, not just the narrow, rigid version he’s been locked into all these years. When Stede stands on that beach at the end, he’s a new man. His hair is slicked back, he’s wearing a plain shirt and black pants, with a black sash wrapped around his waist. He’s neither gentleman nor pirate, just Stede Bonnet, a man who faces his fears.
Tied with this is the way the show features older queer people. Movies and tv usually focus on younger queer people, often people who are coming out as young adults and who knew they were queer since forever. It’s so nice to get something where most of the characters are 30+ and especially to have a main character who didn’t figure out he was gay until middle age. And didn’t figure it out because society made sure he didn’t know it was an option. It’s a common experience for those of us with less common queer identities (I’m ace/aro and genderqueer), that we come to these identities later in life because the terms didn’t become well known until the last decade or so. We, like Stede, had to spend years of our lives feeling like we didn’t fit and desperately pursuing behaviors that were risky because we thought they’d bring us closer to the social norms.
Welp, that’s it for season 1. It’s anyone’s guess how many times I’ll rewatch it before we finally get season 2, but I’m sure it’ll be a lot. If you want more of my thoughts, check out the tor.com link from earlier – it has not only a discussion about queerness but a list of queer science fiction and fantasy readalikes. Also check out my ever-increasing thread on my favorite OFMD tiktoks.
- How did Stede get all the way from wherever the Wayward Seamen academy was (Charles Town?) to Barbados overnight and barefoot? God, the illogical logic of this show amuses me to no end.
- Not sure what Stede was thinking in going home to his family. Barbados is under British rule in the early 1700s. They probably wouldn’t take kindly to him abandoning his contract with King George I.
- Nothing has ever achieved the perfect combination of sad, sweet, and sexy like Blackbeard licking Stede’s orange marmalade off his finger while wearing Stede’s flower robe in a pillow fort made of breakup misery.
- “Why are we even being pirates?” Indeed, Ed, indeed.
- Fuck, I cannot stand the drunk Stede scene. The second hand embarrassment is too much! I’m so uncomfy.
- If anyone hurts Jim I will fucking riot.
- Ed is spreading his romantic misery around by breaking up the other two queer couples: Olu and Jim and Black Pete and Lucius.
- My headcanon is that Frenchie is acespec. Just putting that out there.
- Hadn’t noticed it before, but Stede’s daughter Alma is wearing the same clothes as her brother. She no longer wears “girl” clothes. That kid is genderqueer, I’m sure of it.
- Seems like wearing black scarfs is a Bonnet family tradition. Mary Bonnet is wearing one with her widow group. Stede wore his loose and wild while Mary wears hers just like Ed did: tucked in. And when she decides to murder her husband we see her loosen it.
- Mary’s widow waistcoat is made of the same fabric as Doug’s waistcoat.
- Blackbeard version 1.0 wore fingerless gloves. Blackbeard version 2.0 wears full gloves.Ed and Stede have both let go of the fabrics that tied them to their past. Ed released the red silk while Stede no longer wears the black scarf (Mary does).
- Another parallel is Jeffrey. He’s dressed like Stede was in the premiere, even down the the shiny buttons. He is exactly like Stede was in the beginning, all self-centered and recklessly excited. (Not to mention his name being the formal version of Jeff, Ed’s gentleman name.)
Closing credits song is “Miles from Nowhere” by Cat Stevens. The song playing over Ed’s transformation back into Blackbeard is Leonard Cohen’s “Avalanche.”