Our Flag Means Death: Pilot provides a perfect introduction

4 mins read

Ten months after its American premiere, UK viewers can finally watch gay pirate romcom Our Flag Means Death. I repeat: gay pirate romcom.

The year is 1717. Pirates rule the seven seas. Stede Bonnet (Rhys Darby) is a rich landowner trying his hand at being captain of the Revenge. Darby is a joy to watch as the flamboyant Stede. Dressed in his extravagant silk coats, he doesn’t exactly fit in with his motley crew.

Rhys Darby as pirate captain Stede.
Rhys Darby as Stede. Image Credit: BBC

The dynamic between the inhabitants of the Revenge is hilarious. From first mate Buttons (Ewen Bremner) and pyromaniac Wee John (Kristian Nairn) to mysterious Jim (Vico Ortiz) and campy Lucius (Nathan Foad), the first episode provides a near-flawless introduction to them all.

However, it quickly appears that things aren’t all plain sailing on the Revenge. Stede is far from your stereotypical pirate – he pays his crew a weekly wage, encourages them to talk about their feelings and has a dislike for blood and violence. His restless crew begin whisperings of mutiny, and so to placate them, Stede plans to attack another ship. As expected, nothing goes to plan.

The ship Stede sets his sights on turns out to be a Naval warship, naturally. To make matters worse, it’s captained by Nigel Badminton (Rory Kinnear), an old-school bully of Stede’s.

The episode cleverly cuts to flashbacks of Stede’s childhood torment, fleshing out his character even more.

Men sitting around a table
Things quickly go wrong for Stede. Image Credit: BBC

Captain Badminton insists on boarding the Revenge once he realises Stede is on board. Chaos ensues and Stede accidentally kills Badminton. After hitting him on the back of the head with a paperweight, Badminton falls onto his own sword. Stede is horrified, but at least his crew finally have a shred of respect for him.

The pilot ends on a heart-breaking note, with flashbacks of Stede with his wife and children. “My family’s here now,” he says to himself as he sheds a tear. “At sea.”

Stede reads the crew a bedtime story and it’s bittersweet. He clearly loves his ragtag shipmates, but what about his own children?

Overall, Pilot is a great introduction to the characters and world of Our Flag Means Death and leaves us wanting more. What happened to Stede’s family? Why does Jim have a fake nose? Will the crew let Stede live another day?

Vico Ortiz as Jim.
What is Jim hiding? Image Credit: BBC

The actors pull off the comedic style wonderfully, whilst still being emotionally nuanced. The show will definitely be a hit with fans of What We Do In The Shadows and Ghosts.

This episode ranks pretty low on the gay-o-meter, aside from the general campiness of Stede’s wardrobe. But do not fret, there is much gayness on the horizon for the Revenge

Our Flag Means Death is on BBC 2 each Wednesday at 10pm, and the full series is available to stream on BBC iPlayer now.

Featured Image Credit: BBC

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Film, media and journalism student. I like writing about my inability to eat gluten.

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