Our Flag Means Dying, BBC2 — swashbuckling story of wit, whimsy and romance

Beware the “Gentleman Pirate”, recognized oceanwide for his model of “well mannered menace”. He’s Stede Bonnet, callow ship captain and the lead character of Our Flag Means Dying, an odd, amiable HBO Max interval comedy loosely impressed by the true story of an 18th-century aristocrat who determined to swap excessive society for the excessive seas.

Having abandoned his cosseted life, Stede (Rhys Darby) quickly discovers that voyaging throughout the treacherous Caribbean waters just isn’t precisely an escape. As a substitute of a spouse and kids, he now finds himself surrounded by ruthless mercenaries, killers and cannibals — and that’s simply his personal crew. Within the first few episodes we see the conflict-averse dandy try to quell a mutiny and negotiate perilous encounters with the Republic of Pirates, unwelcoming islanders and a British navy ship helmed by Stede’s old style bully (Rory Kinnear). 

However these escapades act as a singular backdrop to what’s primarily a swashbuckling tackle the character-led office comedy. With an incompetent boss and ragtag ensemble of disgruntled staff, this outlaw vessel can come to resemble nearly any workplace — and even The Workplace.

Whereas Our Flag Means Dying could bear the emblems of different exhibits, it feels fairly singular in its dedication to numerous illustration, and its considerate, narratively-justified explorations of race, gender, class and identification. Collection creator David Jenkins does effectively to broach these worthy themes with a lightness of contact. However for all of the mild wit and whimsy on supply, there are maybe too few standout gags or exchanges.

The sharp, cynical streak that may be anticipated from an HBO authentic is as a substitute offset by a shocking heat. A lot of that is discovered within the relationship that Stede strikes up with notorious pirate Blackbeard (Taika Waititi, who additionally produces). From their shared sense of existential malaise an unlikely romance begins to blossom. A gentleman pirate is probably not a talented plunderer, however he can seemingly steal a coronary heart.


On BBC iPlayer now, with new episodes airing on Wednesdays on BBC2; on HBO Max within the US


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