Our Flag Means Death: Here’s why season three deserves to be aired
Our Flag Means Death has been cancelled by HBO Max after just two seasons, and its devoted legion of fans are devastated. Here’s why the queer pirate comedy is a story that deserves to end on its own terms.
Consuming television as a queer person in the early 2000s and 2010s was pretty hit and miss. It felt like a lot of series with large LGBTQ+ followings were routinely playing a game of chicken, where they would see how far they could push the homoerotic subtext without becoming canonically queer.
Some shows (you know exactly which ones) would routinely insist their characters were straight and in no way romantically involved. But still they would write a gay joke into nearly every episode or have a queer fan pairing share longing glances, then do all but call you an idiot if you interpreted it any way other than heterosexual friendship.
Like countless others, I spent years putting time and passion into loving shows that I thought were catering to me, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, only to then realise that I had been the butt of the joke all along, just for having the audacity to hope to be represented. Then Our Flag Means Death came along in 2022 and made queerbaiting walk the plank.
I didn’t get into the show until January the following year when it finally landed on BBC iPlayer. As a Gay TV Fanatic™, it had been on my radar and I was excited to watch. But despite the fact that I’d seen GIFs of the show all over Twitter and repeatedly heard it referred to as ‘the gay pirate show’, when I finally watched it, I was taken aback by just how gay it is.
Maybe there’s some subtext, thought past-me. Maybe the captain’s campy journalist will have a queer storyline.
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But when Stede Bonnet, drenched in romantic moonlight, told Ed Teach that he wore fine things well … reader, I gasped.
And from there, it only got gayer. Tender glances turned into trauma bonding, which then turned into straight-up flirting, until the season crescendoed with a gorgeous kiss scene and a full-on love confession.
Slowly but surely, Our Flag Means Death wasn’t just about pirates. It was about these two pirates falling in love. It felt cathartic and warm. Gays, we won!
Unlike the queerbaiting shows that came before it, Our Flag truly earned its LGBTQ+ following. And the representation doesn’t end with the leads. When they say it’s an LGBTQ+ show, they mean it. It has a queer relationship front and centre, but most of the rest of the cast of characters are also part of the community, and their stories all matter too.
After falling in love with Stede, Ed and the crew of the Revenge, I became one of the fans that streamed the entire first season multiple times on the week of its BBC launch, and then hopped onto Instagram for ‘Wee John Wednesdays’ – Instagram Live sessions where cast member Kristian Nairn and other members of the cast and crew talked about Our Flag Means Death – for weeks afterwards.
This was the kind of show baby-gay me had always dreamed about.
Our Flag Means Death feels tender and welcoming in a way that other shows just don’t. It feels like vindication for spending so long hoping for better representation.
The LGBTQ+ community shouldn’t settle for crumbs anymore. We deserve multi-faceted stories and proper endings, and so does Our Flag Means Death.
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