Review by Sean Boelman
Created by David Jenkins (People of Earth) and executive produced by Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows), Our Flag Means Death is perhaps one of the most unique workplace comedies to ever hit television. Funny and charming, this historical comedy has plenty of laughs and a good deal of heart to go along with it.
Inspired by a true story, the film follows an aristocrat who, bored with his domestic life, decides to give everything up and hit the seas as a pirate, but finds himself facing unexpected challenges. It’s a wild story that seems like a parody of other incompetent pirates of pop culture, but it’s based on one of those stranger-than-fiction tales.
For the most part, the humor of the show is rather goofy, but there’s definitely a dark edge to it here and there. It really doesn’t take itself too seriously, and while there are some quips used as clear jabs against the injustices of modern society, the series seems content with being a silly comedy about pirates with unusual methods.
There is a lot of buildup in the series, particularly in the first few episodes, but once the show finds its rhythm, it works pretty well. That said, there is no shortage of conflict to be found here. All of the moving pieces can be a bit overwhelming at first, but it’s easy to get attuned to the film’s erratic wavelength.
Like any good workplace comedy show, viewers will each have their own favorite character. Although the protagonist is an interesting figure, and his arc is what will get audiences hooked on the show, his crew is what will be more memorable. This is especially the case with the characters who have more fleshed-out subplots.
The ensemble for the series is very solid. Rhys Darby plays the lead role in a way that is absolutely lovable. His comedic delivery can be a bit monotonous, but that is also part of what makes his performance so endearing. Waititi gives an excellent turn as Blackbeard, turning what audiences think they know about the famed pirate on its head.
The production value of the series is also quite good. The costuming and sets periodize the show in a way that is much more effective than most historical comedies. As a whole, there is a playful style to the show, albeit with a bit of a bite, as shown through some of the more suspenseful bits.
Our Flag Means Death is a refreshing comedy, taking a strong premise and applying familiar genre tropes to it to make something quite funny. This is a show that really rides on its characters, and Jenkins and the cast do such a good job of building them that it works well.
Our Flag Means Death streams on HBO Max beginning March 3, with new episodes streaming every Thursday. Five out of ten episodes reviewed.