HBO Max has released the full official trailer for Our Flag Means Death, the streaming platform’s new period comedy, featuring Taika Waititi’s hilariously deadpan portrayal of the infamous 18th-century pirate Blackbeard.
As I’ve written previously, the series is about an aristocrat who abandons his comfy life to become a “gentleman pirate.” Even better: the main character, Stede Bonnet (played to effete perfection by Rhys Darby), is based on a real person who really did sail with Blackbeard for a period. (You can read a bit about the actual pirate here, and/or listen to this episode of the wonderful Footnoting History podcast.)
The first teaser for Our Flag Means Death dropped last month and won us over immediately with its fish-out-of-water premise. Clearly, the series is unlikely to attempt much in the way of historical accuracy, which is entirely the right decision. Tonally, it evokes something along the lines of Hulu’s extraordinary period comedy series The Great, which takes historical characters and facts and embellishes them, complete with the odd deliberate anachronism. Per the official premise:
The unique new comedy is loosely based on the true adventures of 18th century would-be pirate, Stede Bonnet. After trading in his comfortable life for one of a buccaneer, Stede becomes captain of a pirate ship, but struggles to earn the respect of his potentially mutinous crew. Stede’s fortunes change after a fateful run-in with the infamous Captain Blackbeard.
There are also some impressive guest stars, including Leslie Jones, Fred Armisen, and Nick Kroll. Nathan Foad, Samson Kayo, Vico Ortiz, Ewen Bremner, Joel Fry, Matt Maher, Kristian Nairn, Con O’Neill, Guz Khan, David Fane, Rory Kinnear, Samba Schutte, and Nat Faxon all play additional crew members.
As the trailer opens we see Bonnet considering the exploits of famous pirates like Blackbeard and Captain Kidd, suggested to him as being very talented pirates by an acquaintance. He has a new vision for a gentleman pirate: “Instead of killing with weapons, he kills with kindness!” He considers dressing well a power move, even among pirates: “Make people feel under-dressed and suddenly you’re the one in charge.”
Pretty much all of Bonnet’s respectable friends are skeptical of his aspirations, and the footage of him hanging off a rope ladder while trying to push a beached ship back in the water doesn’t instill much confidence either. “Pirating is not for everyone,” a crew member explains to Bonnet. “It’s a very dangerous lifestyle.” For his part, Bonnet thinks his crew members are really sweethearts deep down, “they’re just dealing with a fair amount of trauma.” Extra points for showing Leslie Jones as a tough female pirate holding Bonnet at knifepoint and calling him a “genital pirate.”
We only had the briefest glimpse of Waititi’s Blackbeard in the teaser, but his character is front and center in the full trailer. He swings onto Bonnet’s ship with a confident swagger that makes all the crew members giddy with fanboy delight. Blackbeard wants to cause some havoc, and havoc does indeed ensue. Bonnet does loot a library, which he defines as replacing all the books he steals with books he’s already read.
It seems like Blackbeard will develop a grudging affection for his unusual partner in piracy—”You’re a lunatic and I like it”—perhaps because Bonnet makes a good cup of tea and serves tapas aboard a rowboat headed to shore. But are good manners enough to save Bonnet and his crew from annihilation by British forces?
Our Flag Means Death debuts on HBO Max on March 3, 2022.
Listing image by YouTube/HBO Max