Slight spoilers from Our Flag Means Death Season 2 Episode 6 follow.
This season of Our Flag Means Death has been tumultuous, to put it lightly. From grappling with major character flaws and trauma in its core cast to the mounting threat of foes finally coming to collect, Season 2 has felt more like a drama than a comedy at times. Thankfully, episode 6, "Calypso's Birthday" put the breaks on the tension and the terror just long enough to give us a massive reminder of what's really important in a show like this — and it's not the punchlines or the complex moral messages, it's the way Our Flag Means Death can shine a spotlight on queer joy.
The build-up here is silly, deliberately trite even: the crew needs a chance to unwind, so they lean into the imaginary holiday of Calypso's Birthday for the excuse. In doing so, they start tossing out "traditions" on the fly, writing themselves blank checks for any manner of silliness and shenanigans. This is all important, to be sure, but it's not until we actually start witnessing the party unfold that it becomes just how critical this is. Little John puts together a drag look, dressing as Calypso with echoes of Divine in his high-arched, pencil-thin brows. Izzy Hands, who, until this point has been one of the most punished by the narrative (and by his fellow characters) finally escapes the seriousness that's defined him for two seasons and arrives with his own mild drag look, just before he begins performing a musical number.
The scene is brief and silly, but what it lacks in time it makes up for in sheer authenticity. Everything about the party, from the decoration to the costumes the characters make for themselves is rough-and-ready, deliberately DIY. Even Izzy and Little John's make-up looks seem crunchy and amateurish, a far cry from what you'd expect to see in mainstream drag anymore. And in a show where some of the pirates casually wear Crocs, we have to understand these elements as deliberate choices rather than attempts at keeping things period-accurate. What OMFD understands here is the innately self-created aspects of queer community — it's improvisational, unconventional, and oftentimes built from whatever scraps happen to be available at the time.
Even when things are ultimately interrupted by the appearance of Ned Lowe, who ruins the party with a casual bit of torture, that sort of community energy remains. Lowe's crew is ultimately swayed to turn on him thanks to Stede extending a hand in welcome. They can belong here, too, at this bizarre and made-up birthday party full of self-made people and their weird, wonderful love in all its forms. It's Ned that's the problem, not them, and there's room for all comers and all kinds in this tiny little pocket of queer space the crew has built for themselves — so long as they can respect the people there. It's a perfect foil for Blackbeard's early journey, and, as Stede says, a showcase of his healing. He's "turned the poison into positivity."
When the smoke clears, the party is able to resume — a bit more subdued, to be sure, but just as critical. As Izzy continues his song on the deck, Ed and Stede finally reconcile both physically and emotionally below. It's a huge moment for them, yes, but it's also a huge moment for Izzy himself and for the rest of the crew — a neat little button placed on the arcs they've all been undergoing from the start, full of pain and torture and trauma, all wrapped up into a moment of pure contentment. Maybe this pirating life really can be "la vie en rose," just like Izzy sings.
Our Flag Means Death is based on some real-world history, allowing the world to discover Anne Bonny, the larger-than-life character who really sailed the treacherous seas.