Taika Waititi can't catch a break right now.


The Kiwi's most recent outing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thor: Love and Thunder, was panned by some critics for lacking substance and jumping around too much tonally, despite bringing moments of enjoyable comedy.

Next Goal Wins, the long-delayed narrative adaptation of the 2014 documentary, was panned by almost all critics for lacking substance and failing to hit the back of the net with its jokes.

And Our Flag Means Death, the hit pirate comedy he has starred in and executive produced alongside creator David Jenkins, which seemed to provide a safe space for him to crack ad-libbed jokes among friends, was cancelled after just two seasons.

Like I say, he can't catch a break.

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Taika Waititi leaning over Joel Fry while in a pirate ship
Joel Fry and Taika Waititi in Our Flag Means Death. BBC/Warner Media Direct/Nicola Dove

Now, sure, much of the recent criticism thrown his way has been justifiable to a degree. Love and Thunder did skirt over some pretty serious topics in favour of giving its gags extended screen time. And Next Goal Wins did fail to capture the magic of the documentary of the same name.

But Our Flag Means Death? That was meant to be sacred ground, an untouchable force for good that escaped the current Waititi curse. It wasn't meant to end so soon, with the rug rather unexpectedly pulled from underneath it.

After all, Jenkins himself had planned for a three-season narrative arc, so for HBO to deny an end for what is ultimately a pretty short story – especially for a US sitcom – feels particularly harsh.

In a world where fellow Waititi outfit What We Do in the Shadows has coasted through to six seasons on a pretty tired concept and increasingly one-note characters, Our Flag Means Death – which encapsulates the fresh-feeling comedy-drama cocktail that Waititi and his long-term collaborators like Rhys Darby can concoct when in form – deserves better.

As much as the Waititi mystique that defined his early career and saw him rise to superstardom may have waned somewhat in recent years, Our Flag Means Death is a proper showcase of his talents, epitomising the type of glib yet energetic humour he helped to bring to the mainstream.

Jenkins and his stacked writing team crafted a concept that enables this type of comedy to thrive, throwing a group of eccentric characters into bizarre scenarios that they're completely unequipped for, but also finding plenty of time for them to just sit and chat, enabling its stars to go back and forth, becoming increasingly ridiculous as a result.

At a time when properly enjoyable comedies feel on the decline, it's a breath of fresh air.

Yet Waititi's early projects not only won plaudits for their humour, but also for their ability to sucker punch you with a heartbreaking scene soon after bringing the laughs.

While he may have struggled with that blend a little more in recent times, perhaps sidelining emotion for entertainment, this series fuses its comedy with its drama perfectly.

In what becomes a central focus of the show by the end of season 1, the unlikely romance between Waititi's Blackbeard and Darby's Stede Bonnet initially creeps up on you, but once it grabs hold, you can't help but fall in love with their dynamic yourself.

It's a tale of two broken souls finding each other in the strangest of circumstances, helping to repair one another against the odds.

But it's not just romance that's tackled among the antics. The show interrogates questions of identity – often through the lens of Jim, with Vico Ortiz stealing almost every scene they're in, especially early on.

It puts friendship under the microscope, with this group of oddballs begrudgingly growing to look out for each other.

And it dives into feelings of self-worth, or lack thereof, through the seemingly clueless motley crew that slowly discover their strengths.

The best comedies, in this writer's humble opinion, underpin their humour with humanity, bring real stakes through the silliness, and Our Flag Means Death arguably does that better than any other comedy on TV right now.

Our Flag Means Death cast gathered by a stone wall
The cast of Our Flag Means Death. BBC/Warner Media Direct/Nicola Dove

All of this is brought to the screen by a uniquely varied cast, filled with more established figures like Darby, Joel Fry and, of course, Waititi, but also by breakthrough stars like Ortiz and Nathan Foad – with the latter using his global clout to expand the reach of smaller-budget British fare like his own show, Newark, Newark.

The idea that these talented performers, who clearly have an absolute blast on set and have established an array of strangely loveable characters, may not get the chance to get back on deck feels like a missed opportunity, especially as there is clearly more of their story to tell.

Bearing all of this in mind, it's no surprise there's a well-followed campaign to keep the show going beyond its second run – and, as much as giving audiences what they want on command can set a dangerous precedent, this one feels worth backing. Our Flag Means Death deserves one final voyage.

Our Flag Means Death seasons 1 and 2 are available to stream on BBC iPlayer now. Check out more of our Comedy coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to find out what's on.


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