How do you stage a pivotal reunion between two star-crossed lovers? If you’re Our Flag Means Death, you turn to the power of mermaids — and Kate Bush.
Season 2 of the beloved comedy sees pirates Stede Bonnet (Rhys Darby) and Ed “Blackbeard” Teach (Taika Waititi) processing their Season 1 breakup. By the end of episode 3, “The Innkeeper,” they unexpectedly find themselves back together onboard The Revenge — albeit in dire circumstances.
A heavily injured, unconscious Ed is stuck in a strange purgatory, sinking through the watery depths of the ocean towards death. But when he hears Stede’s voice in the real world pleading with him to live, Ed begins to fight his way back to the surface. As he does, he sees a figure swimming through the water towards him. It’s Stede as a mermaid, resplendent with a golden tail and carrying a matching trident, to boot. This fantastic reunion in purgatory is enough to wake Ed from near-death, where he finds (human) Stede sitting beside him.
According to Our Flag Means Death creator David Jenkins, the idea of mermaid Stede came up early on in the Season 2 writers’ room. “Rhys Darby as a mermaid? That’s got to be in [the season],” he told Mashable in an interview.
Their reunion moment has to feel big and mythical.
The reunion between Ed and Stede ended up making the most sense for incorporating the mermaid vision. “You need something expressive for when they come back together,” Jenkins said. “Their reunion moment has to feel big and mythical. This is not a world where mermaids actually exist, but their love for each other has that size that you can get [a mermaid] in there somewhere.”
He added: “It was also just fun to put Rhys Darby in a mermaid tail.”
While shooting the reunion sequence, Darby was actually wearing a full mermaid tail created by Our Flag Means Death costume designer Gypsy Taylor. Stunt coordinator Jacob Tomuri, who worked as Tom Hardy’s stunt double in Mad Max: Fury Road, trained Darby to swim in the tail, a process that was no small feat.
“You have to have the core strength, you have to be an athlete to make that happen,” Jenkins said. “On the day, it’s just Rhys — no rig — making that tail work through athleticism.”
In addition to the delightful vision that is mermaid Stede, the entire reunion sequence is tied together with Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work,” making Our Flag Means Death the second show in recent years to use Bush’s music in a scene where a character escapes certain death. (The other is Stranger Things Season 4, which memorably used her classic “Running Up That Hill” in a climactic showdown with villain Vecna.)
“I love Kate Bush, and I love that song, and I know Taika loves that song,” Jenkins explained of the choice. “So I wanted to find a place for that song somewhere in the second season.” And with its refrain of “I know you have a little life in you yet / I know you have a lot of strength left,” “This Woman’s Work” ended up fitting in perfectly with Stede’s attempts to bring Ed back to the land of the living.
As for the possible Stranger Things comparisons, Jenkins isn’t worried. “There’s a reason needle drops are needle drops — there’s room for all kinds,” he said. “Like Fleetwood Mac has the most overused song catalog, but when you do it for your show [like when Our Flag Means Death used “The Chain” in Season 1], if you can earn it, it doesn’t matter.”
If anything, Jenkins is more excited that people may learn more about different artists thanks to Our Flag Means Death. “Prince is in the teaser trailer, and there were some people who were like, ‘I haven’t heard of this Prince, I should check him out!’ It’s a reminder, like, ‘Oh yeah, our audience is young,'” said Jenkins. “But to be the thing that introduces somebody to Prince, that’s a cool feeling.”
Of Bush in particular, Jenkins said: “Kate Bush should really be used in everything. She’s amazing. Everyone should listen to her songs.”
And based on the most recent Youtube comments on the music video for “This Woman’s Work,” which Bush herself directed, the OFMD fandom is already getting started. Between mentions of episode 3 and triumphant calls summoning the fans for a takeover, one comment simply reads: “A merman brought me here.”
Our Flag Means Death Season 2 is now streaming on Max, with new episodes every Thursday.