Ed’s nihilism is played for laughs, sure, but it’s also one of the most surprisingly poignant — and at times shocking — parts of the new season. The hilariously sweet group of pirates aboard the Revenge have always been prone to “talking it through as a crew,” but with such a dark emotional shadow blotting out their sun, their conversations turn to topics of trauma and toxicity. Ed himself starts out an even bleaker path, one that Waititi plays with effective sincerity (he’s clearly more committed to this role than any he’s done before, aside perhaps from his turn in “Boy”). The puppy dog eyes that guided us through much of season one are often cold here, as Blackbeard takes on a practiced blankness anytime he’s not being maniacally self-destructive.
Despite possessing what co-star Con O’Neill accurately called “operatic” darkness in an interview with Vanity Fair, “Our Flag Means Death” season 2 is, above all else, balanced. Its comedy, emotional core, and thrilling sense of peril all balance on a knife’s edge, and the show stays sharp throughout the seven episodes available for review. Even in its darkest moments, the show’s writing is brilliantly snappy and deeply quirky — one of its most perfectly plaintive lines, for example, is about both suicide and soup. The ensemble series also doesn’t dwell on its turmoil for too long; for every scene devoted to Ed’s violent heartbreak, there’s another about the Swede (Nat Faxon) finding an unexpectedly, instantly fulfilling romance, Frenchie (Joel Fry) blaming an allergy on a curse, or Jim (Vico Ortiz) cheering up Fang (David Fane) by telling a story in funny voices. Hopelessness is countered by silliness at every turn.