Thursday, October 5, 2023

REVIEW: 'Our Flag Means Death' - Stede Remains Hopeful About Reuniting with Ed as Soon as Possible in 'Impossible Birds'

Max's Our Flag Means Death - Episode 2.01 "Impossible Birds"

As he adjusts to life without wealth, Stede struggles to find new purpose at the Republic for Pirates - until he meets a powerful new foe. Meanwhile, a heartbroken Blackbeard fills the Stede-less void in his heart with unrelenting daily raids, sparking concern amongst Izzy and the rest of the crew.

"Impossible Birds" was written by David Jenkins, Alyssa Lane & Alex Sherman and directed by David Jenkins

Stede never killed anyone but was the cause of death sometimes. He escaped to life as a pirate believing that's where he belonged. When asked to deal with these brutal realities, he escaped once more. He didn't fit into his posh life of privilege anymore. His family thrived without him. Moreover, he saw the power of his love with Ed. They brought something truly special out of each other. That's worth fighting to preserve. Stede made a mistake. He's trying to fix it now. At night, he dreams of his grand reunion with Ed. He doesn't totally want to deal with the consequences of his betrayal. He doesn't want to admit that's what running away was. Ed has been broken as a result. He has returned to life as Blackbeard now but somehow more brutal and heartless than before.

Stede improbably reunited with his crew. They were abandoned on a small island. He made it there on a boat. That give them the means to escape to the Republic of Pirates. While there, they see the devastation Blackbeard continues to bring. Stede doesn't want to believe in all the stories. The man he loves can't possibly be as monstrous as he is depicted in the wanted posters. Unfortunately, that's all too real. Blackbeard is completely ruthless. He captains Stede's ship. However, he refuses to tolerate any reminders of the man he loves. That means no one can talk about their feelings or even voice a complaint. Blackbeard refuses to ever return to land believing that's where the heartbreak came from. He can't keep sailing forever. That's the goal. He sees that as the only way to avoid this pain.

A lot of damage is inflicted on the Revenge. Blackbeard leads the crew on raids every single day. They don't get to enjoy the treasures they take. It's just the process of raiding and killing. That makes Blackbeard come alive. The crew worries about his mental stability. Stede imagines killing Izzy in order to reunite with Ed. Blackbeard actually shoots him. The crew already pointed out that the first mate was in a toxic relationship with the captain. Izzy is just suppose to take it. It doesn't matter how many body parts Blackbeard cuts off. He is meant to always be loyal. Izzy wanted this life too. He couldn't stand the evolution Blackbeard went on when Stede reminded him of who Ed was. It wasn't the life of a pirate. This new reality doesn't work either. Izzy has the confidence to speak up. That just leads to a promotion for Frenchie, who's tasked with finishing Izzy off. So now, no one in the crew has the authority or commitment to stand up to Blackbeard. Stede is probably the only person who can knock him out of this mindset.

Stede worries how Ed will react upon seeing him. He doesn't want to admit that death is a possibility. He doesn't think Ed wants to kill him. It's the only rational thought for others. They are struggling to get by. They have jobs working for Spanish Jackie. It's not enough to buy a new ship. Jackie didn't hire them out of the kindness of her heart. She needed people working for her. She never intended on fairly compensating them. She operates with all the power. She dictates what happens on the Republic of Pirates. When she shows an interest in the Swede, it's fully expected of him to submit to becoming her latest husband. He still shows loyalty to the crew. They saved his life. He helps them steal the chest full of indigo. No one truly knows how valuable it is. In this life, it's all about plundering and stealing. It's not meant to reward careful consideration and knowing how much something is worth. It's a point of personal pride. That belief isn't commonplace and leads to a new brand of pirate to be rewarded.

At the Republic of Pirates, Stede and Olu see Susan as the simple owner of a soup shack. They go to her for food. She too thinks they are foolish for believing they can escape soon for adventure on the high seas once more. After they get caught stealing, she rescues Stede and his crew. She too knows the value of the indigo. She pays what Jackie believes is a lot. The deal also includes the crew. She hires them to work for her. She happens to be the infamous pirate Zheng Yi Sao. People should tremble at her name. She deserves as much respect and loyalty as Blackbeard. He's a wanted man. She isn't. She presents an incredible opportunity. It may be more prosperous for the crew. They are indebted to her now. And yet, that's not the primary mission for Stede. He aims to reunite with Ed. He writes to him daily despite the improbability of his messages in a bottle ever being discovered by Ed while at sea.

Stede still keeps hope alive. The two yearn for each other. That pining is a delectable quality opening the season. It's tragic seeing them apart. It highlights the many ways in which they prosper together. That improvement was deeply felt even though they rarely knew how to acknowledge it. That difference of perspectives made for great comedy. Of course, the narrative still needs further development of the supporting ensemble. The story is still largely about Stede and Ed as they are trapped within this world of piracy. They wouldn't be anywhere else. This is the life for them. They each inspire other people into action. That doesn't always work out. They reckon with that too. They can't escape the reminders of each other. That just makes their inevitable reunion much more potent as the viewer eagerly awaits.