Thursday, October 5, 2023

REVIEW: 'Our Flag Means Death' - A Collision of Crews Requires Stede to Act to Protect His Love in 'The Innkeeper'

Max's Our Flag Means Death - Episode 2.03 "The Innkeeper"

While the Revenge crew gleefully reunites under Zheng's reign, Stede attempts to bring back Blackbeard, who must face his own difficult truths.

"The Innkeeper" was written by Alyssa Lane & Alex Sherman and directed by Andrew DeYoung

Zheng has big dreams in the Caribbean. She's not looking for partners. She seeks to expand her army. She commands the flag ship. She defeats countless pirates who can't believe they've been bested by a woman. She is used to being underestimated. She plays into those expectations. She isn't giving anyone a choice though. They either have to work for her or die. She doesn't particularly care. She just wants control over the narrative. She won't give the fallen captain the satisfaction of looking her in the eye before killing himself. That's a worn out trope. She expects something different. She requires the respect she deserves. She doesn't have keen senses like Auntie does. She makes mistakes. However, she has quickly presented herself as a formidable conquerer in the region. She offers a different perspective than what Stede and his crew have typically employed in the profession.

The show could only reasonably keep Stede and Ed apart for so long. Plus, Blackbeard's crew recently made their decision to enact a mutiny. They left him for dead. However, they didn't finish the job. The choice is still Ed's to make. He has to decide what fate he wants. He went mad and was willing to take the whole ship down with him. He lands in a form of purgatory. It's awhile before he realizes the manifestation of his former captain is really just a stand-in for his own feelings. He hates himself. And so, he's guided on this mission by someone he hates. He's healed back to normal. He imagines what life would be like if he pursued a different career. He still plunges off a mountain to certain death below. That happens because his lack of love for people would follow him everywhere. The only reason he chooses to live is Stede being at his side pleading for him to return. That serves as confirmation that someone still cares about Ed despite the many heinous things he has done. Plus, it swirls around the romantic imagery of Stede as a mermaid coming to rescue Ed from the darkness that lurks at the bottom of the ocean.

Of course, Stede has to enact a cunning escape plan in order to produce that epic moment. He's joyous upon seeing the Revenge again. He jumps overboard certain that Ed is waiting for him. He shows no consideration for his own safety. He will risk it all to be with Ed. He needs to declare these feelings now for all to hear. Instead, Ed is no where to be found. The crew insists he retired. They want to protect Stede from the certainty of their actions. They don't wish to share their dark secret. It can't be hidden for long. Auntie is examining the ship for clues. Something doesn't smell right. Zheng may be too trusting. She has allowed herself to grow soft because of her crush on Olu. Him agreeing to be with her sexually may be the only way to spare his friends from a lethal fate. He is the latest individual without a choice while around her. He must do what Zheng wants. And yet, he's reunited with his best friend. Olu and Jim catch up. They seek to grow old together. In the heat of the moment, they fight for each other.

That betrayal rings out for Zheng. She will now be motivated by personal revenge. What she wanted was taken from her. Olu swears he played no role in the daring escape. He still benefitted from it. He didn't want to leave. He's sad as he waves goodbye. The choice was still made. He can't apologize for making it. All of these characters need to own up to their actions. Blackbeard won't be welcomed back with open arms. He terrorized his crew. He made them desperate enough to want to kill him. They failed. He wakes up as a changed person. That's all because of Stede. The newcomers to the crew get to see what made this love so special. It's different than how Archie imagined it. It's still uplifting in a new way. That's the beautiful nature of this show. Everything is so dark and twisted. This season is playing into some seriously mature themes. And yet, it also showcases the life-affirming nature of love. It plays out in these ridiculous contexts. It all works because of the commitment to genuine storytelling. Plus, it earns a number of laughs along the way.

And so, the ragtag crew that serves Stede is gathered once more on the Revenge. The ship has been damaged significantly. It's still the place that feels like home. Stede removes the daggers that Blackbeard used to redecorate. He sees some of the outrage that was taken out on the ship because of his betrayal. Ed was broken. He's not beyond redemption. Stede refuses to accept that. Ed believes that's all he is. He is so much more. Stede is the only person who helps him see that. As such, Stede is the only person who can bring him back to life. It's an action done in full celebration of their love and relationship. Everything that came before suddenly doesn't matter. They are both alive and want to be together. Of course, they will still face problems in the future. The crew is barely clinging together. They will have to face the vitriol from Zheng at some point. They can't avoid conflict forever. They have a responsibility to one another to thrive as pirates. Stede made that promise to his crew. He often prioritizes his own needs. That's annoying when he's the subordinate needing to follow orders. As the captain, it's quirky because it doesn't disrupt what makes everyone on his crew unique. Sure, Pete lied about having perfect aim. The escape still succeeds. The skills needed are present somewhere in this crew. They just have to nurture and trust in those bonds to continue surviving in the vast open waters of the Caribbean.