Our Flag Means Death E8 recap: “We Gull Way Back”

Released: March 17, 2022
Network: HBO Max
Showrunner: David Jenkins
Genre: Rom-com, Alternate history

In which bloong fleve, morinao glowra, fungina fungina zloovrik.

My Thoughts

I can see why the writers left Jim on St Augustine. They would’ve stabbed Calico Jack within 5 minutes of meeting him. God, that guy is a raging asshole. I love the relationship development between Stede and Ed in this episode, but Calico Jack is aggravating to the extreme. He begs the question as to whether Blackbeard modeled himself after Calico Jack or if both men were shaped by their experiences under Hornigold. He’s a more intense version of Blackbeard (not Ed), and he lacks the fear that comes with Blackbeard’s reputation, hence why his crew would mutiny. 

Stede, rightfully, feels left out. And Ed isn’t doing much to make him feel included. Stede can’t compete with Calico Jack with brawn or tales of derring-do, but he misjudges the power dynamics badly enough that his passive aggression comes off as mean-spirited rather than equal sparring. 

Other than both men being so insecure they come off too strong, I can’t see how Stede is anything like Calico Jack. If anything, he’s the final evolution mode of Blackbeard. He’s what Lucius warned Ed about in the jungle, a sad, drunk, lonely middle-aged man. Even Olu is sucked into Calico Jack’s fetid orbit. If Jim were there, he never would’ve picked up that whip, or been drunk enough to think it was a good idea.

“Ed’s past is Ed’s business and I respect that.” A lesser show, one that sees cisheteronormativity as the default, would’ve used turned Stede’s conversation with Calico Jack homophobic. Instead, the show aims for the jealous lover trope. No matter what Stede says, he’s obviously as jealous of Calico Jack’s relationship with Ed as Calico Jack is of Stede’s. The difference is, Stede is unwilling to let Ed’s past taint Ed’s future. He can see the good man inside Blackbeard, even when Ed can’t see himself. It’s a surprisingly mature response for Stede. 

This conversation also marks the first time Stede thought of Ed in a sexual way. At this point, I don’t believe Stede understands that his affection for and attraction to Ed is more than platonic. He knows those options exist, but doesn’t think of himself as availing them. That’s something I think a lot of people who come to queerness when they’re older experience. I certainly did. We’re so embedded in cisheteronormativity that it can take a while to see our personal connections to queerness. But once Stede knows Ed is queer, that opens the door to a restructuring of everything about their relationship. He now can’t not think of his desire to be around Ed in romantic and sexual ways. “You came back,” Stede says, his voice soft with admiration and adoration. “Never left,” Ed replies with confidence and a wink. Ed realized his feelings were more while on the treasure hunt, and Stede has finally caught up with him.

Okay, we have to talk about “Blackie.” It is definitely racist, and the writers definitely knew it was racist when they wrote it. But, again, the target of our ire here isn’t the victim of the racist remark (Ed) but the person being racist (Calico Jack). Stede has not demonstrated much awareness of racial issues in the past unless they’re specifically pointed out to him, so I can see him using that word as an attempt to push back against Calico Jack. Remember, the only times we’ve seen characters call out racism have been other BIPOC characters – Jim with the English naval officers and Frenchie with the snobby French nobleman. Stede has never done that. Stede never confronts anyone unless he’s forced to. I think he understands the term is offensive, just not why. He sees it as a way of reducing Ed, of knocking the power out of him, not as a racist term. I’m not excusing it, and I don’t like it, but I get it.

“Get off my ship.” This episode has been good for Stede in that it’s forcing him outside his Gentleman and Pirate roles. We watch Stede struggle with being his two selves the whole first half of the episode, first as he tries to play along as a pirate and then as he tries to be a gentleman. Gentleman Stede and Pirate Stede never would’ve walked away from Blackbeard or kicked Calico Jack off his ship. But Gentleman Pirate Stede would. Which makes Ed/Blackbeard’s rejection so painful. 

If you were ever in doubt that this show is a rom-com, Jack cinches it. His entire existence is right out of a rom-com: the chaotic yet alluring ex who reappears right as the two love interests are about to take the first step. That ex is always gross but only the other love interest can see it. The ex makes their former partner feel like shit, but they can’t see it because they’re so used to the gaslighting. They can’t see that they’re no longer the kind of person who would be with someone so toxic, and it nearly tanks their potential new relationship. But at the last minute, the other love interest realizes their mistake and runs (or in this case swims) back to their new lover.

Final Thoughts:

  • “Twenty-five.” The single funniest line in the entire show.
  • “They’re the furthest thing from my mind, that’s why I’ve got the telescope.”
  • Aw, Lucius. That little pat on the knee.
  • I don’t know how it took me this long to realize the figurehead on the Revenge is a fucking unicorn. God, I love this show.
  • “Ed!” “Better alive than dead.” Edward Teach sure does love making rhymes out of his name.
  • THE FOOT TOUCH! *passes out*

Fashion Corner

  • Post-breakup, Stede wears the outfit from the first episode, with three changes: a darker vest and the cravat is tucked in (playing up his shift from gentleman to pirate), as well as no black scarf.
  • Ed is wearing Stede’s black scarf. That was an intentional choice. He wasn’t wearing it the last episode.

Closing credits song is “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac, a song I have played so much in the last couple weeks their profits from my streaming could single handedly put one of their kids through college. We also get “Il Triello” by Ennio Morricone, from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly playing when Livy the seagull and Calico Jack have their standoff.

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