Standing outside of a soup stand, a man and woman talk in 'Our Flag Means Death.'

I’m Sensing a Pattern in Everyone’s Favorite Pirate Show

Many of my favorite ships follow a clear pattern where a big tough person falls in love with the softest person known to man. Our Flag Means Death mastered those kinds of pairings in its first season and is now carrying that theme into season 2, where yet another badass has fallen for the sweetest human around. This is a trend in Oluwande’s (Samson Kayo) own love life. I am, of course, talking about the adorable love story brewing between Susan a.k.a. Zheng Yi Sao (Ruibo Qian) and Oluwande.

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The series excels at pairing up tough badasses who are ready to fight with the sweetest, softest souls they can find. In season 1, you had Blackbeard (Taika Waititi) running from his own crisis of self into the arms of Stede (Rhys Darby). You even had tender Oluwande trying to court vengeance-seeking Jim (Vico Ortiz).

Why does this relationship trope appeal to me? Maybe it’s because I can’t quite figure out who I would be in this scenario. Probably the mean one. Zheng Yi Sao may be funny and a little light-hearted at times, but she still is a pirate that many fear for good reason. Yet she is slowly giving her time and energy (and her lips) to Oluwande, who is sweet, caring, and approaches life differently. That dynamic is something that Our Flag Means Death does so well, especially in romantic relationships.

One big scary with a softie, please!

Ed and Stede in the ocean together

Whether it’s a case of opposites attracting, or of people seeking someone who balances them out, there is something so wonderfully heartwarming and entertaining about this dynamic onscreen. The setup naturally breeds conflict and generates story ideas. But it can also be heartbreakingly painful at the same time. It is a trend that consistently works for this series because the showrunners really understand the characters more than anything else.

Plot is important, sure, but what good is that plot if your characters can’t sell it to your audience? Characters like Blackbeard and now Zheng Yi Sao give us broody vibes and prickly exteriors. But underneath that hard shell, we see how deeply they can love someone else and we understand the feelings they share for Stede or Oluwande. Our Flag Means Death has always managed to nail the ability to balance our favorite fanfic tropes with its themes and characters. And there’s nothing better than when our tough pirates reveal tender feels and, conversely, when our softies step up to lay the smack down.

(featured image: Max)

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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her current obsession is Glen Powell's dog, Brisket. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.