As the first season of Our Flag Means Death played out last month, survivors of the Tumblr-era queer fandom found themselves nervously waiting for the show's moment of truth.

Is this show going to deliver on its gay promise? Were we being set up for another devastating queerbait, where the implied romance between a show's same-sex protagonists would suddenly be abandoned, along with the dedicated fans who so desperately yearned for the legitimacy of explicit, canonical representation?

Some people reassured them that the year 2022, is a better time for stories about the gay community in Hollywood. Over the years, an increasing number of male-on-male love pairs have been allowed to exist on popular TV, slowly but surely allowing them to come out of the AO3 slash fanfiction closet and into mainstream canon. Supernatural, Doctor Who, and Sherlock became cult favorites because of their dedication to same-sex relationships, but others couldn&t shake the disappointment of past queer bait-and-switches.

The show is allowing us to learn to love and trust again, after so many years of our thirsty yearning going ignored or outright exploited

On March 17th, Our Flag Means Death arrived. Queer fans didn't just let out a sigh of relief. It feels like a new era of representation of the LGBTQ community on TV. The show is allowing us to learn to love and trust again after so many years of being exploited.

In episode 7 it was confirmed that Gentleman Pirate Stede Bonnet and fearsome Ed Blackbeard are not a pair of odd couple. It wasn't just that queer-loving fans got to watch their wildest dreams leap from the virtual pages of AO3 and Deviantart to finally be brought to life with the full might of an HBO budget.

In the pivotal scene where Watiti's Blackbeard treat their gay love with the care and respect it so deserves, we got our own audience stand-in. It's a conversation that every avid JohnLock shipper fantasized of having with the creators of the popular TV show, who failed to make good on the non-platonic chemistry that their most avid fan had.

The whole scene is a metaphor for the tension between the creators of the show and their audience. One person in the writer's room was very aware of how much baggage this under-represented demographic came with, as an audience so often left in the margins of a fan board.

The first gay moment of Our Flag Means Death happens when Ed is invited to join him on a treasure hunt by Stede, as they piece together the obscure clues of the map promising to lead them to bounty. It is not unlike the LGBTQ fans who spend countless hours online, developing fan theories that they sincerely believed would lead to the coveted treasure of gay romance. In the show, the map burns by accident while Ed gets some food out of his beard, a classic rom-com moment that leaves both the audience and Spriggs to raise some eyebrows.

A rom-com moment between Stede and Blackbeard on Episode 7 of "Our Flag Means Death"

I don't even need to scream kiss! They do it! No demand for gay kisses needed! Credit: HBO Max

Spriggs's expression is equal parts skeptical hope and frustrated longing. Spriggs unleashed a fury on the fearsome Blackbeard when Ed told Stede to just give up already.

Under his breath, he demands that you don't be a dick.

The realization dawns on Ed at the same time as the audience. This is happening. It is actually happening.

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Sprigg's confrontation appears to open the LGBTQ flood gates, instead of either Ed or the creators backing off of the charged exchange. We get to see one of the most endearing male-on-male love stories to ever grace TV. Jim/Bonifacia is a casual non-binary representation, who goes from disguising themselves as a man to escape a bounty, and asks everyone to just keep calling them Jim. No one asks them. Spriggs gets his own gay-ever-after with Black Pete.

The internet took notice as Our Flag Means Death grew gayer and gayer.

The online discourse exploded after the final two episodes of the show aired. The labbel was deemed the new SuperWhoLock by one viral post, which others were quick to joke about being a menacing threat. It is the opposite of that mess. One investigative TikToker started tracking the spike in fanfictions published onto AO3 post-gay explosion, going from a measly eight pages for the majority of the season to a whopping 1,600 in 16 days.

What the success of "Our Flag Means Death" goes to show is that we're in fact all still here, still queer, still thirsty as hell for more honest representation.

The power of queer audiences to support TV shows that support us has been proven time and time again. We demanded better as we grew savvy to the false promise of queerbaiting. The success of Our Flag Means Death shows that we are still here, still queer, still thirsty for more honest representation.

The show may mean death to its pirates. There is no doubt that it will mean love when it is waved at Pride parades.