Izzy Arms Followers React to the Our Flag Means Demise Finale

Final week, the season two finale of Our Flag Means Death aired on Max. The eight-episode season was marked by unimaginable performing, a mixture of goofy swashbuckling and brutal nose-peeling mutilation, and an encompassing acceptance of queerness that made the primary season lightning in a bottle.

For some followers, nevertheless, that bottle broke on the finish of the eighth episode, when Con O’Neill’s Izzy Arms—first mate, jilted lover, and someday serenader—was shot and killed. His dying, the primary main character to die within the sequence, despatched ripples throughout Our Flag Means Death’s diehard fans. io9 spoke to a few of these followers to attempt to perceive why this present, this fandom, and this character elicited such an enormous on-line response.

What occurred to Izzy Arms?

Within the season two finale, Izzy will get shot by the villainous Prince Ricky Banes (Errol Shand) and dies within the arms of Edward Educate, a.okay.a Blackbeard (Taika Waititi). David Jenkins, Our Flag Means Demise’s author and showrunner, described the second in an interview with io9 as “a fortunate shot.” It’s the type of randomly merciless brutality that usually stalks pirate tales… however doesn’t often seem in office sitcoms or rom-coms, and doesn’t often occur to major characters.

Izzy dies apologizing to Blackbeard, who had assaulted him and inspired him to commit suicide initially of season two. Not one of the different members of the crew of the Revenge, who had turn out to be very near Izzy over the season, say something throughout his painful dying. The episode ends a couple of minutes later with a shot of a cross made out of Izzy’s prosthetic leg, and his ubiquitous ring-and-kerchief tied across the brace. Then, Ed retreats right into a cabin together with his lover, Stede Bonnet (Rhys Darby), and a seagull lands on the beam of the cross.

Many followers—particularly followers of Izzy Arms—on social media had been deeply upset by this sudden dying and the way in which that Izzy was buried, with some viewing it as as disrespectful to each Izzy’s career and his incapacity. Others seen it as a disappointing finish for a personality who had obtained such a improbable arc on the present that centered on his happiness and progress. One other side that types context for the response is extra in regards to the fandom itself: Our Flag Means Demise has developed a surprisingly parasocial neighborhood round it—so this dying felt like private betrayal for a lot of followers.

Why is the fandom upset?

Alyx Clifford, a licensed scientific counselor and a fan of Our Flag Means Demise, had this to say in regards to the feelings that followers are experiencing proper now: “As a therapist, I work rather a lot with people who find themselves experiencing grief. Folks assume that grief means somebody they know and love has died, however folks grieve all kinds of issues. This totally contains fictional characters. Since a whole lot of Izzy followers recognized with him for varied causes—his queerness, his incapacity, his struggles with psychological well being—when he was killed, it felt like part of them died, too. This isn’t an exaggeration.”

Eden, an artist, informed io9 that “I’m very bitter about Izzy being the one character who didn’t get a contented ending… [Izzy] was, to me, crucial side of the present.” To Eden, and to many followers, Izzy represented “accepting your queerness, accepting your self, and accepting that love is available in many types, shapes, and sizes… accepting that we could also be fucked up, however we’re worthy of affection.”

Clifford explains this as properly: “A examine carried out at Ohio State by researcher Timothy Broom discovered that folks use the identical neural mechanics when viewing characters’ experiences as they do after they entry details about themselves. So projection onto characters is a really pure factor, and when one thing occurs to a personality, our minds are wired to course of that data in a really private method.”

What did Izzy Arms imply to his followers?

So as to perceive the scope of grief for this character, io9 turned to the followers. With an inbox overwhelmed with suggestions, we’ve distilled these reactions to attempt to discover a plural perspective from Our Flag Means Demise’s assorted followers—and there’s rather a lot to unpack.

Izzy Arms held a particular place in lots of followers’ hearts as a world-weary elder homosexual man, watching all of the youthful queers do no matter they wished with out a whole lot of menace of consequence. Many followers io9 spoke to talked about the way it was laborious to seek out elder homosexual illustration due to the AIDS epidemic and the misplaced technology of homosexual males. Izzy Arms represented survival within the present (even Blackbeard calls him an “indestructible little fucker” in episode two), and his dying could possibly be seen as a press release on who will get to outlive in these sorts of tales. “He might have gotten the queer pleasure all of us deserve, even these of us who look too damaged, not sunny sufficient for kindness and pleasure,” stated Alex, a trans man who, very like Izzy Arms in season two, additionally suffers from persistent ache and trauma associated to abuse.

Izzy Arms was additionally regularly learn as a trans allegory to followers. “His aesthetic, world weariness, dry humor, and the way in which others took him without any consideration captured such a selected, recognizable trans vibe that he was nearly completely rendered as a homosexual trans man in fanworks,” stated Jacob, a trans man who met his accomplice by way of the Our Flag Means Demise fandom.

“I’ve by no means been in a fandom earlier than the place the followers and actor themselves are so welcoming of a trans headcanon. It made me really feel seen and beloved,” added Callum, a trans masc particular person. Though the sequence by no means explicitly confirmed Arms’ gender id, the lack of a personality that represented such a possible studying, one in all an especially marginalized and underrepresented gender id not typically seen on display screen, was clearly a blow to a whole lot of followers.

The battle to painting incapacity on display screen

A fan named Orchid stated that she wished Izzy to dwell after having his leg amputated early into season 2, as a result of “in Izzy, I see a whole lot of my dad’s willpower to regulate, and survive, and to simply go on and dwell.” Orchid’s father misplaced his leg throughout most cancers therapy. He handed away six months in the past, in his early 60s, and was simply 5 years older than O’Neill. “I wished to see that an amputation like that—deeply life-changing, with a lot of ache and grief and frustration concerned—didn’t imply that somebody was marked for dying.”

“I beloved Izzy in season one, however in season two he felt personally related to me in essential methods,” defined V, a fan who has a degenerative genetic situation which has resulted in scarring and persistent ache in her left leg (the identical leg that Izzy Arms had amputated, she famous). “He was down however not out, and his grit felt proper to me, and affirming. However time and time once more, disabled characters exist to advance the narrative of the abled ones. And, devastatingly, Our Flag Means Demise isn’t any exception.”

Whereas a pair different characters are proven to have bodily disabilities on the present—Lucius’ misplaced finger, Spanish Jackie’s prosthetic hand—none of these characters had been portrayed as battling their incapacity like Izzy, or had their incapacity be the main focus of a serious character arc. At one level Izzy is pressured to crawl on the bottom in a scene that many followers described as painful. Together with his dying, “it seems like what’s being stated is that somebody that bodily broken is expendable,” stated Alex. “When the one one that is clearly pretty significantly bodily disabled dies—and apparently desires to die—what does that say about individuals who dwell with disabilities and persistent ache situations?”

Many followers additionally stated that the ending was brutal partially as a result of Izzy wasn’t buried together with his prosthetic, which is deeply offensive to many of us who use adaptive aids. By eradicating his leg, which was a present, they took away his company. “That’s his leg, part of his physique. He ought to have been buried with that, not have had it ripped off his corpse and shoved within the filth,” stated Domino, a fan who was deeply disturbed by the ableism portrayed on display screen.

“You recognize what it seems like?” V requested. “Discovered household, however not for cripples.”

Image for article titled Our Flag Means Death's Finale Was Full of Hurt For Izzy Hands Fans

Suicide and survivorship

Followers additionally identified that Izzy survived a suicide try, however was not, in the end, allowed to outlive the present. Jules, a nurse who describes herself as a “skilled fangirl,” stated that “the present was so cautious to actually use Con’s full vary as an actor and provides Izzy a full redemption [arc], solely to make his final moments be in regards to the growth of one other character. But once more, a personality with psychological well being points and trauma ‘might solely discover peace in dying,’ which isn’t solely a harmful trope, but in addition insulting to followers who relate to him on that stage.”

Bones is one such fan. “As any person who’s nonetheless actively recovering from suicidal ideation myself, who’s simply began to construct a neighborhood of people that help me and like being round me, I don’t assume I can deal with seeing a personality who’s a disabled, traumatized, older queer man die earlier than he can do the identical.”

“I feel for me, the finale and Izzy’s dying was laborious to observe as a result of I’ve struggled with psychological sickness, and as a trans and queer particular person of coloration I’ve all the time been hyperaware of the statistics of violence towards LGBTQ+ [people], but in addition suicide,” stated Cloud, who discovered the breakneck pace of the finale episode overwhelming. “His dying felt unsuitable and devastating as a result of his second life was solely simply starting.”

Izzy’s arc is reflective of the arc of the complete sequence

Izzy was given a whole lot of display screen time in season two, as a part of what some followers noticed as a redemptive arc. Whereas through the first season Izzy was extra of a secondary antagonist, season two discovered him beginning on the very lowest he’d ever been, struggling to place himself again collectively. And he does, not with the assistance of Ed Educate–who, at one level, actually palms him a gun to kill himself with–however with the assistance of the crew of the Revenge. The folks he had handled poorly got here collectively, as a crew, to indicate Izzy the love and acceptance he had been denied.

In an interview with io9, Jenkins stated that Izzy modifications, essentially, from an individual who aspires to dominate others to somebody who acknowledges that piracy—and this particular pirate crew—have to work collectively to outlive. That is demonstrated time and again all through the sequence as Izzy protects the crew, coaches Stede on methods to be a greater pirate, and shares his views with antagonist Prince Ricky about how piracy will outlast the empire.

Some followers really feel as if this growth is wasted when on the finish of the season, Izzy doesn’t get to take pleasure in redemption, however is as an alternative killed. He achieves love, acceptance, and respect—however the minute he permits himself to completely embody that, he’s murdered. For a lot of followers, it wasn’t entertaining to observe a personality who struggled a lot lastly get near happiness, just for him to be killed earlier than he can really expertise it.

This dying, nevertheless, was not fully sudden. “[Jenkins] follows quite common story strains and tropes, together with season one. Izzy has all the time been in a little bit of a distinct style from the remainder of the present, very a lot in a drama that occurs to have comedic bits,” stated Ashleigh, a fan who not too long ago cosplayed as Stede Bonnet throughout New York Comedian Con.

“I knew they had been killing him when he had his speech with Ricky,” defined one other fan, Reechie. “It felt last, prefer it all the time feels after they kill off queer characters in fiction—you’ll be able to all the time inform, in a method.”

Some followers really feel like Izzy’s dying held a whole lot of which means—but in addition assume the fandom response is taking away from their enjoyment of the sequence. “Whereas it was in the end a heartbreaking second… typically your favourite character simply dies and we have to study to cope with that,” stated a fan named Katy, who stated they “sobbed” when Izzy died.

“This season, Izzy grew to become a spotlight for me. I beloved seeing him understand what he truly wished, after which to see him truly get it was cathartic,” stated one other fan, Maddie.

“I in the end perceive the writing choices made for Izzy’s dying,” Eden informed io9. “However in a present about love, piracy, and the neighborhood that comes together with being outcast, it’s unhappy to have the present kill off a personality that represents a lot of actual life and studying to develop after poisonous love, particularly when that queer love was between two very flawed folks.”

Kira defined that this unhappiness isn’t nearly Izzy dying. “A part of what I’m mourning right here is not only a beloved character however the realization that maybe this isn’t the present I believed it was—the one we had been proven in [the episode] ‘Calypso’s Birthday,’ the one which’s a few genuinely broad and expansive imaginative and prescient of queer flourishing and love and neighborhood, wherein nobody is denied the potential of second probabilities in love and third acts in life.”

It’s value noting that sure pockets of on-line fandom are nonetheless very insular areas—particularly on a platform like X, previously referred to as Twitter. The loudest Our Flag Means Demise contingent on the social media website can turn out to be an echo chamber for the followers who collect there. For example, a post about Izzy’s death on X made by an account with lower than 2,000 followers has over a million views on the time of writing this text. So whereas the response to Izzy’s dying was actually passionate, it could be unfair to say it speaks to a majority of Our Flag Means Demise viewers. On the Our Flag Means Death Reddit page, for instance, there isn’t fairly the outpouring of grief seen elsewhere. And whereas the season two finale would possibly sign a breaking level for sure followers, for a lot of extra, this was an gratifying episode, regardless of the tragic twist.

Our Flag Means Demise is a parasocial fandom

Complicating this perceived narrative dissonance is the truth that Izzy Arms was an especially divisive character throughout the fandom, and over the previous yr or so, some followers had been harassed for merely expressing their fondness for the character on social media. These followers, who name themselves the “Izzy Canyon,” discovering neighborhood by way of coded sentiment was a technique to keep away from hatred and harassment. “I consider {that a} very massive a part of the mourning is community-centric, in that the Izzy Canyon has needed to repeatedly battle to be even allowed to exist throughout the fandom,” stated Leo, a fan lively on X.

No less than one fan, who requested to be referred to as Kelsey, as her full title has been used to harass her beforehand, was doxxed, and ultimately fired from her job at a movie show because of nameless complaints alleging on-line harassment, as a result of different followers disapproved of fan fic she shared on-line that includes Arms. io9 reviewed publicly accessible screenshots that corroborate this story, and one of many X accounts accountable has since been deactivated for violating Twitter’s Media Account Coverage.

As its showrunner, Jenkins has not solely been concerned within the Our Flag Means Demise fandom, however has completed quite a few interviews that many individuals have unfold as gospel throughout the fandom. Talking to Verge final yr about queerbaiting, Jenkins, who identifies as straight, stated “I didn’t understand—as a result of I see myself represented on digital camera, and I see myself falling in love in tales—I didn’t understand how deep the queer baiting factor goes. Being made to really feel silly by tales, I suppose.”

He continued, “Taking a look at how folks had been type of afraid to let themselves consider that we had been doing [a gay romance] was a shock to me, and it’s heartbreaking. I perceive it significantly better now, and it’s like, oh, you had been made to really feel silly by a bunch of reveals—unintentionally, by and huge, I feel—however made to really feel like ‘perhaps I’m going to be up there. Perhaps that’ll be me on this story.’ After which on the finish of it feeling like, ‘Aw. No, it’s not me. I’m not on this one.’ That fucks with you at any age.”

This type of commentary has solely lead some followers to really feel all of the extra aggrieved by Arms’ dying. “I’d say the betrayal felt by the fandom who personally put their coronary heart into Jenkins’ palms far outweighs the devastation of Izzy dying,” stated Fraxinus, a trans man within the fandom. “Usually queer followers go into reveals with little to no expectations. That is I feel the primary instance of queer folks going right into a present with full belief solely to have it ripped away.”

“I beloved Our Flag Means Demise as a result of I believed it was form at its core. To me, the ethos of the present was that it’s by no means too late for a second likelihood at life,” Callum added. “Having that framed by way of a queer love story made it much more poignant. How typically will we get to see that? So to see Izzy blossom like that then have him killed off pointlessly and poorly was merciless. For many people, seeing an older queer man not solely survive however thrive mattered.”

Jenkins, and the opposite myriad writers on the present, lots of whom are queer themselves, wrote what they thought was the very best story potential. Our Flag Means Demise is their present, and there may be completely nothing unsuitable with an artist presenting their artwork in a sure method. However fandom is in itself about watching, experiencing, and iterating on what would possibly turn out to be a completely totally different present, as a result of that’s how fandom works.

It’s value remembering at occasions like this that each one fandoms outlive their supply materials. Izzy Arms died on the finish of season two, however, as Jenkins stated on X the day the finale premiered on Max, “there’s no model of this present that doesn’t embody Izzy Arms.” Our Flag Means Demise had two seasons of Izzy Arms, and that’s not going away. The dying doesn’t erase the canon of the present, and whereas fandom would possibly divide itself over this finale, the truth that the Our Flag Means Demise fandom is so keen about this present is an unimaginable, noteworthy factor.

Not too way back, fandom wasn’t thought-about tradition by the bigger forces in media; it was a distinct segment sub-subgroup of consumerism. Now, fandom is all the pieces and all over the place. Communities constructed round gemeinschaft media relationships are the most marketable part of a product. A decade in the past tales about neighborhood past the spectacle of its mere existence wouldn’t be seen on a historically revealed information website like io9; it might have been relegated to citizen journalists and archivists on LiveJournal, fandomwank, and even as a bit of meta posted on the Archive of Our Personal. However fandom has turn out to be a lot part of our tradition that it’s essential to speak to viewers about their ardour and report on its relationship to the media we devour significantly and meticulously.

Fandom, in all its plurality of views and in all of the complexities it holds, is the indestructible little fucker that may by no means, ever die. It is a cultural creature, a factor made up of greater than its components, harm and put collectively, and beloved. And whereas Izzy Arms might need met an finish that some discover unsatisfying, the truth that we’re right here, speaking about it in any respect, is one thing that I don’t assume we will low cost so simply.

There are not any unsuitable views right here; a plurality of views is what make up a neighborhood. However Arms’ dying is a cultural flashpoint for the Our Flag Means Demise fandom—one born out of a present that has turn out to be an unlikely important success. It’s moments like this that make or break fandoms. Demise, even fictional dying, even metaphorical dying, can undo the material of any neighborhood. As cultural critics and as followers ourselves, it’s essential to know what components of that neighborhood we’re keen to fix, and what components we’re keen to patch onto a brand new flag.


Need extra io9 information? Take a look at when to count on the most recent Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s subsequent for the DC Universe on film and TV, and all the pieces you have to find out about the way forward for Doctor Who.

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