Despite Zero-two’s reputation, Darling in the Franxx drops a lot of hints that she generally plays by the rules. Dr. Franxx calls her “high maintenance” in the series’ first episode, yet the implication is that she presses her handlers rather than defying them. Zero-two repeatedly pushes her boundaries, but doesn’t cross them until this episode. When they told her to pilot with Mitsuru, she did. When they come to take her away in the middle of Hiro’s plea to sortie with the Strelitzia, she says her goodbyes and leaves. Only Hiro’s impassioned speech — rivaling the most melodramatic of airport scenes in a romantic comedy or drama — leads her to fully defy orders.
Her defiance still shocks her handlers, another indication that she had begrudgingly followed the rules until now. Before meeting Hiro, and even after piloting Strelitzia with him in the first episode, Zero-two knows that she’s seemingly destined to be a statistic and tells Hiro as much. She doesn’t need a name, when her name won’t matter after death. She’s a special entity, but only for fighting klaxosaurs. In that same scene, Zero-two perches above the plantation scenery and asks Hiro to escape with her. “I can get you out of here,” she says. After a series of impressive acrobatics, she takes it back with a, “Just kidding.”
Strelitzia is paradise, for both of them. It allows Hiro to fly. It allows Zero-two to be truly connected to another being for the first time in her life.
However, it wasn’t always paradise for Zero-two.
Darling in the Franxx uses a lot of flower meanings and floral names to frame Zero-two and Hiro’s relationship. Their robot — Zero-two’s robot — is called Strelitzia after the bird-of-paradise flower, named after the bird-of-paradise. Known for their flashy mating dances, these birds have colorful plumage that differs from species to species. The flower is similarly bright and eye-catching and Darling in the Franxx incorporates this into Strelitzia‘s robot design.
The bird-of-paradise flower not only carries a meaning of joyfulness or paradise, but sends a message of faithfulness, optimism, and freedom (due to the flowers resembling a bird in flight).
Before meeting Hiro, Zero-two effectively pilots Strelitzia alone. When Hiro first sees the robot in Episode 1, he mistakes it for another klaxosaur because it takes on the form of an animal rather than a humanoid robot. It only becomes a bird-of-paradise when Zero-two pulls him and the two pilot it together.
Episode 4 of Darling in the Franxx is romantic, especially against the bleak backdrop of kids forced into specific pairings seemingly without much thought given to personality compatibility. Watching Zero-two and Hiro waltz their way through security checkpoints en route to defying orders and piloting Strelitzia together is irresistibly charming. They’re still presumably working within the system, heading off to fight klaxosaurs for “Papa” and the adults. As Zero-two says when initially proposing their escape in Episode 3, every plantation layout is the same. “I can get you out of here, darling” doesn’t necessarily mean physically leaving the plantation or Hiro’s unit at all, at least for now.
Simply by piloting together, they’re escaping to paradise.