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.