‘Yellowjackets’ Creators on That Frigid Finale and Fan Theories: ‘TV’s Top 5’ Podcast

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[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the season one finale of Showtime’s Yellowjackets.]

That was cold, Shauna.

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Showtime put Twitter sensation Yellowjackets on ice Sunday with a chilling season one finale that was stuffed with reveals and paved the way for a hiatus filled with even more fan theories about Lottie as well as a debate about what we define as being “real.”

Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson, the husband-and-wife showrunning duo, opened up about the finale in an hourlong interview with THR’s TV’s Top 5 podcast and responded to scores of theories about the first season of the survivalist thriller in a special Showrunner Spotlight interview. (Listen to the full interview below.)

The conversation opens with a discussion about perhaps the biggest over-arching question about Yellowjackets: if the show has a supernatural component. To hear Nickerson tell it, that question is best answered with another question: “What does it mean for something to be supernatural or something to be ‘real’?” he told TV’s Top 5 hosts Lesley Goldberg and Daniel Fienberg. “People have experiences that are beyond what we’d call normal reality. What exactly those experiences are is something you can debate. … What exactly is happening is as much about the character and the audience’s belief system, however it may shift or change, as it is about what is actually happening.”

As for the shocking finale, the 1996-set storyline revealed that Jackie (Ella Purnell) froze to death after being kicked out of the cabin following a fight with her BFF Shauna (Sophie Nelisse). Lottie (Courtney Eaton), aka the Antler Queen, has another “premonition” come true and is able to provide food for the team after brutally killing a bear. Meanwhile, in the present-day storyline, Natalie (Juliette Lewis) is moments from suicide before being kidnapped by people wearing the symbol who are somehow connected to adult Lottie.

“We felt something inevitable to us about [Jackie’s] death and this form of her death; it was a North Star,” Lyle says, confirming that on a Purnell will likely be back as “Jackie is a character who looms large over everyone else’s lives.”

As for adult Lottie, Lyle and Nickerson say the role has yet to be cast but it’s one of a few surviving Yellowjackets whom viewers should expect to meet in the present-day storyline in the previously announced second season. Adult Ali — the Yellowjacket whose leg Taissa (Jasmin Savoy Brown) broke in the pilot — will also be among those expected to return. “In terms of other survivors, we plant the flag that Lottie is lurking in the shadows and meeting her in the near future. Ideally, we will probably meet at least one other,” Lyle says.

Interest in Yellowjackets exploded over the holidays as fan theories made for popular discourse on Reddit and countless other websites. The creators say they’re both impressed and surprised by viewers’ “wild creativity” and love of “book club” memes. While the finale did not shed light on many of the biggest debates, Lyle and Nickerson shot down a number of theories during the interview. Here’s a quick rundown:

• Is Adam (Peter Gadiot) the baby 1996 Shauna was carrying? “That is not true,” Lyle confirms.

• Is Adam adult Javi (Luciano Leroux)? “No,” Lyle confirms. “We want the viewers to be in the mindset of our characters. One thing about trauma and PTSD, it poisons how you see the the world in terms of paranoia and not being able to trust people. … What we were intending was for people to question that relationship.”

• Did Taissa attack Van (Liv Hewson) in the wilderness instead of a wolf? “Tai was not the one who attacked Van instead of a wolf,” Lyle says.

• Is Jackie a time traveler? The list of her favorite movies that she listed in her journal includes some that came out after her death in 1996. “Jackie is not a time traveler,” Nickerson says. Adds Lyle: “I’m surprised by the extent people are second-guessing that Jackie is dead. … The survivor’s guilt that Shauna feels once they are rescued is something we’d love to explore later on in the show; those things tie together neatly.”

• Did someone signal the girls to lure them to the cabin? Nickerson responds to that theory by reiterating the need to question what viewers define as being real.

• Did the Yellowjackets eat Shauna’s baby? “From a purely practical standpoint, a baby doesn’t seem like sustainable nutrition,” Lyle says with a laugh. “But the question of what happens to her baby is something we have presented and a question we will eventually answer.”

Looking ahead, Lyle and Nickerson — who previously previewed the road to Yellowjackets in a November interview with TV’s Top 5 — are already diving into writing season two with the expansion of the show’s writers room drawing interest from hundreds of scribes in town. The creators hope the wait for season two “won’t be too terribly long,” though a return date has not yet been announced given the current challenges associated with filming during the pandemic.

The central role of season two, Lyle says, will be exploring “what you do and do not believe in, particularly in the wilderness” as the concept of what we decide to believe in or not has been a guiding theme of the entire show. “How does it change our behavior and influence what we are or aren’t willing to do?” she says. “To our minds, it’s not about any religiosity, which throughout culture and time has been such an insanely informative part of human society. We’re going to take these characters and, in a personal way, examine their own belief system.”

A great example of that exploration is Taissa, who in the ’96 storyline, is the most skeptical of the Yellowjackets and a self-proclaimed atheist. Viewers know the young and adult Tai has a penchant for eating dirt and, in the finale, seems to have sacrificed her family’s dog in order to win her local election. “The idea of offerings and sacrifices is as old as humans are,” Lyle notes, as the finale also sees young Lottie offer the bear’s heart to an altar constructed during the insanity of Doomcoming.

When it comes to the two mystery men featured in the opening credits and in the finale — the “No Eyed Man” and the young guy Shauna sees in her dream who notes he was waiting for Jackie, Lyle says both figures are an “interpretation of what’s happening.” “We’re circling right back into what’s supernatural — what is real and the subjectivity of that,” she says. “The question becomes, ‘Is that a real presence?’”

For more details on the Yellowjackets finale, the show’s future and larger mysteries, listen to the full TV’s Top 5 Showrunner Spotlight special episode, above. TV’s Top 5 is a TV podcast hosted by Goldberg (West Coast TV editor) and Fienberg (chief TV critic) that features news, analysis, reviews and weekly interviews with new and established showrunners. Subscribe here.

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