‘Yellowjackets’ Theories and Burning Questions: A Refresher for Season 2
[This story contains spoilers from the first season of Showtime’s Yellowjackets.]
The Yellowjackets are not OK.
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The finale of Showtime’s hit survival drama Yellowjackets has left viewers in a collective state of worry for the present-day characters played by Melanie Lynskey, Juliette Lewis, Tawny Cypress and Christina Ricci. After the past timeline showed the audience what they did — and warned about where they are headed — the January 2022 ending signaled that the darkness and repressed trauma of their past is ever-present.
For a refresher on the present-day timeline, Shauna (Lynskey) lied to cover up her murder of Adam (Peter Gadiot) after her affair. All four women showed up to their 25-year high school reunion shortly after dismembering and disposing of the scapegoat, following Jeff’s (Warren Kole) confession to wife Shauna that he was the one blackmailing the Yellowjackets survivors and in need of money. The secret reconciles Shauna and Jeff — even as they see Adam declared missing on the local news.
Meanwhile, Misty (Ricci) does some killing of her own when she poisons the fixer (Rekha Sharma) she was holding captive. Taissa (Cypress), as her wife uncovers, has apparently sacrificed the family’s dog in order to win her local election. And Natalie (Lewis), distraught over the death of Travis (played by Kevin Alves in the younger timeline), is moments away from taking her own life before she’s kidnapped by a mysterious group bearing a familiar symbol. All of this as a young Lottie (Courtney Eaton) ends the season by saying (in French) “Spill blood, my friends,” followed by, “Let the darkness set us free.”
The shocking endings in both timelines prompted Reddit threads, conspiracy theories and burning questions. Some were put to Yellowjackets married creators/showrunners Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson, and co-showrunner Jonathan Lisco, but many beg to be answered in season two and beyond (the show has been renewed for a third season and was pitched as a five-season idea). For more clues after season one, THR had asked the foursome to sum up the show: “Women, PTSD and friendship,” said Cypress; “Trauma,” said Lynskey; “The way trauma haunts you. The way you can never escape. The way it twists people in different ways,” said Ricci; and “Aberrant survival tactics,” said Lewis.
Below, The Hollywood Reporter rounds up the five biggest questions heading into the psychological horror and coming-of-age show’s March 24 season two return.
How Will Jackie’s Death Forever Change Shauna and the Yellowjackets?
The season one ending in the past timeline — which has been tracking the Yellowjackets, the star high school soccer team, following their 1996 plane crash and 19 months in the wilderness — ended in shock and heartbreak when the brewing showdown between best friends Shauna (played in the younger timeline by Sophie Nélisse) and Jackie (Ella Purnell) finally played out to tragic consequences.
Shauna, who had been sleeping with Jackie’s boyfriend Jeff (who is married to Shauna in present-day) and is pregnant with his baby, led a Lord of the Flies-type rebellion and literal icing out of Jackie by the entire team. Stubborn and exiled, Jackie leaves the home the team has inhabited and opts to sleep outside. Unbeknownst to her or any of her teammates, a cold front swept in overnight, and Jackie freezes to death amid a blizzard while everyone is sleeping.
“We felt something inevitable to us about [Jackie’s] death and this form of her death; it was a North Star,” Lyle told THR‘s TV’s Top 5 podcast about Jackie’s ghost forever haunting Shauna, while also confirming that Purnell would likely return in season two. “Jackie is a character who looms large over everyone else’s lives. The survivor’s guilt that Shauna feels once they are rescued is something we’d love to explore later on in the show.”
The mysterious man Shauna sees in her dream amid Jackie’s death (who is also the mystery man in the opening credits), is meant to be an “interpretation of what’s happening” and speak to the supernatural elements the show is playing with. “We’re circling right back to what is real and the subjectivity of that,” Lyle told THR. “The question becomes, ‘Is that a real presence?’”
Jackie’s death was also meant to represent the schism that has already begun in the wilderness, and one that will grow larger in season two. “What we wanted to do is really sow the seeds of the encroaching factionalization of these women in the woods,” Lisco told TV Insider of the group leaning toward Lottie, and away from Jackie, as the group leader. “I think you will see the young women in the 1996 storyline start to engage in a more brutal form of social hierarchy, and as things in the woods get more stressful and as they’re put under more duress, we may inevitably see them factionalize more into groups.”
What Does Lottie’s Sacrifice Say About Her Role in Natalie’s Abduction for Season 2?
The finale episode ended with Shauna screaming in grief and Lottie (Eaton), now known as the Antler Queen from the cannibalism feast in the premiere, offering the heart of the bear she killed to an altar constructed during the penultimate episode’s “Doomcoming,” with Van (Liv Hewson) and Misty (played in the younger timeline by Samantha Hanratty) kneeling behind the teammate who has emerged as a spiritual leader.
As was revealed in the final moments of the present-day storyline, adult Lottie appears to be connected to both Travis’ death and Natalie’s kidnapping. Lottie was the one who took Travis’ money, which was the trail Natalie had an old friend following (“Who the fuck is Lottie Matthews?” is the looming question left on Natalie’s voicemail). In the past, what’s known about Lottie is that it was her family’s private plane the team was taking when they crashed, and that, after being forced to go off her anti-psychotic medication, she has either been revealed to be a clairvoyant or is possessed by something darker.
Just how supernatural the show — which is also building its way up to tackling cannibalism — will get sounds like more of a question that will be for the audience to interpret. “People have experiences that are beyond what we’d call normal reality. What exactly those experiences are is something you can debate,” said Nickerson to THR. “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.”
Season two will introduce viewers to adult Lottie, as Simone Kessell (Obi-Wan Kenobi, Our Flag Means Death) has been cast in the role. “We plant the flag that Lottie is lurking in the shadows and [that we’re] meeting her in the near future,” said Lyle to THR. Indeed, the season two trailer presents adult Lottie as the key to saving her fellow survivors, as Taissa shares, “I’m losing my mind” (and confirms Nat survives her abduction).
In a preview with Vanity Fair of her debut, Kessell fills in some blanks (Lottie was institutionalized in Switzerland after they were saved) and likened adult Lottie to a cult leader, but one who leans towards the light. “She’s found her voice, and she’s used it in a way to help teach — she sort of brings therapy to people,” she said. “She has reinvented herself from the darkness into the light. She leads a group of broken toys. The past 25 years she’s reinvented herself as a leader, as a guru, as a healer. And with that, she has created her own world.”
Where Do Taissa and Misty’s Allegiances Lie in the Present?
Viewers picked up on two hints that Taissa and Misty may still align with Lottie’s ways. Coupled with Taissa’s behavior of sleepwalking to eat dirt (which is actually squished Oreos and cookies) and conducting blood sacrifices, her nearly unrecognizable smile once it’s revealed that she’s won the election also raised eyebrows.
“I think what [that smile] says is, ‘I think now I am becoming conscious of my alter ego. It’s been something that I’ve repressed. I know I’ve been doing it, but now I’m starting to see the advantages potentially of my dark side because essentially it just got me what I wanted,'” Lisco told TV Insider. “Will she double down on that dark force to try and get things accomplished in her life? Or will she try and suppress it even more? … Whether or not it cross-pollinates with the storyline with Natalie being taken and abducted is something which I’d hate to sort of reveal at this point, but yes, there’s a lot going on there.”
And Misty’s presence (along with Van’s) during Lottie’s bear heart sacrifice raised a similar question about one of the other main characters. “[Either] she actually feels that same energy that Lottie is feeling or is strategic because she feels like maybe that’s where the wind is blowing in terms of the social hierarchy. That’s a tension we intend to play with, too, just whose side, if in fact there do become sides, is Misty on,” said Lisco.
Who Are the Other New Faces?
Viewers are also due to find out where Van’s allegiance lies, and what happened between Van and young Taissa’s (Jamin Savoy Brown) romance. Lauren Ambrose (Six Feet Under, Servant) has been cast to play adult Van, as season two’s second new teenage cast member who survives to the present day. The trailer also revealed the adults reuniting.
“I think it’s already in Taissa’s nature to ignore the supernatural and to ignore Lottie’s visions,” Savoy told THR of being the pragmatist of the younger group, even after Van starts believing in Lottie. “But there is that scene in episode 10 where Van comes up to the attic and basically tells Taissa, ‘I need you to believe this with me.’ And it’s guilt. It’s also fear of losing her, and I don’t think Taissa is mature enough emotionally to be able to say that. So instead, she just goes along with Van even though she hates it. So yes, I would say that it’s guilt.”
About that guilt, Lyle also confirmed to THR of Van’s attack: “Tai was not the one who attacked Van instead of a wolf.”
And Elijah Wood, in a season-long guest role, has been brought in to complicate things for Misty. Wood will play the role of Walter, a dedicated citizen detective who is described as someone who will challenge present-day Misty in ways that she won’t see coming.
How Significant Is the Character of Adam and Will They Go Down for the Murder?
While the Yellowjackets creative team said they enjoyed reading all the fan theories, they were quick to shoot down the idea that Adam is related to the Yellowjackets’ past. Lyle and Nickerson have confirmed that Adam is not the baby that 1996 Shauna was carrying, “but the question of what happens to her baby is something we have presented and a question we will eventually answer,” Lyle told THR.
They also confirm that Adam is not adult Javi (Luciano Leroux), who was last seen as being missing in the past timeline. “We want the viewers to be in the mindset of our characters. One thing about trauma and PTSD, it poisons how you see the world in terms of paranoia and not being able to trust people,” Lyle explained to THR about Adam’s fate. “What we were intending was for people to question that relationship.”
Lisco, meanwhile, said that while the murder will still be something Shauna and Jeff will have to contend with, Yellowjackets is not a detective show. “We could totally see [Adam’s murder] coming back to haunt her, but we could also see a world in which that’s not a core part of season two, because what we don’t want to do is tip the show into a detective story where it becomes about the concrete moves of the plot. That would entail, I think, introducing an entire detective character and then she’d be trying to cover it up and in a way that’s backwards looking, and I think what we’d like to do now is really focus on the marriage,” he told TV Insider. “For season two, I think the more interesting storyline … will be how that murder and the realization of all her secrets affects their marriage.”
Yellowjackets season two returns starting March 24 for Showtime subscribers, before making its on-air debut on March 26 at 9 p.m. Check back in with THR‘s Yellowjackets coverage for season two interviews.