Gather round, light some candles, rip out some animal hearts, and throw back some “shooters” a la Misty. It’s time at last for the Yellowjackets finale recap. “Sic Transit Gloria Mundi,” written by creators Ashley Lyle & Bart Nickerson directed by Eduardo Sánchez (!!!), is here, queer, and ready to be dissected. I am obviously going long, so let’s get right into it. Past recaps here + pick-your-own-adventure-style Yellowjackets character quiz here.
Whew! We made it! And I’m happy to report that this finale does what finales should do. Some loops are closed, and some spiral into new loops. There’s certainly momentum heading into the next season, with a few major reveals happening in the final minutes of the episode.
“Sic Transit Gloria Mundi” opens with an aerial shot moving over the wreckage from the previous night. Bodies sprawled on the forest floor. It’s the first of several incredibly haunting shots in the episode. Director Eduardo Sánchez also co-directed and wrote one of my favorite horror movies of all time, the iconic The Blair Witch Project, known for its incredibly effective found-footage approach to horror. With its woods setting, its creepy yet simple horror imagery, its repeated mysterious symbol, and its found-footage title sequence, Yellowjackets is easy to place in conversation with The Blair Witch Project, another project that asks: What is real? What should we really be afraid of?
I would like to state for the record that I randomly made a Blair Witch reference a few recaps ago before knowing who was directing the finale, and that reference was a STRETCH? So like, call me Lottie.
Soon after they awake and stumble through the remnants of the previous night’s revelry — Lottie wanders toward the hollowed out tree trunk, which looks even more like an altar than it did before, and Shauna picks up the hunting knife with a wobbly hand, remembering — the little hungover maenads make their way back to camp, where they soon learn Misty did in fact drug them with mushrooms. Just like that, Misty’s on the outs with the group. But Jackie’s on the outs, too. The girls are still mad at her about Travis in a very outsized way, but as she puts it: “I’m not the one who went completely fucking insane last night.” She has a point. More on Jackie, obviously, in a bit.
While the girls reckon with the almost-murder that happened in the woods, the women in the present are busy covering up an actual murder. Shauna does not really like that word, but as she said herself last week, she did indeed stab Adam and then he died. Sorry girly, that’s a murder! Nat has enlisted Misty’s help, offering up to go to the reunion in exchange for Misty’s murder cleanup expertise. Indeed, she is thrilled to help, gathering the right supplies at work (according to her, 12% of killers are caught while buying cleaning supplies at the store) and bursting through the door at Adam’s place with a chipper attitude in stark contrast to the tense vibes of Taissa, Shauna, and Nat. “Who died?” she jokes. And then: “No but seriously, who is this guy?” Christina Ricci’s delivery remains TOO GOOD.
“Shauna, you’re the best with the knife — clearly!” Misty also jokes, gesturing toward the very stabbed body on the floor. This of course also serves as another reminder of their history together. They all know Shauna’s good with a knife. At one point, that was part of how they survived starvation. While Taissa and Misty clean up the blood, Shauna and Nat take to the bathroom to hack Adam’s body into pieces with an electric hand saw. “Do you still remember how to do that?” Nat asks as Shauna revs up the tool. “It’s just like riding a really gross fucked up bike,” Shauna replies. This whole situation really is so fucked and so unthinkable. They’re chopping up a man in a bathtub like it’s nothing. But truly, it’s nothing they haven’t seen or done before. They lived through such a traumatic and violent experience in their youths, and it makes sense that they’re desensitized to violence, that they can just go through the motions of doing what they have to do. Nothing can really faze them.
To Misty, it’s fun. After all, she liked living in the woods so much, being needed, being sutured to the team, that she made that choice to destroy the plane’s black box. Here she is again, needed by the team. It makes her giddy. And tbh, what would they do without her? She has it all planned out, having them hide the impossible-to-identify torso in the woods, throwing the hands and head into a coffin heading into the incinerator by sweet talking her way into one of her patient’s funerals (in case you were wondering, that is indeed the patient from the pilot that she refused to give meds to as punishment — Misty loves a Misery moment).
And Misty also ties up the loose end of Jessica Roberts, finally letting her leave and continuing to go along with JR’s book deal plans. Misty asks how she can possibly trust her, and Jessica Roberts gives a nice little monologue about how she’s a fixer for the rich and powerful and doesn’t even remember what it’s like to have a soul anymore. The money from the book deal could mean not having to do any of it anymore. Of course, they’re both bullshitting. JR has no intention of going through with this deal; she just wants out of this murder basement. And Misty has no intention of betraying her teammates by divulging their secrets. So Misty poisons JR’s cigarettes, and even though I’m sad to see her go (sure, maybe she’s not totally dead, but I kinda doubt Misty would miss her mark), it’s a hilariously executed death. It’s the first time we’ve actually seen Misty kill someone, though she does it so smoothly I do doubt it’s really her first time. Poisoning people does seem to be her modus operandi. It’s fitting. It’s sneaky. Misty is this strange combination of scary and child-like. She’s chaotic menace dressed up as youthful innocence.
I want to go back to Nat and Shauna in the bathroom cutting up a body, because Shauna says something in here that really gets to the heart of this episode and of the full season arc really. Nat tries to ask Shauna about Adam’s motive for killing Travis, and Shauna shuts her down. She was with Adam when Travis died. Indeed, we already know the blackmail plot and Travis’s death are separate storylines, but not all of the characters know that. “All this time, you’ve been looking for some big conspiracy. What if the truth is just that we’re all fucked in the head from what happened to us and you’re searching for answers that don’t exist,” she says.
And maybe we are, too. There certainly are mysteries at the core of Yellowjackets, and the finale’s ending throws fuel on the fire of one in particular, but many of these mysteries are, well, unsolvable. And the mysteries that have been solved are kind of straightforward! It’s not shocking that Jeff was behind the blackmail. It’s not shocking that Taissa was the lady in the tree. It’s not shocking that Lottie is the Antler Queen. Those reveals all do unfold like little mysteries, clues planted along the way. And then when they’re revealed, they’re not twisty in the sense that our minds are blown. Rather, they’re revelatory. They have stakes and consequences beyond the initial reveal.
I’m obsessed with Mo Ryan’s succinct and poignant explanation of the unsolvability of many of Yellowjackets’s “puzzles”:
There is no solving the problem of being a middle-aged person who’s lost touch with her ambition and her purpose, who’s stuffed her rage and dreams into the back of a closet, as Shauna did with her wilderness journals. There is no pat formula to rely on when you’re a teen trying to understand your friends’ weird or selfish choices, or your own deepest desires and fears.
Maybe Travis really did kill himself, Shauna suggests. And the twist that comes literally crashing through Nat’s motel door at the end of the episode does undermine that possibility a bit. But it’s still fascinating to consider. How much of how the Yellowjackets move through the world and perceive things is informed by their paranoia, their grief, their exposure to violence, starvation, and impossible choices in the woods? What’s a conspiracy and what’s just fucked up human nature?
The fun thing is: I think there’s a little of both.
Indeed, the finale continues the ambivalence that draws me to Yellowjackets. It feels simultaneously undeniable that there are supernatural forces at play and yet that everything happening could conceivably happen.
Back in the woods, a bear interrupts. Lottie hears it coming, and as everyone backs away, she asks for Shauna’s knife and moves closer. The bear, inexplicably, lowers itself. Almost as if it’s bowing. Almost as if it’s sacrificing itself. In one motion, Lottie stabs it in the back. Dinner is served!
As always, the needledrops here are fantastic. I think my favorite of the finale has to be the transition from the bear stabbing into the 25th reunion, scored by “Rump Shaker.” I mean, that instantly recognizable sax riff overtop of bear murder? I love when Yellowjackets smashes together tones in disorienting ways. This jump from the bear to the reunion is just such a fantastic transition altogether, because in both instances it’s sort of a celebration with an undercurrent of horror and dread. Lottie stabbing a fucking bear is a bad bitch move!!!! But it’s also…alarming?! Like, why did that bear bow down to her, and why did she so seamlessly slay it? Meanwhile, a decorated high school gymnasium is a horror scene in and of itself. Folding tables, prom-like decor, a bunch of adults with their sad little lives pretending they’re living the lives they’ve always wanted? HARROWING!
I was hoping we’d get to see grown-up Allie again, and boy do we! If you recall, she’s briefly seen in the pilot, talking to Jessica Roberts about how she was supposed to be on the plane. She’s the adult version of the girl whose leg Taissa — not entirely intentionally but also not entirely by accident — broke. Talking about how she was supposed to be on the plane is apparently her entire personality. In her thick Jersey accident, she bemoans the tragedy and talks about her “trauma bond” with the team to Jeff. The entire reunion is a bizarre celebration of tragedy. The community was undeniably impacted by the tragedy, but there’s a level of trauma porn to the consumption of the Yellowjackets. We’ve seen bits and pieces of that: the magazines in Adam’s drawer, the headlines Shauna pulls up when essentially cyberstalking herself. At the reunion, it’s hit even harder. This idea that they made it through something horrible. And yet, no one acknowledges that they’re still very much going through it. That they’re carrying secrets. That reaching into the past still really fucking hurts. Nat looks at a trophy case full of retro Yellowjackets memorabilia, including photos of coach Martinez, Javi, and Travis. She looks so fucking sad. A trophy case is, once again, usually something to commemorate celebration, victory, triumph. Here, it’s a glass case containing the dead. Morbid memorabilia.
So yeah, the vibes are off at this reunion. But that doesn’t stop Nat, Shauna, and Taissa from making a very hot and powerful entrance, joined quickly by Misty who literally throws down what she’s doing so she can join them in a slow-motion walk that turns heads. Girls walking through a high school in slow motion is one of my favorite teen movie tropes, and this iteration puts a Yellowjackets twist on it by making it adults returning to their high school’s halls. People look because there is indeed a sense of mystery and mythology surrounding them.
There’s lots of humor to be found in the reunion scenes: Shauna threatening to gut Randy like a pig if he ever reveals it was Jeff behind the blackmail. Shauna ordering four double shots of tequila and Misty excitedly referring to them as “shooters.” Allie’s entire energy (“Shut the fuck up, Doug, you’re a grown man” is one of my favorite throwaway lines in recent memory”). Even the sad parts are funny. Allie plays a slideshow of old Yellowjackets photos set to Enya!!!! She claims it’s time to heal…by remembering the past. Again, there are clear lines between those who were in the woods and those who were not, and it’s hilarious how badly Allie wants to be on the other side of that line when really she has no clue. She has no clue that these pictures are more triggering than healing. She has no clue that these women were, mere hours before, chopping up a man in a bathtub. It’s all a bizarre spectacle of performative grief, and the Yellowjackets themselves are spectators to it but also unwilling participants, being watched by everyone.
Allie says Jackie would have wanted Jeff and Shauna to share the triumphant prom king and queen dance at the reunion. We know the truth: Jackie would very much not want this. The idea is laughable and fucking terrible! But Jeff and Shauna have to do it; they have to perform. And Jeff in all his innocent optimism says “I think we’re gonna be alright” in Shauna’s ear as they dance for everyone. Shauna’s silent. None of this is alright.
Which brings us back to the woods. Everyone’s got bear meat, so at least there’s that! But even though this should be something to celebrate given the recent lack of food, it drives a further wedge between the Yellowjackets. No one wants Misty’s help cutting up the bear, Mari telling her to get the fuck away. Misty has been thriving on how useful she feels, how included. She craves connection, and she doesn’t know how to go about getting it.
Van takes the bear as additional proof that Lottie is tapped into something. In the attic, Van tells Taissa that when “it” happened (no one has said wolf attack/mauling/etc. out loud, so I do wonder if there’s something to the theory that there were no wolves or that this went down differently than how we were shown it) she was somewhere in between. Not dead, not alive. And that she sensed something was here in the woods with them. Taissa thinks Van is just trying to make sense of her trauma, but Van is firm with her. She believes. In something. “Ghosts, tree demons, wood sprites?” Taissa jokes (also I love the 90s dyke details of Van loving Scully and Sporty Spice). Factions are forming. There are people who believe and people who don’t, something that has been hinted at all along, like when adult Nat says that Travis “never believed in any of this stuff.” Once again, how do you make sense of the nonsensical? These teens have been drained of the things that once defined them: their homes, their families, their lives. And some of them are starting to let new things in. Dark magic at least suggests order. Wouldn’t it be easy to cling to that?
Then there’s Taissa in the present. We see her bristle at Van’s beliefs in the past. When Van asks if they should give thanks to some higher being for the bear meat, she tries to be supportive, letting out a hesitant “just make it quick.” Meanwhile, in the present, she’s participating in some sort of ritual — whether she’s totally aware of it or not. Simone goes home to pick up some extra things for her and Sammy, and as if she has never seen a dang horror movie in her life, she goes down into a dark basement by herself and then ENTERS A CRAWLSPACE after feeling a draft coming out of it and also finding a spot of blood! Again, the Blair Witch vibes are there. In the light of Simone’s iPhone flashlight, we see a table of offerings. The symbol, candles, and poor Biscuit’s head and heart. While this happening, Taissa’s finding out she won the election, something the polls had suggested wasn’t possible. We know this though: Taissa is willing to do a lot for what she wants. She once broke a girl’s leg to send a message. Did she perform some sort of sacrifice in order to win this election?
Or is that my conspiracy brain thinking again? Yellowjackets does such a great job of making me feel as paranoid and uncertain as its characters. Did Taissa do a ritual to win an election or is the real explanation something more complicated but also less plot-driven? What if this is another extension of her sleepwalking? If Van was a believer and Taissa was not but Taissa lost Van (we aren’t yet sure if she made it out of the woods or not), could this be her weird way of grieving that loss?
I believe adult Taissa when she suggests she doesn’t really know what’s happening to her when she’s sleepwalking, doesn’t really know what happened to Biscuit. I don’t think she’s lying or manipulating them, because none of the characters on Yellowjackets have really behaved in ways that have shocked me thus far. They all have specific patterns of behavior that we see form in their teenage years and that continue on into their adulthoods. Yes, Taissa can be cutthroat. She can also be out of control, especially whilst sleepwalking. But she doesn’t really lie, hasn’t really betrayed anyone she cares about. Even with Van, she might not believe, but she’s trying so hard to be a supportive girlfriend. Even when the unexpected happens on Yellowjackets, the characters react in expected ways. They make a lot of bad choices, but those bad choices are consistent.
Take, for example, Shauna, who repeatedly hurts and lies to people who love her. It’s literally her thing! She’s still lying to Nat and Taissa by making them believe Adam was behind the blackmail. The walls between her and Jeff may have dropped, but Jeff’s fantasy that they’re alright now is just that, a fantasy. He and Shauna cuddle on the couch after the reunion, making lil jokes about Shauna cooking a cat in a chili pot (ok I did truly LOL at that one), and Callie is rightfully confused. But they convince her to join them, and for a split second it’s like they’re a cute, normal family in the suburbs. But then a news report about a missing man shows Adam’s face and name. All three of them try not to react. Callie doesn’t know that Jeff knows about Shauna’s affair; Jeff presumably doesn’t know that Callie knows about the affair; Jeff and Shauna both know that Shauna KILLED Adam, which Callie doesn’t know. It’s not just a secret; it’s a cluster of secrets. And they’re all culpable of something, Shauna most of all.
In the woods, Travis is looking for Javi, who isn’t seen all episode. And Travis is brimming with intense emotions, a balloon about to burst. He seems almost embarrassed about what happened to him — by hooking up with Jackie and also by having a knife against his throat. His confusion takes the form of mortification. Nat tries to see if he’s okay, and he pushes her away. To admit he needs help is also to admit that what happened really happened. He was almost sacrificed. His brother is missing. When he finally breaks down and lets Nat in, admitting he loves her, it’s devastating. Their dynamic hinges on hurt and comfort. In the present, we see Nat finally throw away the photo of his carved up corpse. Once again, Yellowjackets performs an act of emotional time travel, its two timelines more entangled than simply the past being the cause and the present being the effect. They’re echoes of each other.
Lottie gives thanks for the bear meat, thanking the gods of the sky and the earth, thanking the spirit of the bear. We’re watching the beginning of something here. Again, characters are trying to make sense of their new circumstances. The farther they get from civilization and their before lives, the more they’re starting to make new rules and build a new world for themselves. Lottie might be…casually starting a religion. Laura Lee, after all, convinced her there was something divine about her visions. And now Laura Lee is dead, a martyr. Lottie brought down a bear with a knife. It shouldn’t have been possible. And yet. So yeah, Lottie probably is feeling pretty powerful and all-knowing right about now.
And on that note, I recently remembered that Lottie used to be really fucking rich. Private plane rich! In-house staff rich! I think Lottie and Jackie are two people who are used to having a lot of power and control. In Jackie’s case, that power has been leaking ever since the crash. She hasn’t proved useful enough to maintain it. The wilderness became this great equalizer for all the girls. Social hierarchies are starting to erode. New factions are forming. In Lottie’s case, the presence of these visions and her intuition about certain things like the bear have only intensified her power and influence. Doesn’t it kinda make perfect sense that the super rich girl on the soccer team would maybe become a cult leader? I mean, look at this photo of Lottie from the pilot! She looks like every popular girl from a teen movie, and a tiny gold watch is the height of 90s Opulence!
Some of these characters are finding out exactly who they are in the woods. They’re either questioning everything they knew or doubling way down on it. Misty thrives here. Lottie’s visions give her power and control. And Shauna is no longer resigned to living in Jackie’s shadow. The crash upended previous dynamics. Coach told Jackie he made her captain not because she’s the best, but because of her influence. It’s ironic, isn’t it? In the woods, she has no influence.
Jackie is extremely not here for the bullshit. She wants answers for what happened the night before when the girls stormed in like a mob on her and Travis. She asks Shauna what she was going to do, and then everything spirals out, all the tension between Shauna and Jackie all season comes to a head. Jackie reveals to the group that Shauna had been fucking Jeff, and Shauna explodes on Jackie. She says she controlled everything about her life, from what she wore, to who she hooked up with, to where they’d go to college. She accuses Jackie of having main character syndrome. And yes, we’ve indeed seen all these things. Jackie even changes the music when she gets into Shauna’s car. She calls all the shots. When Shauna shouts that she doesn’t even like soccer, it’s such a gutpunch. Shauna’s entire life seems constructed to fit Jackie’s idea of who she should be.
But is Shauna innocent here? Of course not! She could have, at any point, stuck up to Jackie. She could have, at any point, refused to play her sidekick. I know, I know. Easier said than done. I’ve been the teen girl conforming to the expectations and desires of another teen girl. It’s perhaps why I’m drawn to and also fear Shauna. It’s absolutely why I (unfairly!) fear Jackie. Their friendship is familiar in its intensity, in its frankly cannibalistic feeling. I’ve known what it’s like to want to be consumed by someone else and also to resent that consumption all at once.
And also, Shauna’s so far from innocent that I actually think she’s delusional. Because as she was saying all these things about Jackie making choices for her, I nodded along, remembering those moments from the pilot. But then I rewatched the pilot and saw something else. Yes, Jackie suggested what she should wear. Yes, Jackie suggested who she should hook up with. But when Shauna snapped and said she didn’t want those things, Jackie backed off entirely. She told Shauna to do what she wanted. And then what did Shauna do? She wore the thing Jackie told her to wear anyway (the red boob dress). In fact, she dressed almost identically to Jackie for that party. Shauna has ingested and absorbed the narrative that Jackie forced her to be like her, but we see in the pilot her choosing to mimic and surveil Jackie. Shauna wanted to be like her. She wanted to consume her.
This is definitely the best on-screen friendship fight I’ve seen since Booksmart. As with that fight, it’s easy to see where both girls are coming from. Yellowjackets really is so good at placing us in the mindsets of these characters, even when what they’re feeling is contradictory or wrong or complex. Shauna may feel like Jackie constantly tried to control her, but what Shauna did with Jeff was so cruel. It’s worth mentioning that none of this is about Jeff or about Travis. It’s about the two of them and no one else really. Here they are having this private fight in front of an audience, but it’s like none of those people are there. They’re both being selfish, and they’re both failing to see beyond the tunnel of their venomous friendship.
Should any of this matter in the woods? I mean, in some ways, it especially matters here. If they can’t be there for each other now, then were they ever really? Did they only love each other when they both fit into the neatly prescribed boxes of high school? When things were easy to define? I think about how I left the bubble of my high school and realized how different I was from some of the people I’d stitched myself to, how I wanted different things but absorbed the ideas of myself put forth by others. I know there are friendships that last beyond high school, but I also think part of growing up is letting go of the fantasy of best friends forever. It’s like the woods sped up and exacerbated that process for some of these characters.
We’re seeing it a bit for Van and Taissa, too. Maybe their relationship made more sense in the context of a secret gay relationship. Maybe these differences in what they believe out here in the woods are irrevocable. The romantic in me is rooting for them, and yet I also know how easy it is to hold on to young love just because you don’t know anything else and how dangerous that can be. Now here’s Taissa staying in a marriage where things are so fractured that they can’t even be in the same place. Patterns repeating.
Jackie tries to banish Shauna, and maybe before it would have worked. But Shauna stands her ground, and it’s a signal that the roles have officially completely reversed. Jackie’s power is gone. Shauna’s in charge. Healthy friendship, of course, shouldn’t work this way at all. It shouldn’t be a zero sum game. But I think of how Jeff reminds Shauna that their relationship has always been this way a few episodes back, how secrets and lies have always been a part of their relationship and so continue to be in their marriage. The power struggle between Shauna and Jackie has always been a part of their friendship.
Shauna tells her to leave, and the rest of the group agrees. Ben feebly attempts to intervene, but Lottie tells him to stay out of it. Again, there’s a mob mentality. Any resentment that any of these characters have had toward Jackie at any point lets them believe that this is how it should be.
It’s easy to see this as something that could go down at a high school sleepover, a massive fight leading to one girl’s banishment from the party. In the wilderness, the stakes are much higher. We keep seeing this happen, the existing dynamics and drama between the teens heightening into horrific proportions now that they’re away from the rules and structures of their previous worlds. Jackie, the least equipped person to be on her own, leaves the cabin, and no one follows her. Shauna watches as she tries and fails to start a fire.
And then Jackie freezes to death. The fact that it’s such slow, quiet death is so much more disturbing than if Jackie had turned out to be that hunted girl from the pilot. She dies alone. She dies because she and her best friend had a falling out and then both were too stubborn to admit they were being stupid. I know I spent the past couple recaps saying I was scared of Jackie and what she might do. But like Shauna, I was thinking of things in terms of how it might go down within the halls of a high school. I saw the golden girl Shauna saw in Jackie, the one who nothing bad could happen to, the one who had all the power. But they’re not in high school anymore. They’re in the wilderness, and both nature and human nature are doing strange things.
Before the harrowing final reveal of Shauna digging up Jackie from the snow, there’s a brief glint of hope. We see Shauna go to Jackie, apologize, invite her inside. But hope gives way to horror when we realize this isn’t really happening. Lottie gifts Jackie with hot cocoa — too good to be true. Shauna says she loves Jackie, and then everyone else says it in unison, a demented chorus. Laura Lee is here, and so is a shadowy man in the corner — the one we’ve seen grinning in the title sequence. “So glad you’re joining us. We’ve been waiting for you,” he says. It’s such a haunting sequence — part nightmare, part hallucination on the brink of death.
Shauna startles awake as if this is her dream, but it also seems like it could be Jackie’s dream, her mind’s way of grappling with the fact that she’s slowly dying. The hot cocoa indeed seems like the fantasy of a person freezing to death. In fact, people get hot right before they freeze to death. And the presence of ghosts (is the man the ghost of the guy from the attic?) suggests Jackie being welcomed into a new realm. But again, Shauna’s the one who wakes up from this. I interpret it as some sort of shared dream experience for both Jackie and Shauna (I coincidentally wrote briefly about the real-life phenomena of shared dreams when musing on this show last week — again, call me Lottie!). I can see both Shauna and Jackie dreaming of everyone telling Jackie they love her. “Everybody loved you,” Shauna said to her just a couple episodes ago. We’ve seen Shauna’s guilt manifest as a Jackie hallucination in the present, and now we know just how linked they are. We haven’t seen anyone eat anyone yet outside of the pilot, but Shauna did consume Jackie. She married her boyfriend. She became her.
So far, we haven’t seen anything as deliberately brutal as the sequences of a girl being hunted, strung up, drained, and eaten in the pilot. Those images have never left my head. Even though they haven’t happened yet when we’re in the 1996 timeline, it’s like they sit beneath everything. Like one of Lottie’s visions, a promise. Slowly but surely, the crash survivors are losing their grasp on reality. It’s hard to know what’s right or wrong when you’re young — made all the harder by something as catastrophic and isolating as being stranded in the woods. Someone should have brought Jackie inside. Someone should have come to her defense. They’re still playing by old rules, even as the game changes wildly before their eyes. It’s not the time for high school drama, and yet of course they can’t escape it.
Jackie’s death, for me, is the biggest reveal of the episode. Such a brutal way to go on so many levels. To be that lonely and cold and for it to have been so preventable. But another plot-level reveal happens in the episode’s final minutes. Just as Nat is about to kill herself with her shotgun, a group barges through her motel door. They abduct her, and we see a flash of one of them wearing a necklace with the symbol from the woods. As Nat’s dragged into a van, Suze leaves a voicemail on her phone saying she feels like someone is following her ever since she looked into Travis’ bank account. “Who the fuck is Lottie Matthews?” she asks.
Who the fuck is Lottie Matthews, indeed. Back in the woods, Lottie presents the bear’s heart to the tree altar in the snow. Her first followers — Misty, desperate to belong to something, and Van, desperate for meaning — kneel behind her. “Versez le sang mes beaux amis,” Lottie says (French that translates to: shed blood, my beautiful friends). “And let the darkness set us free.”
We’re going full cult in the woods, baby! And it looks like that cult made it out of the woods, too.
I do think this finale answered a lot of things that needed to be answered and also left things up in the air so we do have some momentum going into the next season. But more importantly, I think it still leaves so many things not just unanswered but unanswerable. I know the ambivalence of Yellowjackets needles at people. But it doesn’t read as lazy or incomplete writing to me. In fact, it’s part of what sets this show apart. There are a lot of interviews out there with the cast and creators today, and I have now ingested all of them, but this tidbit has stood out to me: The creators keep getting asked about Jackie’s journals. How could Jackie have written about movies she wasn’t alive to see? Ashley Lyle said this:
I will say, we did not necessarily anticipate people screen-shotting that the way they did. So to our minds, it was a character Easter egg, and not a plot Easter egg.
A character! Easter! Egg! See, this is why I love Yellowjackets. The narrative is built around people being mysteries, of human nature being a tricky puzzle box. Not built around conspiracies and plot mazes — though there are touches of those, too. Of course it’s fun to screenshot and dissect, to spin a web. We want to make sense of what’s happening just like these characters do. We want there to be a clean-cut, easy to chart path that leads to cannibalism, and preferably one that involves the occult, the paranormal. Because otherwise, accepting the alternative — that humans just sometimes do fucked up shit that’s hard to make sense of — is too scary to look at up close.
Today, I keep seeing so many articles that are like “Yellowjackets finale — EXPLAINED!” and I get it. It’s an SEO thing. Finale “post mortems” are part of the game of television coverage. But it’s also funny to me. To suggest that everything can be explained in a straightforward, digestible way.
My guess is if I were to poll my various Yellowjackets group chats about why Shauna let Jackie freeze to death, why no one intervened, why Shauna was so convinced Jackie was a bad friend when the pilot very much shows the opposite, we’d all explain it in different ways. And no one would necessarily be wrong! Those are the puzzles I’m most fascinated by on this show.
In real life, the times I’ve tried to figure out why people did certain things, especially things that hurt me, I’ve come up with unsatisfying, incomplete answers. It’s vexing work. I hope Yellowjackets keeps teasing us, keeps planting “character Easter eggs” rather than plot ones, keeps revealing things that ultimately are easy to predict but difficult to swallow.
- Yes, that was the bear’s heart — not Jackie’s heart, people! Do you know the size of a human heart?!
- So yeah, Lottie’s bear heart offering looks a lot like the dog heart offering situation happening in Taissa’s basement. But I still think Taissa isn’t knowingly participating in the occult but that this still has something to do with her psychological state/her tendency to be in denial about things.
- There are so many good little creepy moments in the episode, like Shauna wanting to taste the bear’s blood before Akilah stops her. I think she was maybe just experiencing pregnancy-induced anemia, but it also works on the level of Shauna having blood on her hands in both timelines (Jackie’s death and Adam’s death).
- Now that we’ve seen some sort of cult group, I keep seeing it theorized that Adam could have been involved in that somehow. Idk — I’m sticking to my convictions of Adam just being a random guy!
- Someone in the A+ watchalong (WHICH WAS SO FUN BTW) pointed out that Adam had a very distinctive back tattoo that would surely make his torso more identifiable than Misty realizes. Oops! This has to come back to hurt them, right?
- I can’t believe I caught that quick screenshot of Shauna digging through the snow last episode and then it turned out to be JACKIE’S DEATH. I really am feeling Lottie-esque. Should I start a Yellowjackets religion? JK JK.
- So I do have a character-based theory about Jackie’s journals, which is that Shauna journaled as Jackie when she got out of the woods. We know Shauna had writerly ambitions, and that coupled with her guilt could lead to some good ol’ therapy journaling.
- On that note, they’re absolutely going to eat Jackie, right? And I wonder if season two will play around the idea of Jackie being INSIDE all of them once they eat her — or at least inside Shauna, whose desire to consume Jackie will become quite literal.
- I will miss writing these recaps and reading all of your thoughtful comments every week! I can’t remember the last time I was this invested in a show and this excited to write so many words about it!!!! (Maybe it was Sharp Objects? I was also obsessed with Dare Me, but it never caught on, so I didn’t have the added excitement of everyone talking about it all the time!!!!!!!) Thank you for letting me go long. Thank you for all of your hard citizen detective work. SEASON TWO WHEN?
- I’ve said a lot, but I unsurprisingly have more to say! I will save it for the comments! I will try to reply to all of your comments!!!!
- Guess what! The official playlist now includes the original theme song! Also, Liv Hewson and Jane Widdrop both made character playlists for Van and Laura Lee respectively, so here, have some playlists!