Let’s Talk About That “Yellowjackets” Finale

Posted on January 17, 2022

“Who the fuck is Lottie Matthews?”

And just like that (to borrow a phrase), we were all in on whatever the creators of Yellowjackets had planned for the future of the series. We’ve been singing the praises of this show on our podcast since nearly day one, but in a recent discussion, we both admitted that when show creators Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson announced their planned five-season arc, we greeted the news with no small amount of disappointment. See, one of the things we loved most about the show was that it perfectly walked a narrative tightrope, never truly committing to one of two fundamental ideas about the story: a) that something happened out in the woods that has much larger, possibly supernatural implications; or b) that a bunch of traumatized teenage girls wound up doing some deep, dark shit, largely because they were stuck in social roles that had the potential to be vicious when stripped of adult supervision and societal disapproval and they went crazy in isolation. In other words, the show (prior to this episode), never came down definitively on either side of a single question: Were there monsters in the woods or just feral teenage girls? A show about the latter and their middle-aged counterparts working through some dark shit is a show that can be told in a few seasons, tightly and neatly. A show that plans on five seasons to tell its story is a show that’s going to need a sprawling mythology and probably a set of mysteries in order to keep the interest up. We just weren’t sure we wanted to buy into a LOST-esque puzzle box show that could just as easily come apart at the seams as stick the landing, going by the history of such shows (including LOST).

We still don’t know if there are literal monsters in this story — or witches or ghosts or demons or time-travelers, for that matter (just putting all of the possibilities on the table) — but when athleisure-wearing possible cultists burst through the door of Natalie’s hotel room just as she was about to succumb to the darkness that had been kept at bay by her connection to Travis, one definitive and undeniable answer came in the final seconds of the episode: There’s something larger going on here and Lottie, the apparent Antler Queen, is still alive, in the middle of it, if not orchestrating it. It may not be supernatural in tone, but it’s clear we only know a fraction of the whole story and we’re deeply invested in seeing it play out. As first season finales go, we’d say they stuck the landing in a lot of unexpected ways.

Still, our first viewing of the finale left us mildly disappointed, although we couldn’t have put our fingers on why we felt that way. It’s not like we expected a whole bunch of definitive answers. If anything, we think we may have been reacting to the answers we did get. The first is Jackie’s death, which happened in a way no one watching the show expected. So the girl in the pit in the first episode isn’t Jackie, even though she’s wearing Jackie’s necklace. The second unexpected answer was the reveal that Adam was apparently who he said he was, going by the news report mentioning “family and friends” being concerned about his disappearance. Like a lot of viewers, we were holding onto the theory that he was actually Javi. Instead of answering puzzle-box questions, the episode focused on making some definitive statements about the characters in a way that makes it feel like each of the main four adult Yellowjackets turned a major corner this episode. We watched Shauna embrace a newfound sense of partnership with her devoted husband, but she had to literally dismember a body (which is apparently like riding a fucked-up bike to her) to get to this state of bliss and as the story stands now, she murdered an innocent man and then lied to her friends about it in order to make them accomplices. In similar news, we watched Misty become the stone-cold killer the show always implied her to be and we saw that Taissa is evidently far more feral and perhaps a bit more involved in the cult (if not the occult) than we previously assumed. All three of these characters have been revealed to be pretty much the same at heart, despite their massive differences: they are dangerous, wild women when cornered and will go to disturbing lengths to protect themselves and their shared secret. In a lot of ways, despite how likeable or entertaining they are, they are no more the heroines of this story than Lottie is. For now, Natalie remains the one most broken by the events of the past and the least willing to hurt other people to protect it, even if she was pretty blasé about the dismemberment.

It was really that hilariously badass slow-motion walk into their high school reunion to The Offspring’s “Come Out and Play” (the funniest and most on point needle drop in a season full of them) that defined the show going forward. It’s about these women and all the ways their shared secret and shared actions have secured a bond around them that they can’t, and clearly don’t want to break. Natalie giving that tiny smile to Misty as she joined the group was just this perfect little moment between the comedy duo of the year, showing that, dismemberments and possible cannibalism aside, these ladies have a weird sort of love for each other. In other words, Yellowjackets isn’t about mysteries and monsters, it’s about the friends they made along the way. Or rather, it was about the monsters they became along the way.

But the creators of Yellowjackets are extremely good at making it seem like you’re getting some sort of answer when a closer examination of what was and wasn’t said tends to reveal that things remain as vague as ever. How many times have the adult Yellowjackets mentioned “What we did” without ever once coming close to an actual statement on the events that happened in the woods twenty-five years ago? Did we ever really see any of them actually eat a human being? Did did some version of that dream, where Jackie was taken inside and given hot chocolate before spotting a mysterious man in the corner, actually happen? Whose dream was it, for that matter? The entire sequence was more or less from Jackie’s perspective. Just because we saw Shauna awake with a start doesn’t actually mean we were looking at her dream. And here’s something that’s kind of weird: Travis and Natalie were in the woods looking for Javi when the entire argument between Jackie and Shauna went down, but the next morning, they were standing on the porch of the cabin with the rest of the team, watching Shauna melt down over Jackie’s body. Isn’t it odd that they’d just return to the cabin, step over Jackie (who slept with Travis the night before) and go to bed? Where is Javi, anyway? How many of the survivors returned home and where are they? What happened to the ones who didn’t return home?

Okay, yes. It’s still at least a little bit about the mysteries. But look at what we found out so far. The mysterious fake reporter stalking the women turns out to have been hired by Taissa. The mysterious blackmailer who knows all of their secrets turns out to be Jeff, Shauna’s husband, who is also not having an affair. Jackie seemingly died because two best friends got into an argument over their toxic relationship and were too stubborn to reconcile. The wild woman stalking Taissa’s family is Taissa herself. The mystery man seducing Shauna seems to have been just a cute guy who found her hot. The person who seems to be behind Travis’ death and Natalie’s kidnapping is Lottie. Despite all the weirdness still in the story, it’s about a bunch of traumatized survivors fucking with each other and killing anyone who gets in their way because they can’t live in the world where, as Shauna put it to Natalie, all the light has gone out of it. Is there five seasons’ worth of story to be found there? We don’t know, but when actresses like Melanie Lynskey, Tawny Cypress, Christina Ricci and Juliet Lewis are doing the telling we’re more than ready to settle in for the long haul to see where it goes. Can we just please get Winona Ryder on board for season two? Alicia Silverstone? Claire Danes? We’re just saying. There were a LOT of iconic teen actresses in the nineties.

 

 

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