After sitting down with the end of yellow jackets In season two, I keep coming back to one thought, reverberating in my mind: It’s not fair. There are countless layers to peel away from this feeling, and I’ll cover all of them in this recap. But my biggest conclusion is that yellow jackets delights in reminding us of life’s inequality, and has done so all season.
Things weren’t fair when a group of teenagers crash landed in the desert, resorting to violent means to stay alive. They weren’t fair when the brilliantly intelligent television produced in Season 1 plummeted in Season 2 faster than that fictional plane crashed. And nothing was remotely fair about this season’s finale, which left every character spurned by the cruelty of life and the most notable symbol of hope in a dark world dead.
Of course, the world is not fair. But the utter desolation with which yellow jackets ended its second season was a disservice to fans and critics alike. We’ve sat around this season waiting for some indication that the writers would find a way to shake this show out of its dismal tedium. Last season’s finale may have been just as bleak, but there was at least an indication that its core group of women had found strength in each other. Also, there was a paved path for the show to move forward. I just hoped that yellow jackets Season 2 can keep the plateau. Instead, it totally overshot its mark.
This was evident only in the finale’s opening scene, where the teenage Yellowjackets brought Javi’s corpse back from the frozen lake, into which he had fallen during the group’s wild hunt. This slow-motion sequence is set to “Zombie” by the Cranberries, a needle drop that is sickeningly obvious and terribly overused. It’s a song about conflict that results in violence, so it’s certainly appropriate in context, but it feels like a cheap play on emotion.
As Teen Natalie, however, Sophie Thatcher sells this scene entirely. She must tell Travis that her brother is gone, yet again—a nice payback for her having to do the same thing, earlier in the season, when she lied about finding Javi’s bloodstained clothes in the woods. Here, with Javi’s dead body hanging from a branch behind her, exhaustion can be heard in her high-pitched voice and seen on her face. Natalie can’t even look Travis in the eye until she’s finished telling him her brother is dead, a wise acting choice by Thatcher.
In the present day, adult Lottie is still convinced that her group of old friends have been brought back together by the darkness that followed them from the woods as teenagers. The only way to calm him down is with another hunt, just like they used to. Shauna wins the group a day by pretending to be on Lottie’s side, then proposing that they resume their hunt within 24 hours. This gives the rest of the women time to hatch a plan to commit Lottie to psychiatric care and save their own lives. This includes getting the police off Shauna’s back, after they retrieve Adam Martin’s remains. To do this, Misty utilizes her friend Walter’s dark abilities, which finally become interesting for the first time this season.
For a season that was so much more successful when it focused on its younger ’90s counterparts, it was a bold choice to spend the finale largely in the present day. The adult versions of these characters all had their backstories doubled, and this episode did nothing to correct that. In fact, the final entry of this season completely stalled the current storyline at the end. In the ’90s, Travis is struggling emotionally with having to bite his brother’s literal heart out. heart. The group is eating real food for the first time in weeks, but it’s their group’s human flesh! Can’t we check with them?
No, rather we must be subject to this hunt. Adult Van, who revealed out of the blue in the last episode that she has cancer, has lost all her will to live in just a few days. She hurries through the necessary draw of cards, hoping that one of them will finally choose the queen of hearts from the deck and be chased with knives. The card drawing scene finally gives us a glimpse of how the group’s rituals evolved as they spent more time in the forest, but not much. Shauna draws the queen and the group chases her for 10 seconds, before Shauna’s daughter Callie intervenes out of nowhere, shooting Lottie in the shoulder. Why the rest of the adult Yellowjackets suddenly decide to agree to Lottie’s request for the hunt after agreeing that it is false and that Lottie is deeply ill is never explained.
The group stands still, fighting over whether there really is a spirit following them. Shauna yells at Lottie, “You know there was no “It”, right? It was just us.” Lottie responds by asking if there’s any difference. That’s the show’s big question: Is there really supernatural interference, or is it all metaphorical? It would be great if the writers could make up their own minds and tell us one way or the other instead of dancing in the annoying middle ground.
During the group’s discussion, Lisa – the woman at Lottie’s compound that Natalie befriended this season – approaches with a shotgun, demanding to know what’s going on. Natalie does her best to calm Lisa down, to no avail. Trying to save her best friend from being blown up by a double pipe, Misty attempts to disarm and stab Lisa with a drug-filled syringe, but Natalie moves Lisa at the last second, taking Misty’s syringe to her shoulder in the chaos of the moment. .
It would be a shock if this scene wasn’t so shabbily edited. A series of quick cuts undo all the impact, making it difficult to determine what or how this happened. The aftermath clearly unfolds, with an ambulance to take Natalie’s body away, as the police try to figure out what happened. (The stated cause of death is “drug overdose.”) However, we do get some interesting flashes of Natalie, in some kind of jet plane purgatory. She’s shaking in a middle seat (more like hell than purgatory), awaiting death and comforted by Teenage Lottie and her own teenage self. It’s a hint of something beyond this life – a feeling the Yellowjackets had come into contact with when they were young – but nothing more.
Season two ends with some final details. In the ’90s, Lottie empowers Natalie, making her the new Antler Queen, after “the desert saved her” at the end of the last episode. They’re going to need some guidance, for sure, as Coach Ben burns down the cabin while they sleep, leaving them to fend for themselves in sub-zero temperatures. Watching their only comfort – the place that keeps them alive – go up in flames is relentlessly bleak. You can feel the desperation of these characters. But when everything goes dark and the credits roll, what’s left? yellow jackets exchanged any kind of elucidation about its supernatural occurrences, character motivations, and about two dozen plotlines suspended by the death of a main character and a new beginning.
Killing Natalie is unfair; there is no doubt about it. It’s cruel, and so is life. I am well aware that part of the point of yellow jackets is to highlight this seemingly random cruelty. But Natalie is the most shadowed character on this show, the only one whose pre-crash history is genuinely memorable. Both Juliette Lewis and Sophie Thatcher did stellar jobs perfecting this character’s physicality and vocal affectations to mimic each other across two timelines. We watched Natalie screw up, stumble, hit rock bottom, and climb out of that hole. And while the writing in Season 2 may have given the grown-up Natalie the pivot, glimmers of that hope from Season 1 lingered.
These remnants of Natalie’s plot have been weeded out and her adult character has been thrown out the window. I don’t exactly think it’s illogical to wonder if this is a result of Lewis reportedly seeming unhappy with the way her character arc was evolving—which she alluded to in a 2021 New York Times profile – and which many fans claimed to have noticed in other press charts. It’s hard to discern any other reason why the writers would kill off a character they’ve worked so hard to develop into an emotionally resonant and relatable human piece of this endlessly confusing puzzle. It’s even harder to think where yellow jackets I could leave here without her.
I wouldn’t fall for that comparison if the yellow jackets the creators didn’t reference this first, but looking back on season two, I remember Twin Peaks; David Lynch’s classic cult series had an equally laborious second season. Despite the prickly show, Twin Peaks was able to effectively bring something bigger into play even when he was out of sight. Supernatural malevolence often took on some sort of corporeal form or reveled in surreal scenes that still had a narrative point.
But I struggle to make those same connections with yellow jackets. Remember Lottie’s visions of the candlelit canal and the mall’s food court? yellow jackets treats these strings as your version of Twin Peaks‘ Black Lodge, but the show seems to think that just showing off some sort of dreamlike fantasy is enough. It has to have meaning for the characters; You have to delve deeper into the plot. In Twin Peaks, these elements are presented as physical places where you can get stuck or get out, when the right universal elements align. The Black Lodge and its accompanying images were so powerful because they suggested that evil walks among us, and that human existence and supernatural eternity are not as simple as life and death.
yellow jackets The second season ran in circles over nine episodes. But instead of closing the circuit, it continued to spiral. Several plot points were introduced and never mentioned again. Characters made choices that didn’t line up with what we knew about them. So, their motivations carelessly reconciled in the show’s narrative. Entire episodes passed without a single needle being moved. And that could only apply to Taissa’s character development!
Amidst my confusion, I keep coming back to Natalie and how she chose to tell Lisa to leave the compound before the manhunt began. “I appreciate you trying to teach me forgiveness. It’s a good idea,” Nat tells her friend. It’s a line where Natalie alludes to some level of acceptance of her life. But after ending this season, it feels more like Natalie admitting defeat. She struggled through an impossible life of addiction, suicidal ideation, and unimaginable pain and guilt, only to have all that courage and perseverance unceremoniously taken from her. Is not fair. And after this season, I’m not so sure I can learn to forgive either.