The Showtime hit series “Yellowjackets,” which premiered on November 14, 2021, has successfully stamped its mark on the ceaseless popularity of teen drama. Only this time, the idiosyncratic teenage friendships, romances, traumas, and insecurities that the show addresses are encapsulated in the theme of survival, constituting the twists and kernel of the plotline.
“Yellowjackets” has been regarded as one of the best teen psychological dramas of all time owing to its deft exploration of the intricacies of female friendships bereft of their privileged paraphernalia (the “misadventures” amidst the dense wilderness being symbolical of the same) and an undertone of dark humor maintaining its consistency throughout the series.
The dual-timeline mystery revolves around a group of enormously talented high-school soccer players who, following their unfortunate survival in the devastating plane crash, were confined to the Canadian wilderness and were forced to undertake actions that saw a deviation from their quotidian familiarity with “civilization.”
“Yellowjackets” Season 1 has two narrative strands: when the characters were teenagers and trapped in the wilderness in 1996, and their adult life 25 years later in 2021, where their perceived normal life was challenged through constant attempts to ignite the deeds of their past. The protagonists/survivors of the ordeal—Shauna, Taissa, Natalie, and Misty—reluctantly reconnect and collaborate in their adult lives to excavate the secret of their supposed blackmailer and the continuous threats of disclosing the actions of the famous “Yellowjackets” during the time when they served as hostages of their unfortunate circumstances.
Intricately layered and astoundingly mysterious, “Yellowjackets” is lauded for juxtaposing emotional vicissitudes with an unapologetically gruesome depiction of violence, thus staying true to its broader survivalist theme as well as maintaining a healthy detachment from being a simulacrum of a quintessential teen drama narrative. An analysis of the series’ ending that generated a plethora of theories, raised new questions, revealed unexpected mysteries, and paved the way for a new season necessitates an insight into the following themes that could be gleaned from the show.
Major Spoilers Ahead
‘Yellowjackets’ Season 1: Ending – Exhibition of Survival Instincts
Season 1 of “Yellowjackets” concludes with a slew of unexpected twists encapsulated in heartbreaking deaths, murders, disembowelments, the revelation of intriguing cult mysteries, and the unraveling of fellow group members’ identities. Taissa’s macabre secret, discovered by her wife Simone in their house’s basement containing blood, the dog’s severed head, and blood, and the possible connection of this discovery with her position as the Senator, has drawn multiple interpretations of her allegiance to the cult, in practice and beliefs.
The more perturbing issue is the discovery of her role in terrorizing her son (as it was revealed that it was she who was the lady in the tree). Prudence and astuteness dictate drawing a parallel between the time spent in the wilderness and contemporary tribulations for a more convincing placement of Taissa’s actions within the survival narrative constituting the kernel of the series. In other words, Taissa’s secret hinges on possibilities and theories but remains unverified in the end. However, its affirmation (if there is any) in “Yellowjackets” season 2 would confirm a plausible conjecture where a resemblance can be drawn between the expression of savagery committed by her in the past and the present to ensure her survival, veiled in the attainment of demanding goals (escaping the wilderness and selection as a senator in the past and the present simultaneously).
Interestingly, the revelation of Taissa’s secret basement does not absolve the group of the inadvertent continuation of their war for survival, and its very materialization is marked by Adam’s murder and eventual dismemberment. In the eyes of the audience, Adam is Shauna’s lover, a respite from her ceaseless struggle with paranoia and distrust, as well as a healthy escape from her unhappy, sexless marriage. With the progression of the story punctuated by twists and nerve-wrenching disclosures, the mysterious appearance of Adam, prevarications pertaining to his identity, and numerous dots connected by the group solidifying their assumption about him being the ‘blackmailer’ served as catnip for the fans for resolving the unsolved question- Who is Adam Martin? Fan theories coalesced around one answer, and that is, Adam is an adult Javi whose detailed awareness of the mysterious and gruesome events in the wilderness perfectly fits the ‘blackmailer’ narrative. Additional theories put the stamp of validation on Adam’s being Shauna’s son, probably conceived in the jungle, hinting at the possible parallels between the recurrent themes and acts that operate outside the fringes of acceptable societal behavior (the acts of incest and cannibalism).
However, the legions of theories have failed to invoke the degree of shock factor that has been accentuated by the brutal murder of Adam, who turned out to be nothing less than a desirable outlet for Shauna’s subdued individuality and for sealing the storage of her repressed trauma. In this case, Adam’s brutal murder triggered her survivalist instincts—a desire to survive within the fold of marital expectations, reunite with her friends, unmask the identity of their blackmailer, and most importantly, to revel in the validation and laudations of being a “yellowjacket,” symbolizing a failed attempt at addressing or eradicating her deeply entrenched trauma. Her lack of any form of emotional connection with Adam (somehow defying the audience’s expectations) reflects an unleashing of her inherent savagery (where her experiments in the wilderness acted as a catalyst) and her marked skill in it in the form of butchering without hesitation. In an arduous effort to hide their crime that would not go unpardoned or condoned in the present day marked by their respective privileged lifestyles, Shauna was entrusted with the task of slaying the body with a chainsaw, and the unexpected shock that struck the audience was not the nerve-wrenching and vomit-inducing effort in undertaking the act, but a lack of exhibition of grief in slaying her “lover.”
Besides Taissa and Shauna, Misty, the typical “nerd” with a twisted sense of displaying love and care (whether in the form of amputating the limb of her beloved coach or drugging other group members without their prior consent), is the most intriguing and manipulative of them all. Her approach to “caring for her group members” extends to the extent of poisoning the reporter Jessica, whom she had been holding as a prisoner in her basement and whose release was marked by a promise of mutual collaboration on a tell-all book, but not before she medics Jessica’s cigarettes with a fatal overdose of fentanyl, resulting in her blackout but still retaining the uncertainty of her death. Overall, the actions of Taissa, Shauna, and Misty show how murders, dissection of dead bodies, deaths, extramarital affairs, and an unapologetic addiction to drugs (in the case of Natalie) still constitute viable ways to adapt to complex surroundings and respond to unresolved concerns. Audiences would trace these forms of behavior to the giant elephant in the wilderness, that is, gravitating towards cannibalism, an event that has not been either addressed or explicitly discussed in the series. Whether they inherited from their past experiences or not, that is still shrouded in uncertainties, but the series’ ending underlines how the nerve-wracking incidents and the grisly manner of dealing with them unearth the degree of human capabilities and their deviation from the perceived understanding of civilization.
Upending Social Hierarchies
Twist reached an insurmountable height with the disclosure of the existence of a fifth Yellowjacket, the self-proclaimed clairvoyant- Lottie. Speculations dictate that Lottie, with her burgeoning dark visions and violent animal sacrifices (like the killing of a bear with a single strike), has, in addition to escaping the dangers of the woods, managed to find something that resembles a ‘cult.’ This very claim associates Lottie with the ‘Antler Queen’ whose viciousness is affirmed by the stomach-churning scene of a girl’s sacrifice at the very outset of the pilot episode and a graphic depiction of her barbequing and eating (not for the soft-hearted, of course). At the end of the series, Lottie is also presented to the viewers as the primary cause of Travis’ death and was solely responsible for Natalie’s abduction prior to her suicidal attempt. Lottie’s motives remain unanswered in this case, and so are the allegations that have been unanimously placed against her for the innumerable body counts throughout the series. The question that can be raised is, how do Lottie’s supposed involvements and her overall significance factor in a ‘teen drama’ that thrives upon the norms of the social hierarchies, and most importantly, how can Lottie be placed within the much popularized high school hierarchy prior to their collective misadventures? She was the “little known” medicated member of the soccer team before the crash; the cataclysmic event that became synonymous with her redefined identity and looming ‘ominous’ persona.
Lottie’s transformation from the banal member of the soccer team to the de facto leader of the group upends the ‘social hierarchy’ whose transcendence augments the twists of idiosyncratic teen dramas, establishing the series’ status as an ‘anomaly’ in this regard. Natalie’s kidnapping at the end of the series symbolizes the pinnacle of Lottie’s capabilities in physically and emotionally asserting her claims on her teammates. “Yellowjackets” have also successfully subverted the trope of the high school ‘mean girl’ popularity at the end, with the death of Jackie, the leader of the soccer team whose astute management and social skills blend with her talents to seduce materializing in her sexual relationship with Travis, the love interest of her nemesis, Natalie (reflecting her shallow vengeful act in the context of the series). However, she fails in applying her refined qualities (enhancing her acceptance as a popular high school girl) to the narrative of survival, and this very lack of contribution invites vitriolic criticism, banishment by her teammates, and her eventual freezing to death. Natalie’s death, in addition to proving the assurance of her not being a victim of cannibalism, underscores the flexibility of power structures. This is dictated and shaped by circumstances whose occurrence in “Yellowjackets” season 1 is simultaneous with the ‘deplorable’ state of a group of stranded teenagers whose intermittent participation in savage acts (be it chopping off legs or skinning animals for food) and witnessing heart-wrenching demises (the deaths of Laura Lee and Jackie) are representative of how the transfer of power is a response to situations where and when the veil of civilization is lifted off.
‘Yellowjackets’ Season 2: Expectations
The much-awaited “Yellowjackets” second season is laden with the expectation of unearthing unresolved queries and unanswered questions. The answers to the intricate plot layers spiral into more questions in the show. For instance, what are the specific occurrences in the wilderness that transformed the hostages into cannibals? What kind of fate awaited the stranded individuals who could not make it into their adulthood, like Javi and the coach? Most importantly, do supernatural occurrences occur in the series, or are they a manifestation of the characters’ trauma and mental breakdown? Why was Travis killed, and what is going to happen to Natalie? The onus is on the second season to unravel the mysteries and help the viewers and fans formulate intriguing theories.
“Yellowjackets” is a 2021 Drama Thriller Television series created by Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson.