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'Yellowjackets' Season 2 Finale: Killing Off [SPOILER] Was The Right Thing To Do

By Tori Preston | TV | May 28, 2023 |

By Tori Preston | TV | May 28, 2023 |


yellowjackets.jpeg

I said way back at the beginning of the season, “Someday I’ll know whether or not Yellowjackets is actually a good show or just a wildly addictive one.” Turns out today is not that day! Although now that the show has reached the conclusion of its second season I’m leaning more toward a “guilty pleasure” verdict. One thing that’s for sure though: I’m not as mad at the season finale as some people are, apparently!

People are sending death threats to the show’s co-creator over … this? Did we watch the same episode of television? Because as far as I’m concerned, the finale of the second season was exactly as sloppy as the rest of the show has been thus far. You know that bit where Walter is talking to Detective Creep, laying out his big plan to pin Adam’s and Jessica’s deaths on Kevyn, and Creep is just not picking up what he’s laying down, so Walter says, “It’s called a narrative. Try and ‘Yes, And’ a little here.” That’s Yellowjackets in a nutshell. It’s playing past-and-present “Yes, And” improv with the plot. The Adam Martin disappearance has loomed over this season, threatening to ruin Shauna’s life and drag her co-conspirators down with her, only for Elijah Wood to swan in and hand-wave the case away in the season’s final minutes. Or how about Javi: Finding Travis’s lost little brother was A Big Deal this season until they did find him, and then … he did nothing? Until suddenly he decided to save Natalie from the hunt, fell through the ice and died, and they ate him. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big, big fan of people getting eaten on this show. Glad that’s happening. The point is, the wilderness supposedly “chose” Javi over Natalie, but it could have chosen anyone in that moment. The only thing Javi actually introduced to the narrative was the existence of that hot spring cave where Coach Ben has decamped to after (checks notes) burning the cabin down and attempting to kill the whole team.

Remember when Taissa got in that car accident and her wife nearly died, and then Tai just… hitchhiked to see Van. Is her wife out of the hospital yet? Who is taking care of their son? Who is taking care of the new dog?! Even the introduction of adult Lottie, which seemed poised to finally settle the question of whether “The Wilderness” is real, more or less ended with a fat wet “well, maybe?” fart noise. Lottie is definitely unwell, but the mysterious force isn’t just in her head — it’s in all of them. It might be what has pushed each of them to such extremes (Tai’s dog-killing, Nat’s attempted suicide, Misty and Shauna committing murder). Whether that makes it real or just a shared delusion though, who knows? “We gave it what it wanted,” Lottie tells Tai and Van as she’s being packed off to the mental hospital at the end of the finale. “It is pleased with us. You’ll see.”

What impact pleasing The Wilderness might have on their lives is the stuff of season three (which has been confirmed by Showtime!), but the important thing is how they pleased it: They gave it a sacrifice. They killed Natalie. This means that, sadly, Juliette Lewis’s time on the show has likely come to an end. Is that was has fans sending death threats, though? Because honestly, it was the smartest thing the show has done all season. Killing any of the adult survivors was necessary because the thing that has plagued this show is the extreme lack of consequences in the present. There is a reason the narrative gravity of Yellowjackets pulls so strongly to the past timeline: We want to know what happened in 1996. We want to know what terrible lengths they went to for survival and how they got out. The problem is that we’ve always known exactly who got out thanks to the present timeline. Season two added Van and Lottie to list, and perhaps more survivors will be added next season, but generally speaking Shauna, Tai, Natalie, and Misty were “safe” in the past — and that carried through to the present. The show has bent over backward trying to invent compelling stakes to endanger the adult characters, but it’s hard to beat “stranded in the woods for a year and a half after a plane crash” when all you’ve got is a little sleepwalking, blackmail, and some mediocre cops.

Natalie’s death works, though, because it brings the dangers of the past into the present. Just as Javi died to take Natalie’s place, Natalie’s death spared Shauna (who had been chosen by the cards in the new hunt). Natalie died at Misty’s hand, just as Crystal did, so Misty has accidentally killed her best friend once again. We’re seeing old patterns repeat themselves, which means that what we witness in the past may become the blueprint for the present. The finale revealed that Natalie, not Lottie, was the Antler Queen of the past, making her the real leader of the group — and it also revealed that Shauna was hurt by the choice.

Now that Shauna too has been spared during a hunt, does it mean she has been “chosen” to lead in the present? Do the survivors even need an Antler Queen in the present, and if so, what will she lead them toward? Has Shauna been the villain of the show all along, or will that title go to firebug Coach Ben? And why was Lottie so taken by Callie when she met her? What makes Callie so “powerful”?

All that, plus the possibility that nobody is actually safe, even in the present? Yeah, I’m completely fine with this finale. The show has always been an uneven but enjoyable ride, and season two offered me more than enough reason to tune back for season three.