‘Yellowjackets’ ending explained: Season 2 bids farewell to a fan favorite
Take a deep breath. Now, what do you hear? Probably the sound of Yellowjackets fans sobbing after the absolute emotional devastation that was the Season 2 finale, “Storytelling.”
Yellowjackets closed out its sophomore season with an action-packed episode featuring a ritualistic hunt, the Yellowjackets’ second foray into cannibalism, and a truly tragic death. Episode 9, “Storytelling,” covers a lot of ground to get to these points, even wrapping up some of the show’s biggest storylines.
The result is Yellowjackets at its best — gripping, haunting, darkly funny —and its saddest.
Let’s break it down.
The Yellowjackets deal with the fallout from Javi’s death.
We finally know the identity of the body the Yellowjackets were carrying in the Season 2 trailer: It’s Javi (Luciano Leroux), who froze to death in episode 8 following the Yellowjackets’ hunt for Natalie (Sophie Thatcher). Back at camp, the girls prepare to feast, although in a fascinating move, Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) covers her eyes before beginning to butcher him, perhaps attempting to dissociate from the act as much as possible.
The most heartbreaking part of this opening — fittingly set to the Cranberries’ “Zombie” — is Travis’s (Kevin Alves) pain upon learning his younger brother is dead. After all, he just got him back, only to lose him not long after.
Nat is feeling a similar agony, along with the survivor’s guilt that comes with Javi having died in her place. In an attempt to explain what happened to Travis, she tells him, “The wilderness chose.”
The statement marks a major change for Nat, who has been consistently anti-wilderness cult throughout the season. Still, so much has changed since the start of winter, which saw Nat refusing Lottie’s hunting blessings. Nat ate Jackie with the other Yellowjackets. She starved and felt the weight of the team’s hunger after every failed hunt. She watched Shauna almost die in childbirth, and even almost died herself before seemingly being saved by the wilderness. She shouldered Travis’s torment over the missing Javi, and now this. Given all that extra trauma, it makes sense that she’s fully turning to the wilderness for comfort.
In the present, the Yellowjackets plan another hunt.
According to present-day Lottie (Simone Kessell), the only way to appease the dark forces of the wilderness is to offer it one of them as a sacrifice. Shockingly, Shauna (Melanie Lynskey) agrees to this plan, suggesting they stage a hunt just like they did in the good old days — masks, cards, and all! Don’t worry, though: She reveals to the others that this was just a ruse to stall for time so they can call in a psych team to help Lottie out.
Turns out that Shauna underestimated everyone else’s commitment to the bit, though. Van (Lauren Ambrose) convinces Taissa (Tawny Cypress) to call the team off so the Yellowjackets can deal with Lottie’s worries in their own way. Really, though, it seems like Van is re-embracing the hunting ritual in a way that mirrors her younger self’s (Liv Hewson) shift to full cult mode.
With the psych team called off and Lottie insisting on performing the ritual for the good of them all, the women draw cards, and Shauna pulls the queen. The hunters don their masks and grab their knives, and no amount of aggravated convincing from Shauna can dissuade them. The Yellowjackets’ predatory instincts re-emerge, meaning one thing: The hunt is on.
Lottie crowns a new Yellowjacket leader.
Between both timelines this season, Lottie has emerged as an utterly tragic figure. The surviving Yellowjackets deify her younger self (Courtney Eaton), with Misty (Samantha Hanratty) even going so far as to say she started the hunting ritual. She’s less of a person than a messianic figure to them, and in “Storytelling,” she realizes that she’s lost any sense of control she may have had. She’s also lost her connection to the wilderness.
Lottie tells her teammates that it no longer needs her now that she’s taught them to hear it and feel it. Because of this, Lottie cedes leadership — a position that was forced on her anyway — to someone else entirely: Nat. It’s a neat reversal from the start of the season, which saw Lottie in power and Nat denying the wilderness.
Season 2 focused on the push and pull between Nat and Lottie’s approaches to survival throughout, especially Nat’s denial of the wilderness. Following Javi’s death, Nat appears to accept its power, and with it, the title of leader.
She and Lottie have switched places: Lottie is now an outsider, while Nat receives tribute from the others. All she had to do to get there was play by their rules. How much will she embrace the sacrificial rituals going forward?
Walter and Jeff prove a team-up for the ages.
Jeff (Warren Kole) and Callie (Sarah Desjardins) follow Shauna to Lottie’s wellness retreat, with police officers Kevyn (Alex Wyndham) and Matt (John Reynolds) in hot pursuit. But guess who else is at Lottie’s? Walter (Elijah Wood)!
The citizen detective is here to save Misty (Christina Ricci) and drink hot cocoa — and he’s all out of cocoa. More accurately, he’s all out of cocoa because he gave a phenobarbital-laced mug to Kevyn, killing him just as Jeff delivered a false confession for the murder of Adam Martin. Once again, Jeff finds himself in a sick situation that he wants no part of — someone let this man go to book club or something! — but he very kindly helps Walter move Kevyn’s body.
But Walter’s not done! Determined to secure Misty’s heart (and the title of this episode’s MVP), he reveals to Matt that he’s set up a trail of incriminating evidence that ties Kevyn to a police corruption scandal and Adam’s death. He offers Matt a choice: Go along with Walter’s lie and become a community hero, or get implicated in Kevyn’s place. Matt, being the scumbag he is, chooses the former.
Good news for the Sadeckis: They’re out of the woods for Adam’s murder! Bad news for the Sadeckis: The whole rest of the episode.
Natalie dies in a little bit of history repeating.
The hunt for Shauna goes awry when Callie and Lisa (Nicole Maines) intervene. In the ensuing scuffle, Misty attempts to inject Lisa with phenobarbital to stop her from shooting Natalie (Juliette Lewis). But Nat shoves Lisa out of the way and takes the blow instead. It’s not long before she dies, and there’s nothing the other Yellowjackets can do to save her.
It’s a devastating moment, one that Yellowjackets has been building to for all of Season 2. Nat has been taking active steps to heal throughout, and Lottie even validated her worries about the Yellowjackets bringing the wilderness back with them. It provides her with some closure, as well as a path forward, making her loss even more upsetting.
This season, we’ve also gotten a deeper understanding of Nat’s survivor’s guilt with the revelation that Javi died in her place. It’s clear that death has been haunting her for the last 25 years. Now, she dies in Lisa’s place, in what feels like an inevitable sacrifice to the wilderness. Adding to this idea of inevitability is Nat’s pre-death vision, where she finds herself in a plane alongside Javi, young Lottie, and her younger self. According to teen Nat, she’s always been here — “here” presumably meaning the precipice of death. But just because we knew Nat’s death was coming doesn’t make it hurt any less.
On top of paralleling young Nat’s storyline, her death also speaks to young Misty’s arc this season. In episode 5, Misty accidentally contributed to the death of her best friend Crystal (Nuha Jes Izman), who fatefully fell from a cliff. History repeats itself with Nat, and in the aftermath of Nat’s death, Misty sobs into Walter’s arms that she killed her best friend. How will this guilt affect her going forward?
Coach Ben burns it all down.
Just as we’re processing our feelings over Nat’s death, Yellowjackets hits us with another major plot twist: The team’s cabin is burning down, leaving the Yellowjackets with no shelter for the rest of the winter. And who’s to blame, you may ask? None other than Coach Ben (Steven Krueger).
After discovering Javi’s underground hideaway (and that Javi is now on the menu), Ben is all too ready to get away from the teenage cannibal crew. He even implores Nat to come with him, but by this point, she’s too committed to the wilderness. “You really don’t belong in this place,” she tells him, hours before becoming the Yellowjackets’ leader.
Ben watches Nat’s ascension with horror as he tries to steal some matches to make a fire in his new home. And while we never actually see him set the fire, that match moment makes it pretty clear who’s to blame.
At this point, he’s terrified of the team, and of how much they’ve given themselves to the wilderness. To ensure his own survival, and to ensure that they don’t continue farther down this path, Ben sees killing them as his only option. It’s an especially brutal move coming from the team’s former authority figure, but it absolutely changes the game going into Season 3. Now that Camp Yellowjackets has been forcibly changed to an open-air experience, how will the team survive the rest of its time in the wild? And how might they pay Ben back for his radical home remodel?
Yellowjackets Season 2 is now streaming on Showtime.