In killing such a key point-of-view character in its season 1 finale, Yellowjackets signaled much darker things to come in the show’s future seasons.
The Yellowjackets season 1 finale shocked audiences when it killed off Jackie (Ella Purnell), and the choice signals how the show will only get darker. The Showtime drama about a high school soccer team who resorts to cannibalism after a plane crash in the Canadian wilderness drew comparisons to both Lost and Lord of the Flies. In fact, Yellowjackets was originally conceived as a female-led reimagining of the latter tale about a group of schoolboys who turn on one another after a plane crash.
Yellowjackets earned praise for its complex characters and performances by its all-star cast, including Christina Ricci, Juliette Lewis, Tawny Cypress, and Melanie Lynskey as the adult versions of the crash survivors living through the aftermath of the tragedy. But the true mystery at the heart of the show is what happened in the mountains after the crash that led the undefeated soccer team, the Yellowjackets, to cannibalism and murder.
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Jackie, who was the first Yellowjackets character to die in an incident unrelated to an escape attempt, had been a key ensemble character in the past timeline, and her death now hints at a turning point toward a much darker direction for Yellowjackets for two reasons. First, Jackie died because she refused to reject the rules of the world they left behind and adapt to the new rules adopted by the group. These rules included basic survival skills, but they also permitted an increasingly overwhelming level of brutality and violence. Meanwhile, even though tension existed between Jackie and Shauna, they shared a genuine loving bond that grounded Shauna while her world spiraled out of control. But Jackie’s death shattered Shauna, and this likely sends her on a path that leads her to the cannibalism faction in the past timeline and to the murder she committed in the future.
Jackie was tasked with leading the team, but she couldn’t adapt to a new environment that required wilderness survival skills and manual labor, where social norms were upended. She desperately clung to the life before, with dance parties, a DIY homecoming, and the notion that they might be rescued. She lost hope, realizing that she didn’t possess the skill set to survive. However, she had one last opportunity to use her leadership skills after the team launched a vicious attack on Travis. But the others were unwilling to take responsibility, and when Jackie and Shauna finally had the fight that was bubbling beneath the surface of their friendship, the group took Shauna’s side, and in the Yellowjackets season 1 finale, Jackie was left out in the cold. A dark reading of what happened is that Jackie never tried to learn survival skills. She stopped eating and isolated herself, and completed a bucket list. That reading suggests that although she attempted to light a fire, she weighed the cold against what she knew was coming based on what she’d just witnessed, and she chose to freeze to death rather than face what lay ahead.
Jackie’s death was also a tipping point for Shauna. In the future timeline, she was haunted by Jackie’s death, blaming herself for the tragedy. In the past timeline, Shauna played a critical role in the group. She had a unique power to stand up to Lottie and the Yellowjackets’ cannibal faction because as Jackie’s influence waned, the team still listened to Shauna. However, Jackie’s death broke Shauna, eliminating the last member of the group with the ability to steer the others away from violence. Shauna’s despair at losing Jackie and the flashes of her in the cannibalism scenes paired with her violence in the future scenes hint that Jackie’s death signals a deeper descent into darkness in future seasons.
Yellowjackets’ shocking decision to kill Jackie off at the end of season one, while foreshadowed, signaled an intent to depart from audience expectations. The sudden death signals to viewers that no one on Yellowjackets is safe. It also portends that the seasons to come will be even darker than what has already been seen.
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Dana Mele is a Movies/TV features writer for Screen Rant. She has a background in film studies and currently works as a novelist, graphic and otherwise. You can find Dana on Twitter at @danamelebooks.
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