Spoilers follow for Yellowjackets through episode nine, “Doomcoming.”
Yellowjackets is awash in, for lack of a better term, weird shit, with just enough ambiguity to make you wonder whether what you’re watching is real, imagined, or somewhere in between. On the one hand, you could enjoy the show for the ensemble’s dedicated performances, the pitch-perfect soundtrack choices, and the thoughtful portrait of, in the words of Dr. Ellie Sattler, “sexism in survival situations” without treating it like a puzzle to be unlocked. On the other hand, whether in the 1996 or 2021 timelines, there are inexplicable things that are just pretty damn fun to theorize about! What is the deal with that monstrous eyeless man and that red glint to Taissa’s gaze? How long can an individually owned furniture store really survive in an era of Ikea, Ashley, and Bob’s? Why is Shauna’s daughter, Callie, such a brat? Is Lottie, revealed in “Doomcoming” as the Antler Queen from the premiere episode, really clairvoyant and are her visions actually the future? And doesn’t that symbol carved in the trees and the cabin’s attic floorboards look like a woman’s body speared through and hung up with a hook?
That final query stands side by side with the series’ most long-running mystery, the one introduced in the premiere’s opening minutes that has since hung over Yellowjackets like a ghost. Who dies in that opening scene? The sequence is all of 90 seconds or so, and it’s eerie and brutal. A girl runs through a snowy forest, bleeding from her foot, wearing what looks like a thin nightgown. (It’s giving, very bleakly, Wind River.) As she sprints, crying and panting, the young woman passes various symbols carved in tree trunks (including one that looks like a watchful evil eye) and totems made of bones, feathers, and bark. Closed-captioning tells us there are “whispering voices” everywhere including “calling in distance,” “cawing,” “panting,” “screeching,” and “howling.” Then the young woman falls into a deep pit full of spikes and dies.
Is she fleeing? Is she being hunted? Either way, she ends up hung upside down and drained of her blood, then seemingly butchered, roasted, and eaten by the Antler Queen, her six masked followers, and Misty, the only survivor who reveals her face by the end of the episode. (Samantha Hanratty, who plays Misty, was the only cast member on set in Mammoth, California, during the filming of this sequence; everyone else is played by stunt doubles.) We now know after “Doomcoming” that Lottie is the Antler Queen, but we’re no closer to knowing the identities of the six non-Misty girls — or the one they kill.
This is what we do know: The girl is tallish, has dark hair, and is wearing the gold heart necklace worn around Jackie’s neck in her first official moment onscreen (receiving unsatisfying hand stuff from Jeff in her New Jersey bedroom precrash). We also know the person cannot be Shauna, Tai, Nat, or Misty, for whom we’ve met adult counterparts. (Reminder that in episode three, “The Dollhouse,” Jessica says to Tai, “Some of you guys just love living off the grid,” but other grown-up survivors haven’t yet been introduced.) That doesn’t seem like much to go on — and yet. Winter is coming in the Canadian wilderness, and in advance of the season-one finale, “Sic Transit Gloria Mundi,” I’ve ranked my guesses for who that mysterious teen turned meal might be from most to least likely.
Mari, booze-maker and Jackie sycophant
Mari is that No. 2 girl in the popularity hierarchy (like Courtney and Whitney in Bring It On from Jackie’s curiously anachronistic favorite-movie characters list) whose purpose is cruelty. Think of how quickly she slides up next to Jackie at the lake once she realizes Jackie and Shauna are sparring and how easily she suggests she and Jackie move their lockers together when they get back to New Jersey. She’s a follower, not a leader (she joins Tai on the attempt to find help; she agrees to turn back once things get rough; she supports Lottie in hunting Travis), and she’ll never be queen bee. If she were, she’d probably be a real jerk about it; I’m thinking Shannen Doherty in Heathers vibes. She’s got the height and the black hair, and her status as a B-level Yellowjacket means her death would still be shocking if not necessarily narrative-breaking. I could see Mari complaining about something innocuous (not getting the fur pelt she wanted?) so annoyingly the other survivors are like, Ugh, let’s just eat her already.
Lottie, in a twist!
Yes, we know Lottie is the Antler Queen. But looks-wise, with her height and her beachy waves, she could be the running girl, right? This would be unexpected, but it might be an option if the deer crown is something that can be passed between the girls. Does someone come for Lottie and claim the Antler Queen mantle for themselves? A deposition! A coup! Eat your heart out, The Crown.
The obvious choice: Jackie
This is the easy pick, but let’s indulge it. We see the heart necklace on Jackie first, then she gives it to Shauna, then Shauna gives it back to Jackie, and now Shauna and Jackie are in the awkward spot where the latter knows the former was sleeping with her boyfriend, but she hasn’t said anything because Jackie is a messy bench who loves drama and psychological mind games. What if Jackie’s complete lack of outdoor skills turn her from teammate to prey? She hasn’t been chopping wood. She’s pretty bad at collecting water. She pissed off Van very early by running away from the fire in the plane rather than trying to save her. (Van is definitely the girl standing over the pit wearing that coed soccer T-shirt, right?) And Jackie slept with Travis, who “doesn’t belong” to her, according to Lottie. Maybe that’s enough to get her on everyone’s “ostracize and eat” list?
I do wonder, though: What happened to the necklace the girl was wearing? Could someone have pocketed it after pulling her out of the pit but before draining her body? Maybe this necklace, like the ring Travis gives to Javi, is a piece of jewelry to watch for in the 2021 timeline. And if Jackie is actually a time traveler, well, that opens up various other possibilities.
Yellowjacket #1, Yellowjacket #2, or another extra?
How many Yellowjackets are there? There are 11 players on the field during a soccer game, and let’s say every position has a backup player. That would bring the Yellowjackets team total to about two dozen, which sort of syncs up with the number of girls we see frolicking in the lake and on the beach in “The Dollhouse.” But that number certainly shrinks or expands as the series desires. The cabin is always full of sleeping figures, yet they don’t all attend the séance, and some of them disappear during the ’shroom-induced assault and chase of Travis.
Remember them, the two on the far right of Shauna and Travis?
Or her, on the right of Natalie?
You probably don’t because they haven’t been given names or screen time! So maybe it’s cheating, but the actresses who play Yellowjacket #1 (Mya Lowe), Yellowjacket #2 (Princess Davies), and so on? They certainly seem like they’re just sticking around to serve as meat.
No one — because the cannibalism is an illusion!
I am contractually obligated to mention this theory because certain members of the Vulture staff believe it: They do not think the girl from the opening was eaten at all! There’s a lot of suggestiveness in how this opening is shot and edited, and I certainly think we’re being led to believe the meat we see being cooked on that spit was human. But my colleagues are not wrong that we don’t see a human-butchery scene à la the first season of The Terror, and we don’t see anyone picking up a leg like a gigantic drumstick and gnawing on it. So maybe that flesh is actually bear or deer or wolf, and we’re just projecting our worst cannibalism assumptions onto these girls — as have so many others, from the people writing unauthorized books and magazine articles about them to Taissa’s opponent for New Jersey state senate. In my heart of hearts, though, I 100 percent believe they ate that girl, and they’re going to eat again. Remember how zealously Misty bit into that gas-station jerky? She’s got the taste! There is no doubt in my mind, but only time will tell.