The worst thing in the world can happen to you, and you can find yourself in a situation where you yourself have done the worst possible thing, and even in that madness, regret, and grief, you still have to get up in the morning and make yourself breakfast. You still have to take a shower, choose a mask of normalcy for the day, and reinsert yourself into life as it’s happening around you. The surviving Yellowjackets are navigating their adulthood on a sort of dissociative autopilot, and after spending this first season of the show attempting to draw conclusions based on information doled out by entirely unreliable narrators, it’s still uncertain what really happened out there in the wilderness of their crash site, or even what’s happening now beyond how it’s framed in their shell-shocked memories, but there are a few facts we know concretely: There was a plane crash. Some people died in that crash. And some people continued their lives within those woods and outside of them. It can’t be stated as a hard fact yet that certain survivors of the crash chose not to be rescued and remain in that cabin in the present day, but I wouldn’t doubt it. Especially in the case of Lottie Matthews. But dead or alive, rescued or remaining, no one fully made it out of that wilderness.
The morning after “Doomcoming,” we see the Yellowjackets picking up the pieces of the celebration that got away from them under the influence of shrooms and hormone-fueled hysteria. Misty, shunned from the group for trying to poison Ben again and accidentally poisoning everyone else in the process, stands in front of the cabin reading a book that caught my eye and sent me into an hour-long Google investigation. I took a screengrab of the book and tried to blow it up to read the author’s name but couldn’t. However, the title is The Magus. Once I typed this title into Google, it was like a whole world of context came to life in front of my eyes that directly relates to the most mystical aspects of Yellowjackets’ story line and its symbolism. In 1965, a writer named John Fowles published a book called The Magus that, according to Wikipedia, is about “a young British graduate who is teaching English on a small Greek island … and becomes embroiled in the psychological illusions of a master trickster.” And there’s another book called The Magus, or Celestial Intelligencer by Francis Barrett, which was originally published in 1801 and details symbols that look a lot like the symbols carved in the trees, cabin floor, and painted in red in a hidden room in Taissa’s basement above the severed head of their family dog. Francis Barrett was an occultist who also studied chemistry and metaphysics and was described as an eccentric who gave magical arts lessons out of his apartment. His most famous work, The Magus, deals with “the natural magic of herbs and stones, magnetism, talismanic magic, alchemy, numerology, the elements.” Misty’s been pulling all kinds of weird books out of this cabin they’ve been staying in. Books on plants, books on survival, and now this kind of stuff ends up on her reading list. It makes me wonder if Lottie is the real Antler Queen or a puppet sent into motion by Misty’s influence.
During their press tours for their first season of Yellowjackets, both Christina Ricci and Juliette Lewis mentioned that their characters are both master manipulators and that you shouldn’t trust a word they say or a thing they do. Juliette Lewis has also said that her character Natalie was pitched to her as being a chameleon, which she wishes would have been shown more. However, that trait seems very visible in this finale, where she seems much softer and amendable than in all the previous episodes. All of this tells me is that if the flashbacks of this show are memories that these survivors have, and we can’t trust their memories, how can we know what’s real and what’s not? Well, that’s the fun of it. Isn’t it?
This show’s ability to insert truly LOL humor into gruesome situations deserves an award, and this episode is a gold star example of it. Misty, Shauna, Natalie, and Taissa reunite to problem-solve together for the first time in 25 years, and like Shauna says while carving up the body of her dead boyfriend, “It’s just like riding a really gross, fucked up bike.” Misty steals a bunch of luminal-proof oxygenated bleach, gloves, and whatever else they’d need to get rid of the body without getting caught from work. She’s about to do so under the guise of coming in to pick up her Tupperware container, which makes way for a great cannibalism joke, “Do you plan on taking home leftovers?” Once Adam is sufficiently cut down to size, Misty offers to loan Shauna the shovel she keeps in her car (shudder) but makes sure to point out that she’ll want that back. She tells Shauna to put his torso in a suitcase and bury it in a specific park and then actually does take home leftovers, Adam’s head and hands, which she gets rid of by stashing them in the cremation coffin of her newly deceased patient Gloria.
The death of Shauna’s boyfriend, with all the dark reality of its aftermath, seems to help Natalie come to terms with the fact that Travis probably did actually kill himself. We learn later that Lottie was the one who emptied his bank account after his death, so that along with the symbols found where he was hanging make me think that he ended up involved in the same cult that Lottie, Misty, Van, and Taissa were/are in. If we’re to believe that there even is an actual cult and not just an imaginary one — but it looks pretty real when a group of people wearing cult pajamas and necklaces with the cabin symbol on them crash into Natalie’s hotel room and haul her away just before she is about to shoot herself in the head. The timing here is reminiscent of when Misty burst in to stop her from doing coke. Right at the nick of time. Maybe she had more surveillance in there than just the Ylang Ylang spy owl?
The last 20 minutes of this finale shook me to such a degree that I haven’t experienced since watching Midsommar for the first time. Jackie and Shauna have it out in the cabin over Shauna’s betrayal with Jeff and Jackie’s prolonged mistreatment of Shauna as just a little sidekick. Shauna sends Jackie out of the cabin, and we see her struggling to make a fire for herself, which she never manages to do. In what I took to be a dual dream sequence, we see Shauna imagining that she went out to bring Jackie in from the cold, which she never actually did. We see Jackie living her final moments as a beloved member of the team and the best friend that Shauna’s ever had. She drinks hot cocoa, Laura Lee is there to bring her over, and all the while, her physical body is outside dying in the cold, which feels just like falling asleep.
Buzz Buzz Buzz
• I couldn’t make out the exact phrase Lottie says at the very end after she offers up the bear heart to her weird tree stump, and then Misty and Van kneel behind her. It sounded like “belle of darkness, set us free,” so I Googled that and, to my horror, lyrics to a Hillsong church song called “Relentless” came up. Et tu, Justin Bieber? Et tu?
• “Shut the fuck up, Doug. You’re a grown man.” — Allie, living her best life as the class of ’96 class chair for their 25th high-school reunion.
• “You ladies have fun!” — Misty’s good-bye to two fellow nurses, one of whom is clearly a man.
• “I just got the craziest case of déjà vu!” — Misty, wringing out a bloody rag.
• “Are you quoting Beaches at me right now?” — Shauna.
• Jessica got what she deserved. Everyone knows that smoking kills.
• Taissa’s cult offering with her kid’s doll and that poor dog’s head was metal as hell.
• When the “who’s this guy” from the intro credits shows up during Jackie’s Midsommar scene and says, “So glad you’re joining us, we’ve been waiting for you,” I almost had a heart attack. Is he the dead guy from the attic? Or is he just the personification of “cult leader” that Jackie’s dying brain kicked into her imagination?
• What happened to Javi on the night of “Doomcoming”?
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- Memorialize the TV Finales Airing This Memorial Day